One hundred years ago to the non-Asian New Yorker, Chinatown seemed a mysterious place that they didn't dare visit alone, but instead required guides brave enough to take them into a set of streets they imagined filled with opium dens and fantan parlors--guides that were called lobbygows.
Come with us now on a lobbygow journey where we'll separate fact from fiction in the years before and immediately after the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act and its impact on New York's Chinese population, but especially as we travel back to the year 1909, as we recall the sensational Chinatown Trunk Murder, the tragic concubine Bow Kum, the nefarious Mock Duck, and the time when Chinese slew Chinese in these very streets during the greatest of the Tong Wars just a century ago.
*Please note: This tour is about Chinatown from the 1850s through the early 20th century, not present-day Chinatown. Think of it as similar to a Little Italy Mafia tour*
Where to meet: On the island called Kimlau Memorial Square of Chatham Square, which is across the street from Citibank located at 2 Mott Street. There is a statue of an old-time Chinese official there. This is the busy traffic circle where Mott, Bowery, Worth, and East Broadway all come together. Take the 4,5 train to "Brooklyn Bridge", or the R to "City Hall" and walk down to Chinatown, or buses like the M9, 15, and 20 that go to Chatham Square, which is very close by, too.
When to meet: 12:45pm for a 1pm start. I will be holding a sign that says "Chinatown Tong Wars".
Fee: $15 cash, exact change appreciated! Please bring bills, not coins :)
The tour will be approximately 2/2.5 hours long. While Friendly Native tours walk rain or shine 99.9% of the time, on rare occasions they will be postponed in cases of what can be deemed dangerous weather, and an email sent out to that effect to all who have registered for the event. For sunny days, be sure to bring a hat and a bottle of water. Check the weather reports on the day of the tour; if there is a chance of rain, please bring your own umbrella!
The nearest restrooms to this location are right inside "Hamptons Market Place", though you probably have to buy something, like a bottle of water. Otherwise, there's a McDonald's further up the block on Bowery. Please be sure to "take care of things" before the start of the tour!