99 Grafton Street Cairns

Cairns, Cairns Area

Ninety-nine Grafton Street is one of the last remaining structures directly associated with the former Cairns Chinatown. Curiously it is currently occupied by a Greek café, indicating the multicultural nature of Queensland society.

One of the early landholders here was Andrew Leon owner of the Hap Wah sugar plantation which he sold in 1886, (purchasing land in Cairns). The Chinese precinct had humble beginnings and was not an homogenous community. It included residents from different cultural districts in China. Chinatown included boarding houses, gaming houses, opium dens and merchant stores. Andrew Leon built four shops on this property in 1892, leasing to merchants Lee Yan Kee.

Lee Yan brought his wife from China in 1895 and in 1896 Mrs Lee Yan gave birth to a son. He was the first Chinese Australian child born in Cairns. At the same time, the Lit Sung Goong Temple was built adjacent to number 99. This shop at 99 Grafton Street had numerous owners including cane farmer Frank Lee Chin, and intermittently operated as a brothel from 1903 until 1932. Chinese shopkeepers and female tenants remained there until the end of World War Two. The adjacent temple was demolished in 1964.

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