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Before and After: Chinatown’s Chatham Square

Same place, different time.

By E. Tammy Kim

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)