Photographs America Locke History District in California Photographic Print by Carol M. Highsmith
Locke, California -- also known as the Locke Historic District -- is an unincorporated community in the Sacramento/San Joaqin River Delta. Founded in 1915 as Lockeport (stories vary about the reason for the name change), Locke was established after a fire broke out in the Chinese section of nearby Walnut Grove. The Chinese who lived in that area wished to establish a town of their own. A committee of Chinese merchants approached landowner George Locke and inquired if they could build on his land. HE CONSENTED. The little town was laid out by Chinese architects.
Levee construction originally brought the Chinese to this area, but by the time Locke was built most of the work was in farm labor. Locke had many businesses that catered to the farm workers and residents of this region. In the 1940s, restaurants, bakeries, herb shops, fish markets, gambling halls, boarding houses, brothels, grocery stores, a school, clothing stores, and the Star Theatre lined the bustling streets of Locke. At its peak 600 residents, and as many as 1500 people occupied the town. By 2010, fewer than 100 people lived in the community.
A Hong Kong-based developer purchased the town in 1977 from the Locke Heirs and sold it in 2002 to the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. In 2004, the agency finally allowed the sale of land to those who had been living on it for many years.