The Look Tin Eli Story: Exclusion & Citizenship on the Mendocino Coast

This is one exhibit you won’t want to miss! Funded by the California State Library’s Civil Liberties Public Education Program, “The Story of Look Tin Eli: Exclusion & Citizenship on the Mendocino Coast” examines local historic ties to a topic that is still very much with us today.

Mendocino-born businessman Look Tin Eli led the reconstruction of San Francisco’s Chinatown after the earthquake of 1906. Mr. Look hired American architects to rebuild it as a tourist attraction using bright colors and swooping pagoda-like roofs attached to typical western structures. It became a wildly popular destination for visitors, and its style and concept influenced other Chinatowns throughout the world. 

The exhibit also illustrates Look Tin Eli’s importance to California’s history as it examines the Chinese Exclusion Act that limited immigration to the U.S. based on race in the late 1800s. His own legal case was important to the eventual definition of birthright citizenship in the US Constitution.

Fifty years later, this exclusionary law was a precedent for the unwarranted and unjustified Presidential Executive Order 9066, which directed in 1942 the forcible relocation of thousands of Japanese-American citizens and residents from the Pacific Coast to prison-like internment camps for three years during World War II. Click here to learn more.

This thought-provoking exhibit can be viewed during museum hours, Fridays through Mondays, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Admission is by suggested donation of $5.

Look Tin Eli