Tile fragments from Albuqquerque's New Chinatown Restaurant
During Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month, we feature objects from Asia and the Pacific in the Maxwell's collections.
These green glazed tile fragments were part of the architectural decorations at the popular New Chinatown Restaurant in Albuquerque. The restaurant stood on Central Avenue (old U.S. 66), between Jackson and Manzano streets until it closed in 2003 and the building was demolished.
The New Chinatown restaurant was owned by Wing Ong and Wong Lin Ong, who immigrated to the US from Guangdong Province in southern China and settled in Albuquerque in 1929. During the Great Depression, Mr. and Mrs. Ong operated several businesses, including grocery stores that offered credit to struggling customers during the difficult Depression years. During World War II, the Ong family’s various businesses in Albuquerque contributed to the city’s economic success. After the war, they opened the New Chinatown Restaurant, a popular establishment in Albuquerque for more than 50 years.
While the Chinese American experience in Albuquerque is often overlooked, Chinese communities in Albuquerque and the wider region faced violence and legalized discrimination. Still, through their tenacity and industriousness, the Ong family’s experience, as well as that of many other Asian Americans, is part of an important history of contributions to the growth and success of Albuquerque and the rest of the nation.
Collected by the Ong’s son Kim when the building was razed in 2003, the tiles were donated to the Maxwell Museum in 2016 by Mr. Kim Ong’s nephew, Mr. Paul Jew. According to family lore, all the tiles used in the restaurant had come from China.
For more information about the Ong family and their life in Albuquerque, check out this online exhibit by the Maxwell Museum: http://www.unm.edu/~toh/china/story-04.html
The tile fragments were also featured in an exhibit by the Albuquerque Museum in 2018/2019 called “From Invisible to Visible: The Chinese-American Experience in Albuquerque:” http://www.cabq.gov/artsculture/albuquerque-museum/past-exhibits/from-invisible-to-visible