Chinatown & Little Italy, forged in same dynamic period of American history, were declared a single National Register Historic District in 2010. Two Bridges received the New York State Historic Preservation Award for Outstanding National Register Nomination for the Chinatown & Little Italy Historic District Designation Report. The historic district’s remarkable architectural variety includes landmark examples of religious, civic and institutional architecture, standing alongside row houses and tenements that housed waves of immigrants from around the world throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. By the 1870s, Chinese and Italians began settling along Mott and Mulberry Streets and the intersecting cross streets, bringing their respective cultures, traditions and tastes to New York. Ultimately, these neighborhoods became best-known for the Italian and Chinese families who settled here.
While there were obvious cultural and language differences, the Chinese and Italian immigrants who made this area their home shared many parallel experiences: both groups fled civil unrest and dwindling economic opportunities in their homelands; they chose to settle among fellow countrymen for linguistic and cultural reasons; and both Chinese and Italian immigrants brought distinctive food cultures to New York, which have profoundly influenced American cuisine.
The contributions of Chinese and Italian immigrants constitute a large part New York’s cultural history, which remain relevant and resonant today. This single district, encompassing the historic core of Little Italy and Chinatown, acknowledges the long and ongoing relationship and common history of these two immigrant communities.
Points of Interest
Columbus Park — (Mulberry, Worth, Baxter & Bayard; Calvert Vaux, 1888). Public park replacing notorious slums of Mulberry Bend and Five Points. Dedicated as Columbus Park in 1911 to honor the Italian community. Now a center of Chinatown community life.
Church of the Transfiguration — (23-31 Mott). Ashlar and brownstone gable front church with copper tower, built ca. 1801; 1815; 1861-68. NYC Landmark.
Public School 23 — (70 Mulberry; C.B.J. Snyder, 1891-93). A five-story fortress-like Romanesque and Renaissance Revival brick & brownstone school, now housing the Chinatown Senior Center and the Museum of Chinese in America’s archives.
Doyers Street — The crooked path of narrow Doyers Street was known as the “Bloody Angle,” for the numerous gangland battles that took place there in late 19th & early 20th century. A distinctive part of the core of historic Chinatown, originally confined to Doyers, Pell and lower Mott.
Chinese Opera House — (5 Doyers). Opened by actor Chu Fong in the early 1890s. Performances of traditional Chinese opera were held there until sometime around 1905. Chinese revolutionary leader Dr. Sun-Yat Sen spoke here in 1911.
Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association — (60 Mott). The “town hall” of Chinatown since the 1880s. The current (1960) building was designed by Poy G. Lee, Chinatown’s premiere Chinese-American architect of the mid-20th century. The Eastern States Buddhist Temple is on the first floor at 64 Mott.
On Leong Tong/Chinese Merchants Building — (83-85 Mott). A modern pagoda erected in 1948, and a character-defining building in the district, featuring Chinese-style architectural elements and motifs.
Church of the Most Precious Blood — (113 Baxter). Begun in 1891 by the Scalabrinian Fathers to serve the Italian population, the church was completed by the Franciscans in 1901. Schickel & Ditmars for Ireland, architects.
San Gennaro Shrine — (109-111 Mulberry). In recognition of the large local Napolitani population, the Feast of San Gennaro, patron saint of Naples, was first celebrated on Mulberry Street in September 1926. The shrine contains the statue carried in the procession along Mulberry Street during the annual festival.
Banca Stabile/Rowhouses — (181-189 Grand). An intact row of five brick Greek Revival rowhouses, built ca. 1835 as artisan’s workshops & residences. No. 189 housed the Banca Stabile, an important bank serving the Italian immigrant population from the late 19th into the early 20th century. Now the Italian-American Museum.
L’Ordine Figli d’Italia Order of the Sons of Italy — (203 Grand). Established in 1905 as a support system to assist immigrants in their transition to American citizens. By 1921, 125,000 members met in 887 lodges country-wide. In over a century, the Sons of Italy has grown into a national organization promoting study, understanding and appreciation of Italian-American heritage.
Engine No. 55 — (363 Broome). A three-story Indiana limestone engine house with mansard roof clad in slate and copper. Robert H. Robertson designed this Beaux-Arts-style building, which was built in 1898. NYC Landmark.
Church of San Salvatore/Holy Trinity Ukrainian Church — (359-361 Broome). Built by the Italian Mission of the Protestant Church of New York, designed by architects Hoppin & Koen, 1901.
Hook & Ladder No. 9 / G. LaRosa Bakery — (209 Elizabeth). ca. 1885, three-story brick building with limestone belt course, extensive use of molded brick tiles, and a well-preserved cast iron storefront/garage bay.
14th Ward Industrial School — (256 Mott). Distinctive brick and terracotta former school is a striking symbol of the educational & social welfare work once conducted there by the Children’s Aid Society. Designed in 1888 by Calvert Vaux of Radford & Vaux, the designer of Columbus Park.
Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral — (Mulberry, Prince & Mott). The second Catholic Church in New York and the Church of the Holy See for the first 60 years of its existence, St. Patrick’s has been central to the local Catholic community for 200 years (Joseph-Francois Mangin, architect, 1809). The churchyard is surrounded by a tall, brick & brownstone wall, erected in the 1830s to protect the church from anti-Catholic hostilities.
St. Michael’s Chapel — (266 Mulberry). A red brick & limestone Gothic Revival chapel designed by the firm Renwick & Rodrique in 1859.
Other Cultural Attractions
Museum of Chinese in America 215 Centre Street • 212.619.4785 www.mocanyc.org
New Museum 235 Bowery • 212.219.1222 www.newmuseum.org