The Doyers Street Tunnel in Chinatown
The Doyers Street Tunnel in Chinatown

On notorious Doyers Street in Chinatown, nicknamed “The Bloody Angle” because the curvilinear street enabled gangs to creep up on one another unseen, you can still visit one of the tunnels which enabled some escapes. One entrance to the tunnel is in the middle of Doyers Street, next to the shop Coco Fashion near the trendy bar Apotheke and Nom Wah Tea Parlor, and takes you out onto Chatham Square on the Bowery. The tunnel is populated by small businesses ranging from feng shui shops, employment agencies, travel agencies, law firms and reflexology.

[Update: Part of the tunnel is now gone, with the conversion of 5-7 Doyers Street into a new forthcoming restaurant, Chinese Tuxedo. You can still visit the other half through Chatham Square however.]

In 1909, actor Ah Foon,  knowing that his days were numbered after repeatedly taunting a rival gang in performances,  was escorted through this tunnel from the Chinese theater that used to stand at 5-7 Doyers Street. He made it safely to his apartment but was shot on the landing in the middle of the night.

Here’s what the tunnel looks like today:

Doyers Street Tunnel_Chinatown_New York City-Foot Reflexology Chinese Medicine

Doyers Street Tunnel_Chinatown_New York City-Tin Sun Metaphysics-Facade
One of the most interesting facades in the Doyers Street Tunnel
Doyers Street Tunnel_Chinatown_New York City-Why Are You Here
A funny notice down one of the side alleys in the tunnel, telling tourists to ask for their money back if they’ve been brought here
Doyers Street Tunnel_Chinatown_New York City-Messy
One of the most jam packed offices in the tunnel
Doyers Street Tunnel_Chinatown_New York City-Exit
The exit onto Chatham Square
Doyers Street Tunnel_Chinatown_New York City-Chatham Square
Don’t forget to look up! At the top of the building from which you’ll exit out of the Doyers Street tunnel, there are gargoyles at the top of an otherwise un-noteworthy building.

Next, read about the alleys and small streets in Chinatown. Read about this and more in David Freeland’s book Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan’s Lost Places of Leisure. Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.

5 thoughts on “Inside the The Doyers Street Tunnel in Chinatown

    1. The name Ah Hoon was referenced in the book by David Freeland (and from newspapers at the time, although there look to be both spellings Ah Hoon and Ah Foon, and Ah Hoon is much more prevalent). The story comes from Freeland’s book and he talk he gave at Columbia GSAPP where I was present, but I think it would be more accurate for me to have written that he was killed going to get the water spigot in the main hall vs. the landing (Milwaukee Sentinel: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19100104&id=O1JAAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9AkEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7142,412818). The version where he is shot in his room with the police on guard is the most popular on the internet so I’m checking in on this.

      David Freeland’s book: http://books.google.com/books?id=YaHoK65kg-gC&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=ah+foon+chinatown+doyers&source=bl&ots=wlt6so9e23&sig=R3cQY5ol85vueVLNKfpqpyLVuVw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=M-25UJivEKbX0QHlv4CIAg&ved=0CFMQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=ah%20foon%20&f=false

    2. The name Ah Foon was referenced in the book by David Freeland (and from newspapers at the time, although there look to be both spellings Ah Hoon and Ah Foon, and Ah Hoon is much more prevalent). The story comes from Freeland’s book and he talk he gave at Columbia GSAPP where I was present, but I think it would be more accurate for me to have written that he was killed going to get the water spigot in the main hall vs. the landing (Milwaukee Sentinel: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19100104&id=O1JAAAAAIBAJ&sjid=9AkEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7142,412818). The version where he is shot in his room with the police on guard is the most popular on the internet so I’m checking in on this.

      David Freeland’s book: http://books.google.com/books?id=YaHoK65kg-gC&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=ah+foon+chinatown+doyers&source=bl&ots=wlt6so9e23&sig=R3cQY5ol85vueVLNKfpqpyLVuVw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=M-25UJivEKbX0QHlv4CIAg&ved=0CFMQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=ah%20foon%20&f=false

      Either way however, I am looking into both things with David Freeland further. Thanks for your comment!

      1. In many East Asian languages, the sounds for “f” and “h” are considered similar sounds, represented by very similar characters, which would explain the confusion.

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