Chatham Square

From tattoo parlours to Prohibition-era reform, this Chinatown intersection is full of history.

TravelCurious Tip

Head to the nearby “Great NY Noodletown" for some quintessentially Chinese cuisine and a couple of bottles of Tsingdao

Chatham Square is a major intersection in Chinatown, Manhattan. Named after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham and Prime Minister of Great Britain before the American revolution, it has had a chequered history: in the 19th century it was variously a large open air market for livestock and a centre for tattoo parlours, flophouses and saloons. However, after the Great Depression the area was reformed.

Like Babushka dolls, Chatham Square also contains a small park known as Kimlau Square. This contains the Kimlau memorial arch, which was erected to honour United States service members of Chinese ancestry who fought and died serving their country. Nearby stands a bronze statue of Lin Zexu, a Chinese scholar and official of the Qing dynasty who mounted campaigns against the British opium trade in the 19th Century. The base of the statue is inscribed with “Don’t do drugs” in English and Chinese.

Just a short walk away lies the Chatham Square Library, which has long been an integral part of the local community and one of New York’s busiest libraries. The entire second floor and part of the third are dedicated to children, so take your tots along for a little reading in the bright, pint-sized setting.

The Great Escape

Chatham Square is a great place to start your Chinatown explorations. It is also the exit point of the Doyers Street Tunnel. Doyers Street in Chinatown was once notorious and known as “The Bloody Angle” because its shape allowed gangs to creep up on one another unseen. Back then, the tunnel allowed for some pretty sharpish escapes; now, it’s full of Feng shui shops, small law firms and reflexology centres.

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