Belleville Historical Society celebrates town’s past with Chinese community

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BELLEVILLE, NJ — The Belleville Historical Society commemorated the 150th anniversary of the first Chinese Lunar New Year celebrated in Belleville in 1871 with a special exhibit during February at the Belleville Public Library, which included a rickshaw and dragon. Belleville was home to the first Chinese community on the East Coast of the United States. 

“We were always aware that Belleville had a 19th-century Chinese community but it was not until six years ago that we were shocked to discover that Belleville was actually the first,” Belleville Historical Society President Michael Perrone said. “We always assumed it was New York. During the 1870s and 1880s, Belleville became home to the first school for Chinese immigrants and the first Chinese temple. Chinese residents from throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut would all travel to Belleville for festivities and religious events.”

Photos Courtesy of the Belleville Historical Society