New York City’s Chinatown, located in lower Manhattan, is one of the oldest and largest in the United States. It was founded by Chinese immigrants in the 1870s and it has grown rapidly since the removal of immigration quotas in the 1960s. On most tours of Chinatown, we sample the culinary offerings from a range of traditions including Cantonese, Shanghainese and Szechuan restaurants.
- The arrival of Chinese immigrants to New York City started very slowly in the early 1800s. More Chinese started arriving in New York City after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. But passage of The Chinese Exclusion Act kept Chinese communities in the United States very small. It wasn’t until the removal of immigration quotas in the 1960s that Manhattan’s Chinatown started to grow rapidly and expand into the Lower East Side and Little Italy.
- Chinatown is home to some of the oldest residential buildings in the city including one of the the first tenement buildings on Mott Street and the oldest row house in New York City, the Edward Mooney House, completed in 1785.
- There are many banks in Chinatown including the Chinatown Branch of HSBC, which is housed in an impressive neo-Byzantine building topped with a large bronze dome. This is the former location of Bull’s Head Tavern where General George Washington met with his fellow commanders before they marched into New York City to take back the city from the British at the end of the American Revolution.
- The Mahayana Buddhist Temple is the largest temple in Chinatown and features an imposing 16-foot tall golden image of the Buddha.
- The Church of the Transfiguration is one of oldest churches in Manhattan. It was originally Lutheran and is now one of the largest Chinese Roman Catholic communities in the United States. It offers services in Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
- The narrow elbow-shaped Doyers Street has been home to many movies and TV shows. At the height of the Tong Wars in the 1920s, it was known as Dead Men’s or Bloody Alley.
- Museum of Chinese in the America, designed by Maya Lin, shares the history, heritage and culture of people of Chinese descent in the United States.
- The Kim Lau Arch at Chatham Square honors Chinese Americans who died during World War II. It is named for 2nd Lieutenant Benjamin Ralph Kim Lau, a World War II aircraft commander. And the statue of Lin Ze Xu honors a Qing Dynasty official who tried to end the opium trade in China in the 19th Century.
- A Statue of Chinese philosopher Confucius stands outside of Confucius plaza a large-scale housing complex.
- Columbus Park is Chinatown’s largest park and is used today by those practicing Tai Chi and playing mahjong. In the 19th Century this area was known as Mulberry Bend, a violent slum where the social reformer Jacob Riis took famous photos to educate people about the deplorable conditions in this crowded, unsanitary neighborhood.
- The First Shearith Israel Cemetery is the oldest Jewish cemetery in New York City and dates back to 1683.
- East Broadway is the heart of Little Fuzhou, home to a large population of Fujianese. Fouzhou is the capital of the Fujian province in China.
- At the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge is a grand ceremonial arch and colonnade. The Manhattan Bridge is the third of the suspension bridges to cross the East River after the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges.
Little Italy is much smaller than it used to be and today is centered on Mulberry Street to the north of Canal Street. Many of the Italian immigrants and their families who settled here after arriving in the United States have left the neighborhood. But there is still a concentration of Italian restaurants, cafes and bakeries to enjoy. And it’s especially fun to visit the neighborhood during the annual feast of San Gennaro.
If you have questions about this or other tours, please contact Doug: