[June 3, 2021] The 1882 Foundation takes great pride in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s selection of the Summit Tunnel and Camp as among America’s Most Endangered Historic Sites. All Americans should take pride in this selection. While it highlights particularly the skills and strength of the Chinese workers who made up 80-90 percent of the Central Pacific Railroad’s workforce, the selection rivals most places in its ability to dramatically tell the continuous story of many people building the American nation. This includes references to nearby petroglyphs from ancient native Americans, pioneer wagon and foot crossings, the Lincoln highway, and industries and settlements that sprang from the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad –stories that can be told amid the natural majesty of the American landscape. The stories can be bittersweet for Chinese Americans. They were honored at Promontory in 1869 through the assignment of a Chinese crew to lay the final rail completing America’s first transcontinental railroad. But, then, they were expelled in 1882 through the Chinese Exclusion Act and their historical contributions in all aspects of American life were marginalized throughout the decades that followed. This selection lifts the Chinese Americans from invisibility. It addresses racial stereotypes and characterizations that have made them perpetual foreigners subject to periodic waves of hate crimes including during the most recent months filled with pandemic-induced accusations. The recognition of the extraordinary work by Chinese Americans under harsh and deadly conditions at the Summit Tunnel affirms their earned place in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln saw the transformative role of this first national infrastructure project. Often spoken of as one of three critical legislative actions by Lincoln, the Pacific Railway Act and the Homestead and Land Grant Acts together comprehensively transformed the United States into a world power. As we face the need to repair the nation’s infrastructure today, the selection of the Summit Tunnel reminds us of what Americans can accomplish when they bring together diverse workforces, the latest science and engineering skills, imagination and determined vision into a comprehensive endeavor with a national purpose. 


See also:

1.National Trust for Historic Preservation Announcement of “11Most Endangered Historic Sites in America,”

2.SFGate, news article, “These Railroad Tunnels Are One of the Most Endangered Historic Sites in America” by Julie Brown, 



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