Chicago Sun-Times

Chi­na­town mu­seum re­born 2 yrs. af­ter dev­as­tat­ing fire

- BY FRANK MAIN Fires · Arts · Disasters · Austria · Chicago · American Museum of Natural History · Museu Nacional · Belgium · Elgin · Chinatown

As a teen, Ray­mond Lee once lived on the third floor of a Chi­na­town build­ing where whole­saler Quong Yick Co. sold veg­eta­bles and other goods to restau­rants as far away as El­gin.

Now the build­ing at 238 W. 23rd houses the five-year-old Chi­nese-Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Chicago, which on Satur­day cel­e­brated its re­open­ing, ris­ing like a phoenix from the ashes of a mys­te­ri­ous fire that two years ago de­stroyed the fa­cil­ity.

It took a con­certed ef­fort and a few an­gels to bring it back — in­clud­ing Lee, owner of Golden Coun­try Ori­en­tal Food LLC, who kicked in $250,000 of his own money to ren­o­vate the struc­ture.

The mu­seum had been in­sured, but re­pairs to the 114year-old, four-story build­ing af­ter the Sept. 19, 2008, blaze ex­ceeded cov­er­age.

Other donors to come for­ward in an ef­fort to re­open the Chi­na­town mu­seum in­cluded the Na­tional Mu­seum of Mex­i­can Art, the Field Mu­seum, and sev­eral other Chicago cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions.

And some an­gels of a dif­fer­ent sort showed up to cel­e­brate its re­birth: nine Chicago fire­fight­ers. Pulling up to the mu­seum in En­gine No. 8, they stood be­fore a crowd of well-wish­ers who ap­plauded their fire­fight­ing ef­forts that day, prais­ing them for throw­ing tarps over ex­hibits and sav­ing many of the ar­ti­facts from wa­ter and fire dam­age.

Vis­i­tors then snaked through the mu­seum, ad­mir­ing such items as a Chi­nese bat­tle ax and a 50-foot-long mul­ti­col­ored dragon. Also on dis­play on the first floor are fire-dam­aged ar­ti­facts such as a mil­i­tary uni­form and charred doll heads, as well as a TV news video of the blaze, in the ex­hibit “Fire at the Mu­seum.”

The sec­ond floor hosts the ex­hibit “Great Wall to the Great Lakes: Chi­nese Im­mi­gra­tion to the Mid­west.”

It will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thurs­days and Fri­days and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Satur­days and Sun­days.

 ?? RICHARD A. CHAP­MAN~SUN-TIMES ?? The grand re­open­ing of the Chi­nese-Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Chicago on Satur­day fea­tured dig­ni­taries, lion dancers and a rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony.
RICHARD A. CHAP­MAN~SUN-TIMES The grand re­open­ing of the Chi­nese-Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Chicago on Satur­day fea­tured dig­ni­taries, lion dancers and a rib­bon-cut­ting cer­e­mony.
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