This little museum is the repository of the artifacts recovered from the original Evanston Chinatown, which existed over 100 years ago. Many of the Chinese residents then were survivors of the Rock Springs massacre. They moved to Evanston, built their lives, raised their families, started their businesses, and then over time, disappeared.
The Joss House is incomplete, but when I stopped there in August, I was amazed at how much they had grown since my first visit in 1995, when the interior was basically nothing more than a simple shrine and a glass case or two with pieces of the original buildings in them. Smaller, more intimate items that reveal some insight into the everyday lives of these Chinese immigrants are now on display, along with some artwork done by local schoolchildren in celebration of these immigrants.
Evanston hosts a Chinese New Year celebration every year, complete with dragon dances and other celebrations, fascinating because there are currently only four Chinese families living there. The folks who oversee the Joss House are not Chinese scholars, but are continually trying to learn more about the customs of the original Chinese inhabitants. They receive Chinese scholars who study the artifacts,and welcome any insights from Chinese-Americans (like me) who pass through.
Since my original visit in 1995, they've added some beautiful touches to the grounds, like a pagoda-style gazebo and a koi pond. Whether these additions are "authentic" is a matter of opinion, but it's grown over the years into a lovely place to stop by and spend an hour or two. From the grounds of the Joss House, you can see across the railroad tracks the one surviving building of the original Chinatown.
This little museum is worth stopping at and seeing. Docents from the Uinta County museum will give you a very personalized tour, which can include, if you like, the railroad depot and the county museum itself. Then you can seek out one of the Chinese restaurants in town to complete your experience (I brought food back with me to the Joss House grounds and enjoyed the serenity of the sunshine and the koi pond.) The tour is free but go next door and make a donation for its upkeep - like all arts institutions, the museum complex has suffered massive financial cutbacks, but as the carrier of the legacy of those original Chinese immigrants, it deserves to survive.
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