Cleveland, Ohio never had a large Chinese immigrant population.  The 1920 U. S. Census records show there were about 240 Chinese there, the highest number in the early 20th century.  That total includes children, so the number of adults was even smaller.  Yet, there were many Chinese restaurants, as shown in the montage above, that operated there from around the 1920s to 1960s for the most part. The 12 restaurants shown above from picture postcards were rather large and nicely decorated.  Many had dance floors and featured live bands and singers. Each restaurant would have required a large staff of cooks, waiters, kitchen helpers, and managers. Of course, not all employees had to have been Chinese but still it seems unusual that with less than 200 Chinese adults in Cleveland, and many of them working in laundries or other jobs, that there would have been enough Chinese to staff more than a handful of large Chinese restaurants. 

There was never a large "Chinatown" in Cleveland but the Chinese restaurants were concentrated in a few blocks, as the census listings of addresses for Chinese in Cleveland indicate showing that many lived on Ontario St. in 1910 and  on Superior St. in 1920, respectively.


  A directory of Chinese businesses in America for 1946 showed that Cleveland increased its number of Chinese restaurants to 31 by then. These restaurants could not have survived on business from the small Chinese population which did not show much growth and even dropped during the Depression. The growth in the number of Chinese restaurants reflected the growth of popularity of Chinese food starting in the 1920s. After W. W. II, there was further expansion as more people began to eat out with a return of prosperity. 

By 1940, Census records reveal a concentration of 80 or more Chinese lived on the 2100 block of Rockwell Ave. in rooming houses above stores and the three-story On Leong Tong building in the middle of the block. The area deteriorated since then as the photograph below from around 2010 shows but there is presently an attempt to revitalize the historic street with new restaurants and stores.

Source of postcards: Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University