In the 1930s many Cantonese immigrants moved to the former Houston Chinatown, then a part of the Third Ward area, from Downtown Houston in an effort to find more inexpensive land. The Cantonese opened several businesses, including grocery stores and restaurants, and held Chinese New Yearcelebrations. Immigrants from other East Asian countries, including Vietnam, moved into the Chinatown.
In the early 1950s the Chinese Merchants' Association moved to the southeastern edge of Downtown Houston. Many Chinese businesses moved there. The Chinatown solidified as many Asian immigrants, including Viet Hoa, began moving to Houston in the 1970s. By the 1980s a theater, supermarkets, warehouses, a bank, and restaurants were located there.
By the late 1980s increasing numbers of Chinese began living in suburbs in Southwest Houston and Fort Bend County. In addition, the Chinatown was geographically hemmed in, with surrounding low income African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods and the Downtown area preventing additional growth. Two Chinese religious temples opened about 1 mile (1.6 km) south of the old Chinatown in the 1990s.
By the 1990s, many of the East Asian businesses left and had relocated to the current Chinatown in southwest Houston.
In a November 28, 2002 Houston Press article John Nova Lomax described what is now known as East Downtown Houston as "a silent, godforsaken stretch of no-man's-land that's not really the Warehouse District, nor the Third Ward, nor the East End." Lomax said that he used "that bulky definition" since that by 2000, the name "Chinatown," still used in the 1980s and 1990s, "was no longer apt." The area received its current name in the late 2000s.
In 2008 the management district and its namethedistrict.com website asked for suggestions for a new name for the district. Suggestions included "the Warehouse District," referring to the abandoned warehouses, and "Saint E," after St. Emanuel Street, a key street and the location of several bars and clubs. The district selected "EaDo," short for "East Downtown," one of the three most popular suggestions for the name of the district.
During the same year Dan Nip, a developer and East Downtown Management District board member, encouraged people to invest in the Old Chinatown area in East Downtown; if a person invests $500,000 United States dollars in the Old Chinatown and subsequently creates two jobs for ten years, he or she would become eligible for a EB-5 visa. By late 2009 the East Downtown authority began re-branding the district to reflect its current name. By 2010 a community of artists began to form in EaDo.