Architect: George DeSnell
Ellen Baumler's blog post: "Not a brothel"
Butte’s Chinese community settled on this block in the 1880s. Dwellings, club rooms, laundries, restaurants, and stores selling Chinese goods crowded its thoroughfares and alleyways. This business block is a lone survivor displaying Asian roots. G. E. DeSnell designed the building on speculation for Butte attorney F. T. McBride. Upon completion in 1909, Hum Yow moved his Mercury Street noodle parlor to the second floor and soon owned the property. Upstairs noodle parlors were common in urban Chinese communities and the Pekin’s central stair and sign long beckoned customers.
Close proximity to Butte’s once teeming red light district has fueled local legends about the Pekin’s curtained booths. However, these booths were a fixture in Asian restaurants and simply offered diners privacy. The two ground-floor storefronts housed Hum Yow’s Chinese Goods and Silks and G. P. Meinhart’s sign painting business. Hum Yow and his wife Bessie Wong—both California-born first-generation Chinese—raised three children in the rear living quarters. The Hums retired to California in 1952 and several more generations of the family have maintained this landmark business. Ding Tam (Danny Wong) and his son Jerry Tam celebrated the centennial of the family’s connection to the Pekin in 2011. News story • Menu
Resources: Historic plaque by Montana Historical Society. Top photo by Richard I. Gibson; black-and-while photo, 1979, by Jet Lowe, HABS/HAER (Library of Congress, public domain).