Established in 1915, Locke is the only existent town in America built and inhabited almost exclusively by Chinese until recent years. During its heyday from the 1920s to 1940s, Locke was an autonomous island of Chinese culture with a permanent population of about 600, including many families, and a seasonal farm labor population of an additional thousand. At one time, it had four restaurants, a half dozen markets, dry goods stores, five brothels, a post office, two slaughterhouses, a flour mill, canneries, shipping wharves, an opera, speakeasies during Prohibition, and five gambling houses.
Located about 30 miles south of Sacramento, Locke is the legacy of the extraordinary efforts made by the Chinese in developing agriculture in California. In 1970, the town was placed on the Registry of National Historic Places. Locke still looks almost as it did 50 years ago. It has withstood the threat of fire and floods, the pain of poverty, discrimination and neglect, and abandonment by most of its original residents and offspring.
Of the ninety or so residents in Locke today, only about ten are Chinese. Although many of Locke’s storefronts and clapboard homes have fallen in disrepair, recently the town’s infrastructure has been updated and repaired. In 1990, Locke became a National Historic Landmark