Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens
In March of 2007, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation purchased Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens from the Chung family who had operated the Chinese restaurant and lived in the adjoining residence for sixty years. The acquisition of Jimmy’s uniquely enhances SBTHP's ability to interpret the many-layered history of Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood, from its use by the Chumash to the history of the Spanish, Mexican, Euro-American, Chinese and Japanese settlers who have occupied the site for the past 200-plus years.
Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens was a longtime favorite for locals and tourists alike before closing its doors in 2006 with the retirement of operator Tommy Chung. Opened in 1947 by Tommy’s father, Jimmy Yee Chung, the Chung family and Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens have been an important part of the diverse community of people who have lived and worked within the Presidio Neighborhood. During the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries the area in and around the Santa Barbara Presidio included communities of Chinese and Japanese, residing in what was a unique and culturally rich neighborhood. As the last Chinese–run business in “new” Chinatown, Jimmy’s serves as a visible link to that past. SBTHP takes pride in its role as stewards of this unique community treasure.
Preserving a Unique Cultural Heritage
Following the acquisition of Jimmy's, SBTHP formed an advisory group to help guide us in a series of programs related to Santa Barbara’s Asian American history. Today SBTHP’s Asian American History Committee produces several public programs annually. Current and past projects include: an oral history project focusing on Chinese and Japanese Americans in Santa Barbara, a public lecture series, an annual Asian American film series held in July called Sharing Our Common Ground, and a living history and cultural day held annually in October, called Presidio Pastimes: the Asian American Neighborhood.
SBTHP’s Asian American History Committee, Photo by Chikako Shinagawa.