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Mural to honor Denver's once-forgotten historic Chinatown now on display

Posted at 10:07 AM, Aug 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-14 12:07:45-04

DENVER — At the corner of 19th and Lawrence Streets now sits a Mural to honor Denver's once-forgotten historic Chinatown.

"I kind of wanted it, somewhere in the back of my mind, to leave my mark in this world somewhere. And to be able to do that with my art is definitely a dream come true," said Hmong artist Nalye Lor, whose design was chosen by Colorado Asian Pacific United (CAPU), the group behind the mural project.

The effort began years ago when the group worked to get rid of a plaque misrepresenting the anti-Chinese race riot that contributed to the demise of Chinatown and to the death of a man named Look Young.

Back in April, work on the mural officially began. On Saturday, dozens attended a block party to celebrate the reveal of the finished mural.

"In the 19th century, we actually have one of the most popular Chinatowns in the Mountain West. And [the mural] just acknowledges the contributions of the Chinese Americans in this region," said Kevin Yiuwh Leung, who was born in Hong Kong and was at the event.

Chinatown used to be right in the heart of downtown Denver. In 1880, an anti-Chinese race riot brutalized the people, destroyed businesses, and lynched Look Young. The mural and a historical marker now point to the place near where he was killed. Two other historical markers can be found near where Chinatown used to stand. One can be found at 1520 16th Street and the second at 1620 Wazee.

Mural to honor Denver's once-forgotten historic Chinatown now on display

"Still even in our communities, not everyone knows about Chinatown. So it really goes to show you know how much further we have left to go, but also how much we've already achieved," said Joie Ha, Vice Chair of CAPU.

The theme of the mural is to celebrate Chinese American culture of the past, present and future.

"That's what my hope is, their timeline has gone on and on. The Chinatown isn't here anymore, but it lives on and it will continue in the future," said Lor.

CAPU said they are continuing to plan for more projects to reclaim Denver's Chinatown and make sure its history is not forgotten.

"Now we can say that not only do we remember, but the City of Denver itself will remember with these installations," said Ha.