Open house set for restored Joss House

By Kayne Pyatt, Herald Reporter
Posted 5/15/24

EVANSTON — “If it were not for the Joss House, the history of Evanston’s Chinatown would be lost,” Uinta County Museum Director Kay Rossiter said. “We are so pleased …

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Open house set for restored Joss House


EVANSTON — “If it were not for the Joss House, the history of Evanston’s Chinatown would be lost,” Uinta County Museum Director Kay Rossiter said. “We are so pleased with the new restoration and excited for the public to see it.”

The museum will hold an open house for the public from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, featuring guest speaker archeologist Dudley Gardner. Gardner, along with students from Western Wyoming Community College, conducted many archeological digs at the Chinatown site in Evanston. He will provide historical background information on Chinatown and on many of the artifacts now on display in the Joss House.

The project donors who made this renovation possible included Wyoming Community Foundation, Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, Spire, Pacific Power, Uinta County Museum Foundation and Evanston’s Main Street Urban Renewal Agency.

Rossiter and Mary Walberg, display curator, said the first thing they did during the restoration was take everything out of the Joss House that did not come from the Chinatown site and the Chinese community in Evanston. They added new artifacts that came from the digs conducted at the local site and donations from the public.

Walberg said all of the artifacts have now been researched and cataloged into a database. Many of the artifacts found in the original Chinatown were donated by local residents who saved them when Union Pacific shut it down and demolished it. Recently, new items were donated from the Denice Wheeler estate and from others over the past few years.

“We even had a donor who brought us a Chinese traveling lantern that originally came from the Chinatown in Rock Springs,” Walberg said. “The pole we have in the Joss House that lists on it all the items for sale in the Chinese grocery store was found in the basement of the Baptist Church.”

The goal was to restore the Joss House, which was a place of worship and a sanctuary for the residents of Chinatown and Chinese travelers, to have a more authentic feel and mostly to protect the artifacts and catalog all the items in the Joss House.

The front windows have now been painted black and the side windows were covered in the interior to prevent the light from damaging the artifacts. The original Joss House had only a few small windows.

The altar in the Joss House has now been restored with all of the appropriate artifacts and it is roped off so it won’t be disturbed.

Rossiter said they gained a wealth of information from Gardner and from three Chinese professors who visited over the years and provided invaluable information and interpretation of old script on artifacts.

A 15-foot dragon banner is now displayed in the Joss House and is one of only four in the region. Gardner will talk about it at the open house.

The front exterior of the Joss House was also repainted and repaired. The sign was removed from the front and restored as well.

Walberg said, “I am so happy it is finally finished. The artifacts displayed are now accurate. We have preserved them in like-new conditions. There is also a self-guided text for visitors to follow, so they can take their time and see everything.”

Rossiter and Walberg extend a hearty invitation to local residents to attend the open house and see for themselves the restored Joss House, an important part of Evanston’s history.