Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, the last Chinese family-owned and operated business in Santa Barbara’s Chinatown, was a longtime favorite for locals and tourists alike before closing its doors in 2006 with the retirement of operator Tommy Chung. Opened in 1947 by Tommy’s father, Jimmy Yee Chung, Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens had been an important part of the diverse community of people who have lived and worked within the Presidio Neighborhood. In March of 2007, SBTHP purchased Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens from the Chung family. Shortly thereafter the building was purchased by the State of California, becoming a part of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park and a historic resource that will be preserved and protected in perpetuity.
Following the acquisition of Jimmy’s, SBTHP formed a community advisory committee to help guide us in a series of programs related to Santa Barbara’s Asian American history. The group helped SBTHP begin an oral history project focusing on Chinese and Japanese Americans in Santa Barbara. In addition, through its interpretive planning process, the organization developed a concept for a permanent exhibit inside the historic Jimmy’s building, now home to our tenants Three Pickles Deli and The Pickle Room, owned and operated by Clay Lovejoy and family.
Our new display includes a life-size photo mural of Jimmy Chung and his son Bill serving drinks to local patrons at the bar, as well as multiple oral history quotes and photos that help tell the story of the Chung family and the life they created in Santa Barbara’s Presidio Neighborhood. The display includes original artifacts from Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, as well.
The display is dedicated in memory of Thomas Yee Chung and Robert Harry Lovejoy for their efforts to preserve and restore Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens, an icon of Santa Barbara’s Chinese-American Community. Special thanks to UCSB graduate student Mika Thornburg, Demachkie Design, SBTHP’s dedicated volunteers, our partners at California State Parks and all community donors that made this special project possible.