Chinatown, Boston

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Coordinates: 42°21′00″N 71°03′36″W / 42.3501°N 71.0601°W / 42.3501; -71.0601

Neighborhood of Boston
A view from within Chinatown looking towards the paifang, 2008
A view from within Chinatown looking towards the paifang, 2008
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Suffolk
Neighborhood of Boston
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
Zip Code 02111
Area code(s) 617 / 857
Chinatown, Boston
Traditional Chinese 波士頓唐人街
Simplified Chinese 波士顿唐人街
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 波士頓華埠
Simplified Chinese 波士顿华埠

Chinatown, Boston is a neighborhood located in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. It is the only historically surviving Chinese area in New England with the demise of the Chinatown in Providence, Rhode Island after the 1950s.


Chinatown is centered on Beach Street. It borders Boston Common, Downtown Crossing, the Washington Street Theatre District, Bay Village, the South End, and the Southeast Expressway/Massachusetts Turnpike.[1]


Early history[edit]

Part of the neighborhood occupies a space reclaimed by filling a tidal flat; the newly created area was first settled by Anglo-Bostonians. After residential properties in this area became less desirable due to railway developments, it was settled by a mixed succession of Irish, Jewish, Italian, Syrian, and Chinese immigrants. Each group replaced the previous one to take advantage of low-cost housing and job opportunities in the area. During the late-nineteenth century, garment manufacturing plants also moved into Chinatown, creating Boston's historic garment district. The garment district was active until the 1990s.

Negotiations[who?] resulted in the provision of funds for the construction of new community housing in Chinatown.[citation needed] During this period[when?], city officials also designated an area adjacent to Chinatown as Boston's red light district, also known as the Combat Zone. However, the Combat Zone, while still in existence, almost disappeared by the 1990s, due to many different reasons including city pressure, the rise of the marketing of pornography on VHS home video, the move of strip-clubs to the suburbs where they became more upscale, and a general increase in property values, which encouraged building sales and the removal of former tenants. In the 21st century, much of the former Combat Zone has evolved into the Washington Street Theatre District.

Modern day[edit]

Chinatown remains a center of Asian-American life in New England, hosting many Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants and markets. Chinatown is one of Boston's most densely populated residential districts, with over 28,000 people per square mile in the year 2000. Nearly 70% of Chinatown's population is Asian, compared with Boston's nine percentage of Asian Americans overall.[2][3] Chinatown has a median household income of $14,289.

The traditional Chinatown Gate (paifang) with a foo lion on each side is located at the intersection of Beach Street and Surface Road. Once a run-down area housing little more than a ventilation-fan building for the Central Artery Tunnel, a garden was constructed at this site as part of the Big Dig project. The Gate is visible from the South Station Bus Terminal and is a popular tourist destination and photo opportunity.[citation needed] Offered by the Taiwanese government to the City in 1982, the gate is engraved with two writings in Chinese: “Tian Xia Wei Gong,” a saying attributed to Sun Yat-sen that translates to “everything under the sky is for the people,” and “Li Yi Lian Chi”, an ancient Chinese proverb meaning a good person is one who understands “Manner,” “Loyalty,” “Honesty,” and “Shame.”[4]

The World Journal Chinese Daily Newspaper World Journal Boston is the largest and most read daily newspaper by the Chinese community.[citation needed] The non-profit community newspaper Sampan is published twice a month, and provides both English-language and Chinese-language news and information about Chinatown.

As of 2000 an area near Chinatown was also a red light district, located at the mouth of an expressway tunnel.[5] Starting in 2005, community-based civilian "Crime Watch" volunteers patrol the streets every day, to discourage and report on crime.[6][7] Boston's Chinatown has had issues with gang activity. In 1991, five men were shot and killed and a sixth man was wounded at a social club. The two gunmen were arrested in China in 1998 and were sentenced to life imprisonment.[8][9]


The MBTA's Orange Line stops at Chinatown station and Tufts Medical Center station. located within and at the southern edge of the district, respectively. Nearby South Station is served by the MBTA Red Line, Silver Line, and Commuter Rail. South Station also accommodates Amtrak long-distance rail to New York City and other cities on the Northeast Corridor.

Entrance and exit ramps serving Interstate 93 and the Massachusetts Turnpike are also in close proximity. South Station handles regional buses to New England destinations, New York City, Washington D.C., and other destinations. The regional and national bus companies include Greyhound Lines, Peter Pan Bus Lines, Megabus, and Bolt Bus. In Chinatown itself, two Chinese-owned bus services (Fung Wah and Lucky Star/Travelpack) provide hourly connections with New York's Chinatown.

Health care[edit]

Tufts Medical Center occupies a large portion of the area and includes a full service hospital and various health-related schools of Tufts University including Tufts University School of Medicine, Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.[10][10]

In addition, South Cove Community Health Center operates the Chinatown Clinic at 885 Washington Avenue.[11] Volunteers founded South Cove in 1972 to provide better health care for Asian Americans in the Chinatown area.[12]

Community organizations[edit]

The Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC)[13] is a community center that primarily serves the immigrant Chinese community of Chinatown. The mission of BCNC is to ensure that the children, youth, and families that they serve have the resources and support to achieve greater economic success and social well-being. For over 40 years, BCNC has served as a vital link for the Asian immigrant and Asian American community of Greater Boston. BCNC strives to provide the support and resources needed for participants to integrate into American society, while preserving the community's rich culture. Most of those served are immigrant Chinese, with low family incomes and limited English ability. BCNC is located in the heart of Chinatown at two sites. At 885 Washington Street, BCNC is part of the Josiah Quincy School building and, in 2005, BCNC created a permanent home at 38 Ash Street, a five-story community center and the first certified green building in Chinatown.

The Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center is also known for their annual Oak Street Fair that occurs every autumn. The event is aimed towards children and families and includes a variety of activities like their famous watermelon eating contest, Chinese dancers, pony rides, arts& crafts and a variety of games. Every year thousands of people flock to the event to engage in fun, family activities while experiencing and celebrating the rich, vibrant Chinese culture present in Boston's Chinatown. [14] BCNC moved into its current building in 2005; the building meets the performance standards under the LEED Green Building Rating System.[14][15]

The Chinatown Lantern Cultural and Educational Center was formed by the Chinatown Cultural Center Committee (CCCC) in order to address the longtime lack of a public library in the neighborhood (the Chinatown branch of the Boston Public Library was demolished in 1956 to make way for the Central Artery).[16] The Reading Room opened in April 2012, and provided library services, educational workshops, and cultural events to the Chinatown community.[17] The Reading Room had a rotating collection of approximately 8,000 books in both English and Chinese and also ran a small art exhibit gallery. The Reading Room closed on Feb 25, 2013.[18][16][17]

The Chinatown community and extended communities of Chinese around Greater Boston (including North Quincy and Wollaston in Quincy) are serviced by the Asian Community Development Corporation.


As of 2014, Chinatown is experiencing gentrification. Large luxury residential towers are built in and surrounding an area that was predominantly small three-to-five-story apartment buildings intermixed with retail and light-industrial spaces. A property developer has purchased the Dainty Dot Hosiery building, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, with plans to transform it into condominiums. Chinese community organizations such as the Asian Community Development Corporation are also building housing developments which offer mixed- and low-income housing.

The Hayden Building is a historic building at 681-683 Washington Street constructed in 1875 designed by Henry Hobson Richardson. It was added to the National Historic Register in 1980. It is the last remaining commercial retail building built by Richardson in Boston. It has been restored, and is being marketed to tenants as of 2014.

Satellite Chinatowns[edit]

A new satellite Chinatown has emerged on Hancock Street in the neighboring city of Quincy, about 10 miles (16 km) to the south of the original Chinatown, due to a rapid influx of Hokkien-speaking Mainland Chinese immigrants from the province of Fujian, as well as a large and growing ethnic Vietnamese population. There are already several large Asian supermarkets such as the Kam Man Foods and Super 88 supermarket chains, and other businesses that are competing with Boston's Chinatown; also, several businesses operating in Chinatown now have branches in Quincy. The MBTA Red Line connects via either South Station or Downtown Crossing near Boston's Chinatown, to three rapid transit stations in Quincy, including Quincy Center station.

A similar but much smaller enclave has developed in Malden to the north of Boston. Malden Center station is directly connected via the MBTA Orange Line to Chinatown station, in the original Chinatown.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Interactive map of Boston's Chinatown
  2. ^ "Boston Icons: 50 Symbols of Beantown." Chinatown. Scheff, Jonathan. Retrieved on September 5, 2012.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ AsianWeek Staff and Associated Press. "Philadelphia Chinatown Wins Stadium Fight. AsianWeek. November 24–30, 2000. Retrieved on November 8, 2011.
  6. ^ "Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England (CCBA) – Chinatown Crime Watch Received Motorola Solutions Foundation Public Safety Grant". Sampan. January 29, 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Chinatown Crime Watch". Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England. CCBA of New England. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  8. ^ Szep, Jason (February 14, 2014). "Two Vietnamese jailed for Boston Chinatown murders". Reuters. Retrieved October 5, 2005. 
  9. ^ "5 Men Killed, 1 Hurt in Shooting in Boston Chinatown Social Club". Associated Press. February 14, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 1991.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  10. ^ a b Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History. Ed. Anne Sauer.
  11. ^ "Locations." South Cove Community Health Center. Retrieved on April 15, 2009.
  12. ^ "About Us." South Cove Community Health Center. Retrieved on April 15, 2009.
  13. ^ BCNC home page
  14. ^ a b "BCNC". Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  15. ^ "LEED Certified Project Directory". Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  16. ^ a b "Chinatown Lantern Cultural and Educational Center". Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  17. ^ a b "Boston Globe". Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  18. ^ Fox, Jeremy (Feb 13, 2013). "Community-led Chinatown library facility to close Feb. 25". 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Unofficial websites