Question of the Week
The On Lok House in Philadelphia's Chinatown provides low-income housing to elderly Chinese citizens. Who founded it?
Answer: Reverend Dr. Yam Tong Hoh.
Founded by civic leader and clergyman Reverend Dr. Yam Tong Hoh in 1985, the On Lok House in Philadelphia provides low-income housing to elderly Chinese citizens.
Born in Fushan, China, in 1898, Yam Tong Hoh received degrees in theology and education in the United States. He returned to China as the administrative head of the True Light Middle School, a prestigious school for orphaned girls. After World War II, he served as a minister in Berkeley, California, and worked at the Chinese Community Center in Oakland. Then, Hoh became pastor at the Chinese Christian Church and Center of Philadelphia in 1954. During his time in Philadelphia, he supported immigrants in their new country, often serving as a translator to help them apply for naturalization or social security benefits.
Following his retirement from the ministry in 1967, Hoh became first director of On Lok House, which provided subsidized housing for Asian elderly. Reverend Hoh started the project in the late 1970s and led the center until its completion in 1985. Officially named the "On Lok House Older Adult Living Center" ("On Lok" translated into English means "Peace and Happiness"), the center was constructed at l0th and Spring Streets in Chinatown. Still standing today, the seven-story structure contains 54 rental units and continues to serve Chinese elderly.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania holds two collections related to Reverend Dr. Yam Tong Hoh’s work: the Rev. Dr. Yam Tong Hoh papers (#MSS126), which contains a series of records on the On Lok House, and the Yam Tong Hoh and Daisy Law papers (#3020).
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.