Heinlenville was constructed in 1887 by German immigrant and local businessman, John Heinlen in partnership with San José’s Chinese leaders after San José's Market Street Chinatown was destroyed by arson. It grew into a thriving community, home to storekeepers, laborers and their families. Heinlenville’s stores, restaurants and boarding houses became an important base for Chinese and Japanese immigrant agricultural workers in the Santa Clara valley.
By the early 1900s, a collection of wood-frame buildings containing both Japanese and Chinese homes and businesses grew along the Sixth Street frontage on the edge of Heinlenville. This area came to be called Nihonmachi or “Japan Town.” San José’s modern Japantown grew from these early beginnings.
Heinlenville declined in the late 1920s, as people moved elsewhere. After 1932 the community’s brick buildings were gradually demolished to make way for the City of San José Corporation Yard. The center of the community, the Ng Shing Gung temple was demolished in 1949. Japantown however, survived the World War II internments and continues to be a thriving community. Despite its demolition, the site of Heinlenville and early Nihonmachi remains important to the Santa Clara Chinese-American and Japanese-American communities.
History of Heinlenville and Nihonmachi (432 KB PDF)
Heinlenville was one of six San José Chinatowns. Archaeologists from the Anthropological Studies Center, Sonoma State University and local San José historians are working with the Redevelopment Agency, City of San José to unearth selected areas of Heinlenville and early Japantown. The test excavation took place from the 11th to 17th March 2008, and data recovery excavation was conducted from the 14th to 23rd of April 2009. Work continues now back at the ASC lab, as we process artifacts and soil samples recovered from the site.