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Before and After: Chinatown’s Chatham Square

Same place, different time.

Looking south from Chinatown’s Chatham Square, the steeple of St. Paul’s Chapel, built in 1766, is the only thing binding these images: a print from 1866 and a photograph I took in 2012. Bordering what used to be Collect Pond and the Five Points area, Chatham Square was in the late nineteenth century a raucous nexus of flophouses, brothels, and saloons. Today, karaoke and booze aren’t too far from the tiny park, renamed “Kimlau Square” after Benjamin Ralph Kimlau, a Chinese American World War II bomber pilot, in 1961.

Chatham Square, 2012. (E. Tammy Kim)