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1904-1951: Planting Roots

The 1904 Block Book shows the church lot approximately at its current.  J.D. Hammond, who was the District Superintendent, is initially listed as the property owner.  Later listings are identify the “Missionary Society of the ME Church” or the “Board of Home Mission & Church ME Church.”

From 1908-1912, Husted’s Directory lists only one address for the Methodist Episcopal Chinese Mission at 311-1/2-8th Street.  The 1913 Journal of the Pacific Chinese Mission indicates that the chapel and school were upstairs and the ground floor premises were rented out as stores.

After a fire in 1913 that destroyed half the block and took off one side of the property, the church was rebuilt with the chapel and school moved downstairs and a dormitory and parsonage upstairs. According to George Chan, son of Rev. Chan Lok Shang, the downstairs also contained space for a reading room.


The pastor may have thought God's grace was upon the church when so many men showed up each day at the Reading Room.  But it did not take long before he realized that this had become a popular spot for the men to wait until the Lottery results came out.  Like other Chinatowns, Oakland's was notorious for gambling.  Hanging out on the streets could attract the attention of the local constable, so why not hide in the House of God?

When World War II started,Rev. Edwar Lee made changes to the building's open hours to be sensitive to the public's safety and took the opportunity to shut down the Reading Room which lost its original community service intent.

Block Book 1905
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309-8th Street
City of Oakland Tax Assessment Block Book, 1905
Courtesy of Oakland Public Library

church front pre-1940s
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Church Front - circa 1920s

8th and Harrison
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309-8th Street in 1903
Sanborn Insurance Map, 1902-1903

1903 Sanborn-8th St closeup
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309-8th St in 1911
Sanborn Insurance Map, 1903-1911
Courtesy of Oakland Public Library

Those familiar with the 1952 church layout might be puzzled that the main door depicted in the photo below led directly into the sanctuary.  Unlike the current church sanctuary, congregation members entered from the street into the back of the sanctuary and the altar was on the far end away from the street.

Even with the Great Depression, the congregation remained dedicated to the church.  The chapel and Sunday School rooms were rennovated in 1940, and a church organ was donated for the worship service.  Congregation members and friends would find innovative ways to make the sanctuary a place worthy of God's presence. [JPCAOM-1940, -1941]

Old Sanctuary-1930s
Old Sanctuary - c1930s

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Chinese Community United Methodist Church - 321 8th Street Oakland, CA 94607 - (510) 452-1020   [ directions & map ]