While scouting for a workshop in the Lodi, CA wine region we came across a tiny town called Locke. It currently has about 70-80 residents and about 4 streets. Sometimes there is nothing better than exploring a region and stumbling upon a tiny piece of our past. Most buildings were locked up and closed, and some were leaning so much they looked as if they may fall over with the current rain storm we were battling. The town did have a restaurant, and a general shop with information books and maps of the region, but while we were there, not much else was open. The town was 20-30 minutes from Lodi and is worth a quick stop.
A brief history taken from the Locke Town website:
“Locke was founded in 1915 after a fire broke out in the Chinese section of nearby Walnut Grove. The Chinese who lived in that area decided that it was time to establish a town of their own. A committee of Chinese merchants, led by Lee Bing, Chan Hing Sai, Tom Wai, Chan Dai Kee, Ng So Hat, Chan Wai Lum, Chow Hou Bun, and Suen Dat Suin was formed. They approached land owner George Locke and inquired if they could build on his land. An agreement was reached. The town was laid out by Chinese architects and industrious building ensued. The founding of Lockeport, later ‘Locke’, was a reality. By 1920 Locke stood essentially as you see it now.
Levee construction originally brought the Chinese to this area, but by the time Locke was built most of the work was in farm labor. Locke had many businesses that catered to the farm workers and residents of this region. In the 1940’s restaurants, bakeries, herb shops, fish markets, gambling halls, boarding houses, brothels, grocery stores, a school, clothing stores, and the Star Theatre lined the bustling streets of Locke. At its peak 600 residents, and as many as 1500 people occupied the town of Locke.
On August 2, 1970, Locke was added to the registry of national historical places, by the Sacramento County Historical Society, because of its unique status as the only town in the United States built exclusively by the Chinese for the Chinese.”