Idaho City, Idaho
The prospect of gold drew thousands of Chinese immigrants to Idaho Territory. In 1870 Idaho’s Chinese population exceeded that in California, and Chinese Americans made up more that 45% of the total population in Idaho City. Few were more successful than the Chinese immigrant Pon Yam, renowned for owning the largest diamond ring in the Boise Basin and referred to as the “King Merchant.” Historical records show that Pon Yam most likely leased the building at Montgomery and Commercial from the Wong Chong Company around 1874 and operated it for 20 years. Local Chinese residents depended on the store for Chinese foods, including delicacies such as bean curd, cuttlefish, dried oysters, bamboo shoots and dry duck. They also could buy Chinese books, clothing, herbal medicines, gambling equipment, firecrackers and religious articles at the store.
Exterior of the Pon Yam House in Idaho City, Idaho.
Highlights: Pon Yam’s residence and storefront is the sole remaining preserved building of Idaho City’s Chinatown. The Pon Yam House now operates as a museum, filled with frontier memorabilia, such as artifacts from the Gold Rush alongside Pon Yam House and Chinese artifacts from when the immigrant workers came to the area and lived here. General Pioneer Life artifacts and memorabilia showcase the lifestyle required to live in the West in the frontier days. Also on view are videos of the history, restoration and preservation of the “Queen of the Gold Camps,” narrated by Tennessee Ernie Ford and former Idaho Governor Cecil Andruss. Use your visit to the Pon Yam House as a starting point for a walking tour of the entire historic town.