Chinese laborers that helped build Napa’s wine industry to be honored with sign unveiling on Labor Day
A historic marker that honors Napa’s Chinese immigrant laborers is set to be unveiled at China Point Overlook, a small park located just east of downtown Napa at the intersection of Soscol Avenue and First Street.
The new sign will look out onto the historic location of Napa’s Chinatown, which was once a thriving area during the latter half of the 19th century, prior to the passage of laws that severely limited immigration, according to Hannah Henry, who designed the sign alongside a team of volunteers.
Chinese laborers arrived in California in the mid-19th century and many worked to build Napa’s wine industry, the press release states.
The laborers worked on the county’s original vineyards and dug some of the first wine cellars in the area, with the Chinese population reaching about 10% of Napa’s population by the mid-1880s.
But the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 — which prohibited immigration of Chinese laborers following a rise of anti-Chinese sentiment and violence — resulted in that population declining and largely disappearing from Napa.
“Despite significant and lasting contributions there has been scant acknowledgment that Chinese helped build the Napa Valley we currently enjoy,” the press release states. “As we celebrate workers on Labor Day 2023, it is particularly fitting to honor and recognize some of the earliest laborers in the modern Napa Valley.”
Robin Leong, president of the Vallejo Napa Chinese club, originally proposed a plaque honoring Napa’s Chinatown for the redesigned First Street Bridge in 2002.
That didn’t pan out, but the city of Napa dedicated the China Point Overlook Park in 2017. Though the park lacked historical markers or a description of what was being commemorated, the press release said.
Leong recently renewed the project, after being inspired by U.S. Park Ranger Yenyen Chan’s research on the contributions of the Chinese to how Yosemite National Park developed. She teamed up with John McCorick earlier this year — after hearing McCorick speak about his book, “Chinese in Napa, the Forgotten Community of Napa Valley” — to expand the plaque into a more expansive sign, and then joined up with Henry and other volunteers.
The informational sign will also include a QR code that links to pages on the Napa County Historical Society website for people interested in exploring more.
“The sign will be a durable presence, informing visitors and residents for generations to come about the Chinese who came here before us and what gifts they left behind,” the press release states.