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One of Denver’s historic Chinatown markers is still missing

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What remains of the Denver Chinatown marker at 1520 16th Street.
 Photo: Lindsey Ford, Rocky Mountain PBS

DENVER —  One of the historic markers representing the rich past of Denver’s historic Chinatown is missing.  

In total, three markers placed throughout downtown in the summer of 2023 commemorate the boundaries of Denver’s Chinatown. All that’s left of the marker at 1520 16th Street now is an empty cement block and sharp shards.  

Colorado Voices

One of Denver’s historic Chinatown markers is missing

3:46
Published:

CAPU spreads awareness of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage in Colorado

Joie Ha, the executive director of Colorado Asian Pacific United (CAPU), said the marker’s theft is disappointing news. 

“Marginalized communities have been crucial to the founding of America,” Ha said. “Chinese folks were a key towards building the Trans Continental Railroad which arguably really helped America put itself on the economic global map. Our country was founded on the labor of folks that are still oppressed today.” 

CAPU, the coalition that placed the markers, filed a police report with the Denver Police Department after the marker's creator discovered it was missing in December. 

CAPU started a GoFundMe to raise $12,000 to replace the marker. The fundraiser is more than halfway to its goal. 

CAPU is a coalition of Asian, Pacific Islander American leaders and allies working to make Colorado more inclusive.   

As part of its “Reclaiming Denver’s Chinatown” initiative, CAPU unveiled a mural and three historical markers at 1890 Lawrence Street, the heart of Denver’s 19th century Chinatown.  

The stolen marker on 16th Street recounted the history of Denver’s Chinatown. 

Another marker, at 1620 Wazee Street, details the 1880 race riot perpetrated against the Chinese residents. 

And on Halloween in 1880, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 white people converged in Denver’s Chinatown, destroying businesses and homes. The mob killed one person, a laundryman named Look Young. The four men who beat Young to death — James Corrigan, Edward Troendle, Frederick Miller and William Krueger — were found not guilty. 

In the years following the riot, Denver’s Chinatown actually grew, reaching about 1,000 residents according to the Colorado Encyclopedia. But by 1940,the neighborhood was razed to make room for warehouses. 

The last remaining marker, located at 1890 Lawrence Street, tells the story of Young. 

Until CAPU installed the markers, the only acknowledgement of the historic neighborhood and riot was an inaccurate and, to many people, offensive marker near the intersection of 20th and Blake. That plaque, which made no mention of Young and sanitized the violence leading to his death, was finally removed in August of 2022.  

Joie Ha, executive director of CAPU. 
Photo: Lindsey Ford, Rocky Mountain PBS

Ha said the Asian-American experience is often referred to as the “invisible minority”.  

“We don’t really hear much about these communities, the contributions to our country, the struggles they face, and the how our government and country as a whole has disenfranchised these communities,” she said. 

You can take a virtual tour of Denver’s Historic Chinatownhere. 


Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. lindseyford@rmpbs.org 

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