Renovation is something that we all enter into with the hopes of coming out with a gorgeous room or home at the end. Most people do not expect to find anything super crazy or anything that is even remotely interesting but that is not the case of a group of men that decided to gut a Chinatown basement.
In 2014 a group of workers started to gut a basement that was in a Chinatown home. Instead of finding the usual dirt, discarded items, and dead rodents, the group found some truly fascinating artifacts that led them to believe the basement was used for something a bit more nefarious than storing Christmas decorations.
The property is located in Los Angeles, California on Ord Street, the heart of Chinatown. The neighborhood has over 10,000 people in residence and it has been a bustling hub of the city since it began to grow up in the early 1930s. The building was purchased and was set to be transformed from its Chinese eatery status to something that was completely different. The owner was determined to take the old Chinese restaurant and make it into a down home southern joint by the name of “Little Jewel of New Orleans”. His plans were changed a bit however when they started finding the artifacts.
The first thing that raised a red flag was the size of the basement. It contained a labyrinth construction that was around 6,000 square feet. Furniture was one of the biggest fares of the basement and vintage crates that were labeled with Chinese lettering. The crates referred to different Chinese medicines like yellow fir tree bark and fleeceflower root.
The contents were just as awe inspiring as the crates and labels themselves. Brightly colored poker chips were one of the things that were found inside the crate as well as a cache of bullets, badges and buttons, and small metal spoons that were covered in red crosses. Passionfruit liquor, old jade tiles, and more were all found in the crates lending mystery to what the basement really used to be.
Many theorize that the basement served as a clandestine poker house or opium den that was housed under the building as a way of allowing customers of the den to come and go without being suspect. For anyone that loves history, the unknown, or a great mystery, finding this type of stuff in your basement would be a great thrill for sure.
The current owner kept some of the items to help decorate and give flavor to his new restaurant and donated other items to local Chinatown museums to help showcase the rich and vibrant history of the area and all the mysterious and wonderful things that used to go on there. We can all only hope to find something this interesting the next time we go down to the basement to do some light cleaning. Though it might seem like a find that would turn you away, the find did not discourage the owner from continuing his renovation and getting his new restaurant off to a great start.