Salem Pioneer Cemetery Chinese Shrine Project

Stone with Chinese symbols.

​Did you know that Salem had a Chinatown? In the mid- to late-1800s, Chinese immigrants came to the Willamette Valley. Records show they had businesses, homes, and a school. By 1903, Salem’s Chinatown was a half block of rundown buildings, and the Salem City Council ordered the entire area burned to the ground.

A Chinese Shrine in Salem Pioneer Cemetery may be the last remnant of Chinese American’s presence in Salem. Identifying and interpreting this historic place is an important part of preserving Salem’s history. A Chinese Shrine Advisory Committee composed of stakeholders and others interested in this project has been established.

​Project goals

As a Certified Local Government (CLG), Salem has access to grant money to fund research and preservation activities.

Project team

The project team includes representatives from Willamette University, the Chinese Benevolent Association, the Friends of the Salem Pioneer Cemetery, and other interested parties. Other project contacts include:

  • Project Manager: Kimberli Fitzgerald, City of Salem Historic Preservation Officer
  • Project Archaeological Permit Holder: Jamie French, Oregon SHPO Archaeologist
  • Project GPR and Student Archaeologist Field Manager: Dr. Scott Pike, Willamette University
  • Research Assistant: Kirsten Straus, City of Salem Historic Planning Intern
  • Project Staff Assistant: Sally Long, City of Salem Planning Division

​Project committee documents


Chinese Americans along with African Americans and Native Americans are considered underrepresented communities. One of the priorities identified by the National Historic Preservation Act is to identify and interpret historic places associated with these communities.


  • 1841​—Earliest burial in Salem Pioneer Cemetery
  • 1903​—Salem Chinatown burned to ground
  • 1952​—Capital Journal news article references a Chinese altar
  • 1963​—A Statesman-Journal article links the shrine to a 1916 flu epidemic
  • 1985​—City of Salem took ownership of the cemetery
  • 2013​—Salem Pioneer Cemetery listed on the National Register of Historic Places by Elisabeth Potter

Contact us

Kimberli FitzgeraldHistoric Preservation Officer
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Qingming Festival - April 2018

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Priest and Preistess blessing the Chinese Shrine.

Priests from Salem's Mia Chung Temple perform a Chinese Blessing of the Shrine on April 5, 2018 for the Chinese Qingming Festival.

Tom Andersen placing flowers on the Chinese Shrine.

City Councilor Tom Andersen places flowers on the Chinese Shrine as part of the Qingming Festival blessing ceremony.

Open House and Excavation - November 2017

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People listening to a presentation by the Chinese Shrine remains.

City of Salem Historic Planner, Kimberli Fitzgerald, describes the excavation process at the November 8, 2017 Open House.

Willamette University students help excavate the Chinese Shrine in Salem Pioneer Cemetery.