Rehab of historic Chinese gathering place in Isleton planned

A move is underway to rehabilitate the deteriorated Bing Kong Tong building – once the focal point for a thriving Chinese community in Isleton – so that future generations will be able to appreciate the contributions made by immigrants.

The historic Bing Kong Tong building was once the site of a Chinese language school and the gathering place for immigrants who worked the farms surrounding the riverfront community.

The building is in a severe state of disrepair. At 11 a.m. Monday, officials will celebrate the official start of a $600,000 project to stabilize the building at 29 Main St.

Rebuilt after a fire in 1926, the Bing Kong Tong building is an example of Chinese architecture and a connection to the town’s past. Chinese immigrants populated agricultural towns in the Delta during the first half of the 20th century.

Once, bustling Chinatowns could be found in Locke, Isleton, Walnut Grove and Courtland. General stores, Chinese social organizations and other businesses operated in wood frame buildings, some of which had Chinese architecture.

Eventually, the children of immigrants were drawn away from the towns as they scattered to colleges and bigger cities. Left behind were buildings such as the Bing Kong Tong.

“The restoration of the Bing Kong Tong building is an important milestone in the ongoing efforts to highlight and preserve for future generations the historical, cultural and architectural contributions of early Chinese settlers,” said Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli.

The meeting hall has been vacant since the 1940s, according to a news release from the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. It is believed to be the only frame building of its type that was constructed with a tin sheathing on its exterior.

The building will eventually be used as a museum and again be a community space for the city of Iselton. The first phase of the rehabilitation will preserve the building and restore the exterior.

Officials from Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, the Isleton Brannan-Andrus Historical Society and the California Cultural Historical Endowment will be present at Monday’s event.