Wong K. Gew Mansion - 345 W. Clay

Gew had arrived in New York in 1900, and moved to Stockton in 1910, operating gambling establishments and acting as a partner in the Lincoln Hotel and owner of the Tong King Company and other Stockton gambling establishments.

At the time, city ordinance prohibited Chinese people from establishing homes north of Main Street, so Gew chose a large plot of land on Clay Street for his Southern-style home with twelve rooms (including two sleeping rooms for servants), a marble fireplace, Honduras mahogany, columns, classical windows, and a balcony. Gew is noted for breaking through several cultural and racial barriers, including hiring a Caucasian architect to design his home, as well as the fact that he was a well-respected Chinese businessman who had money, owned a car, and built an extravagant home outside of the area covered by the ordinance. The Wong Gew Mansion is a large, 2-1/2 story frame house ofshiplap construction located in a modest residential district of Stockton, California. The house is built in a conglomerate style, predominantly federal revival typical of the large period houses of the 1920s. There are pilasters at the corners and boxed cornices with brackets and friezes on the walls and eaves. There is a veranda across the front of the house which has since been enclosed. The roof of the porch forms a balcony off the second floor which has since been screened off and covered to make a sun porch. There are three dormers with gables and returns. Each dormer has a semi-circular sash window. On the east end of the house, there is a large first-floor bay window and balcony. There is a chimney on the west end of the house. At the rear of the building is a two-story porch which since has been enclosed on the second floor.

The interior of the house is furnished with Honduras mahogany wainscoting, bannisters and doors. There were originally 12 rooms, a kitchen and two sleeping rooms for servants. There is an elaborate fireplace with a Yum Nan marble mantle in the living room. The mantle reportedly cost $2,200 at the time of construction. The house sits on a 100 foot by 150 foot lot with a detached two-car garage. There is a private well for domestic and garden use. The house is surrounded by an elaborate wrought iron fence. The gateposts were made using design details similar to the house. The design of the whole property is in keeping with the design character of the house. Except for the alterations noted above, the Wong Gew Mansion retains its architectural and historic integrity. The additions that have been made could be removed without damaging the house. The mansion is painted pale green and trimmed in yellow, colors which are compatible with the buildings historic association with the Chinese owner and builder, Wong Gew. The house has been very well maintained. It is in excellent condition. The Wong Gew Mansion, built in 1921, is significant for its historic associations with Stockton's Chinese community. The house is one of the best examples of period architecture in the Stockton area and is significant for its craftsmanship and detailing.

Wong Gew came to California from China in the 1880's, settling first in San Francisco and then moving to the San Joaquin Valley. In Stockton, Wong Gew became a prominent gambler and established several large gaming houses, including the Tong King Company in the Roosevelt Hotel. He was also one of the developers of the superbly Grafted Lincoln Hotel, since destroyed. Wong Gew's financial success is particularly striking because of the intense anti-Asian feeling in California at the time. Gambling was one of the few avenues to economic advancement open to Chinese people during the early twentieth century. Despite Wong Gew's success, he was still subject to the racial prejudices of the time. Consequently, Wong Gew was required to build his new home south of Main Street because Chinese were not permitted to live north of that line. Wong Gew made the best of this legal stricture, however, and built a private school for teaching Chinese religion and culture that still stands. Wong Gew hired the firm of Losekann and Clowdsley to design the building. The Stockton City Hall was also designed by this company.

Surrounding homes are more modest than the nominated property, which tends to dominate the area. Local pride is very evident in the Wong Gew Mansion, since Stockton has declared it a local historical landmark. The only major intrusion in the neighborhood is a stucco apartment building which stands next to the mansion. Except for the few intrusions and alterations noted above, the Wong Gew Mansion retains its historic and architectural significance and is a cultural asset to the neighborhood in which it is located and the Stockton metropolitan area. The home is #78000761 on the National Register of Historic Places, and was added on September 20, 1978. It was added to the city register by resolution number 30,834 on November 5, 1973.