Looking for Clues of Underground Tunnels in Fresno's Historical China Town
08/03/2007 (KFSN) -- The long rumored existence of clandestine tunnels in Fresno's oldest neighborhood is now under scientific scrutiny. Action News Anchor Nancy Osborne tagged along with these scientists as they begin the city's first ever archaeological investigation.
Those fabled tunnels are said to run under the 130 year old China Alley and it's where 19th century myth meets 21st century technology in Fresno's historic Chinatown.
It may look like a lawnmower at first glance, but it utilizes ground penetrating radar to map beneath our modern world looking for pieces of the past. Karana Hattersley-Drayton, Fresno Historic Preservation Officer, says, "It's an important part of our history that you only can get from getting up under the ground rather than just looking at the buildings."
Hattersley-Drayton pitched the test program to hopefully map those legendary tunnels as well as other artifacts of this immigrant neighborhood that grew west of the rail tracks in the 1870's. Kathy Omachi, Chinatown Revitalization, Inc, says, "African-American, Armenian, Basque, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Mexican-American, Germans from Volga, Russia and the Greek community all settled here."
Adjacent to China Alley seems to be one large building, but, it's actually many little ones that are 12.5' x 50'. The Haruzi-ego House was once a fine Japanese restaurant. It's now owned by the Chinatown Revitalization Organization.
While the scientists dig up pre-WWII relics buried in his old basement, left there when families were sent to internment camp. But, what about the tantalizing mystery?
Archaeologist Sarah Johnston says, "I've heard enough first person accounts. It's starting to sound more and more credible, but credibility isn't confirmation and we're trying to confirm."
The GPR data from this test run will create a 3D map that will suggest where other test digging for tunnels and other underground historical treasure. The city's initial $10K investment may yield clues to Fresno's earliest past that may prove more valuable than an urban myth.
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