On Leong Chinese Merchants Association

The On Leong Merchants Association building reflects the transformation of a part of downtown DC into Chinatown.

The Chinese Merchants Association Building is significant as the long-time home of On Leong Tong, the City’s preeminent Chinese benevolent association. In the early 1930s, when DC’s first Chinatown at Pennsylvania Avenue and Fourth Street NW was demolished to make way for government buildings, On Leong Tong played a pivotal role in the relocation of the community to its present location in the vicinity of 600 H Street NW. 

This site shows Chinatown’s transformation of existing buildings to suit the community’s needs. By combining two rowhouses from around 1852, On Leong Chinese Merchants Association Building applies Chinese ornamental features to relate the cultural identity through historically inspired architecture. Its architectural features include undulating pagoda-form roofs, fretwork balconies, patterned tiles, lanterns, and roof cresting. The 1932 remodeled building further reflects the importance of mutual aid organizations in the immigrant experience.

DC Inventory: September 26, 1996

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618-20 H Street NW