Essential Downtown SLO: Bubble Gum Alley to the World's Smallest Chinatown

    Rob nuala wickens
    13 Aug 2019
    Clock 35min      Length1mi
    Rating
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    Introduction & Welcome to SLO - Ah Louis Store and The Palm Theatre - The World's Smallest Chinatown (maybe)

    Introduction & Welcome to SLO - Ah Louis Store and The Palm Theatre - The World's Smallest Chinatown (maybe)
    Essential Downtown SLO: Bubble Gum Alley to the World's Smallest Chinatown

    Hello and welcome to San Luis Obispo.

    My name is Rob Wickens founder of LoveoftheCentralCoast.com where we work to bring unique parts of the area to you online.

    If you’re in front of the ‘Ah Louis Store’ on the corner of Palm Street and Chorro Street you're in the right place to start this tour.

    Let me explain a few things before we get going.

    Although I'm a California native, I only knew of Hearst Castle on the Central Coast back in my early 20’s.

    I was lucky enough to have a friend start college here and during one of my visits I discovered that this friendly and beautiful community was the place for me.

    Little did I know the hold it would take on me as I always felt a yearning when I was away.

    After travelling extensively and living in 23 different places my wife and I returned to San Luis Obispo in 2015.

    Today I’d like to introduce you to what is often ranked the “Happiest City in America” and take you back two generations to a time when bricks were made locally by hand and roads were made of dirt.

    By 1850 California had just become the 31st State in the union and although it's hard to imagine this town was the last of the Wild West.

    Back then San Luis Obispo was quite rough with its many saloons and at that time almost everyone spoke Spanish.

    We even met a local doctor who’s wife was the first English speaking woman to live in the city.

    This Essentials tour will share tidbits that even locals rarely learn or stumble across.

    So before you take your picture in the grossly-unique Bubblegum Alley let’s step back in time by visiting the World’s Smallest Chinatown.

    With the ‘Ah Louis Store’ behind you, have a look across the street to your left.

    (2 seconds silence)

    Can you see the aptly named Palm Theatre?

    It's next to the Mee Heng Low Noodle House.

    The Palm Theatre is an art house theatre founded by Jim Dee.

    It has the distinction of being the first movie theatre in the US run entirely on solar energy.

    (3 seconds silence)

    Now turn around and have a look at the information on the Historical Landmark marker on the 'Ah Louis' storefront.

    (3 second silence)

    Ah Louis and his store was the center of a bustling Chinatown from 1874 thru the 1930's.

    The entrepreneurial founder of the store, Wong On immigrated from China in 1681 and was nicknamed Ah Louis.

    His brickworks produced bricks for this and many other downtown buildings that we'll see along the tour.

    (3 seconds silence)

    Before we get going let me briefly explain how VoiceMap works.

    It uses your location to play audio automatically, at the right time and place. This means that you can put your phone away now. Don't worry if I'm silent for a while, when I'm not giving directions or telling stories. There's a map on your screen if you ever feel lost, and if you do get way off track without noticing, VoiceMap will let you know.

    Okay, let's start walking.

    With your back to Ah Louis Store, have a look diagonally to the right.

    Can you see the white Mission building with stucco walls and red Spanish tile roof on the opposite corner?

    (2 seconds silence)

    Cross the road to that corner and I'll meet you there.

    We're going to be heading down Chorro Street.