IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Historic Sam Kee Laundry Building Damaged in Napa Earthquake

The 1875 building, badly damaged in the Napa earthquake, was home to a Chinese-American business and at the center of a civil rights battle.
Get more newsLiveonNBC News Now

Among the many buildings seriously damaged in Sunday’s 6.0 earthquake in Napa, California, is the historic Pfeiffer Building, known locally as the Sam Kee Laundry Building. Built in 1875, it is Napa’s first stone building and oldest surviving commercial building, recognized by the National Parks Service as one of 94 California sites important to Chinese-American history.

Over the years, the building has housed a brewery, a boarding house, a saloon, and the Sam Kee Laundry, founded by its namesake, a mid-19th century immigrant from China.

In the landmark 1887 case, “In Re Sam Kee, On Habeas Corpus,” Sam Kee challenged the constitutionality of a discriminatory city ordinance which made it illegal to have a laundry within the city limits, and won at the Ninth District Circuit Court.

“It's a memorable part of California history when Chinese immigrants faced virulent discrimination and were denied a livelihood,” said Margaret Fung, Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), “Kee stood up for his rights and successfully challenged the town's discriminatory ordinance creating a ‘laundry-free’ zone in 1887."

The building currently houses Vintner's Collective, which did not respond to NBC News' request for comment, but notes on its Facebook page that the building has been badly damaged and they are temporarily moving operations.