Chinese Bunkhouse

Preservation Project

Our goal is to preserve the Chinese Bunkhouse so that it may be used to tell the stories of the early Chinese immigrants who helped build our community.

Preserve: To stabilize and preserve the Shinn bunkhouse so that it may be used by park visitors and schools.

Tell the stories: Who were the people who worked for the Shinn family and other local ranches, nurseries, and their own farms? Where did they came from? What was life like in the Washington Township?

Document: Work with the local museums to record and present the history of the Chinese people who lived and worked in the Washington Township - for the Shinn family and for other ranches, farms, and nurseries. Create exhibits, talks, and events.

Collaborate: Bring the stories alive - of immigration, struggle, and success - by creating sustainable partnerships with museums, parks, schools, universities, and other agencies. The "Chinese History Project" is our first collaboration.

Sustain: To plan for the continued use and maintenance of the bunkhouse.

What is the Chinese Bunkhouse?

The Chinese Bunkhouse sits between a barn and a packing shed at the back of the Shinn Historical Park & Arboretum in Fremont, California. The Bunkhouse was once part of a complex of buildings along Alameda Creek - for sleeping, eating, and washing - for the Chinese workers at the Shinn ranch. Only the Bunkhouse and an outhouse remain now.

Shinn Park holds many stories of the early history of the Washington Township. The park tells the story of the pioneering Shinn family who came to the area shortly after the Gold Rush and lived here until the 1960's. The family was important in the growth of the early fruit industry as well as child psychology and forest preservation.

Why should the bunkhouse be preserved?

Less obvious are the stories of the many workers who lived here and worked for the Shinn family. Chinese immigrants and other immigrants worked for the Shinn family. With the help of immigrant workers, the Shinn family and Washington Township became an important agricultural area.

Descendants of these early Chinese pioneer families still live in the area. Some of their stories have been written down and we hope to discover more stories as we progress.

The Bunkhouse, a rare remnant of an earlier time, is a physical reminder of the Chinese immigrants who worked with the Shinn family. The Bunkhouse and the other Shinn buildings will allow us to explore our shared heritage.

Rare Remnant of the Early Chinese in the Washington Township

In the National Register of Historic Places, Asian/Pacific Islander places account for only 0.1% of properties. That's only 94 of 85,000 sites! If we preserve this building, it will help to give a voice to these forgotten people who helped build our community.

Short Copy

Meet the Team

The Project members are called the "Bunkmates".

  • Jill Fong-Au - Jill is a third generation California Chinese descendent. Jill's grandparents came from China in 1917 and moved to Centerville in 1920. The Fong family moved to Niles and later to their farm in Centerville. The family had relatives who worked for the Shinn ranch and the California Nursery.
  • Mike Au - Mike's family emigrated to Hawaii in the early 1900's
  • Harry Avila -Niles Rotary & interest in local history
  • Janet Barton - Janet is a volunteer in the gardens and archives at Fremont's two historical nursery parks: Shinn Park and the California Nursery Historical Park. Janet is interested in the history of the plants at the parks and in the history of the people who worked with them.
  • Julie Cain - Niles resident and historian, Julie is currently working at Stanford on a project about the Chinese workers at Leland Stanford's stock farm.
  • Gerry Low-Sabado - Gerry is a fifth Generation Monterey Peninsula Chinese Fishing Village descendant. Her uncles owned Irvington Food Market
  • Wan Ling Lin - Ling is pursuing her B.S. degree in Recreation Management at California State University East Bay. She aspires to be a ranger at parks of state or national level. She became interested in the bunkhouse project when she volunteered at the California Nursery Historical Park. Ling is a first generation Chinese immigrant.
  • Chris Louie -Niles Rotary & third generation California Chinese descendent
  • Al Minard - Mission Peak Heritage Foundation

Joshua Fong and Belle at the Fong Farm. At times, Joshua's family worked for the Shinn family and the California Nursery. Many distant relatives lived and worked at Shinn Ranch and the California Nursery.

Our project will support Fremont's General Plan

Policy 4-1.11: Cultural Diversity and Place; Recognize Fremont’s cultural diversity as an asset that may be expressed through its community design and architecture. The City has an opportunity to strengthen its identity by creating new or reinvented places that celebrate the architectural traditions of its diverse population and international community. This diversity is reflected in the built environment in structures such as the Thai Buddhist Temple in Niles, the Masjid Mosque on Old Canyon Road, the Sikh Temple on Gurdwara Road, and the Hindu Temple on Delaware Drive.

How Will We Use the Bunkhouse?

Imagine an outdoor classroom at Shinn Park where students can learn about the shared history of the Shinn family and their Chinese workers and neighbors. Imagine cooking a meal over a wood-fired wok with Chinese vegetables grown in a plot nearby. Imagine pulling a hot apple pie and cookies from the traditional clay oven, experiencing the after-school treat that children enjoyed while walking from Niles Elementary School home through the orchards of the Shinn family and the California Nursery. Imagine what it must have been like to live and sleep in a drafty bunkhouse like this one, listening on your crystal radio to music and programs, talking about your family back home. Imagine that your wife and children are living in China and you cannot visit them. Imagine meeting your son the first time and he is 24 years old. Imagine your friends and family coming from Oakland and San Francisco - all coming together to harvest and dry the apricots from orchards all through the township. Imagine the growth of the Washington Township and our cities from 1853 to 1960.

This is how we wish for this modest building to be used - to create better understanding of our shared history as a community of immigrants.

Click on Joshua and Belle to donate!

The Chinese Bunkhouse Preservation Project is aligned with the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation. MPHF has been taking care of the "Big House" of the Shinn family for many years. Shinn Park contains several buildings from the Shinn family's ranch: the original small cottage, the "Big House", the bungalow, a packing shed, and the remaining "China Camp" bunkhouse. The MPHF is a non-profit 501C3 organization and the EIN is 94-2846937.

Contact us at the.chinese.bunkhouse.project at