5. The Kimlau War Memorial at Kimlau Square is a New York City landmark
In June 2021, the Kimlau War Memorial at Kimlau Square was designated a New York City landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Though Chinatown houses a number of New York City landmarks, the Kimlau War Memorial is the first that specifically recognizes Chinese American history and culture. For almost 60 years, the memorial’s granite ceremonial gateway — which is sponsored by the American Legion — and a pair of benches have stood as community monuments honoring the Chinese American soldiers who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military.
The arch and plaza were named after Second Lieutenant Benjamin Ralph Kimlau, who died in 1944 during World War II. Before graduating from Pennsylvania Military College in 1942 as the only Chinese American person in his class, Kimlau lived in Chinatown. Kimlau went on to serve in the U.S. Army Field Artillery Branch and died just two years later at the age of 26 while attacking Japanese military installations in the South Pacific.
The Kimlau War Memorial’s design works to incorporate traditional Chinese architecture with the modern backdrop of New York City. Located at the intersection of Chatham Square, Oliver Street, and East Broadway, the memorial was designed by prominent Chinese American architect Poy Gum Lee, whose career centered around designing buildings for the Chinese community. Inscribed underneath the peaked roof of the nearly 19-foot-high arch is a dedication in English and Chinese to Chinese American war casualties. First dedicated on April 28, 1962, the Kimlau War Memorial was restored in conjunction with the reconstruction of Chatham Square in 1999 and one year later it was rededicated.