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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • ABOUT PARIS, 1895

Chinatown: 1905

Chinatown: 1905

New York City circa 1905. "Funeral procession on Mott Street." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

Fly Drapes

Those horse blankets are actually "fly drapes" -- when the horse moves, the webbing moves with them, dislodging any flies that alight on the horse. Of course, this was a boon back before fly spray! The ones in the pic were made to be especially decorative, they are called caparisons, but it's the same idea as the fly nets still used today on carriage horses and horses at pasture.

Persistence

All of the buildings in this picture from the Port Arthur Restaurant north to the church are still standing. The church is the Roman Catholic Church of the Transfiguration, which was built as a Lutheran church in 1801, and bought by the Catholics in 1853. The Wing On Wo & Co. imports shop, seen about midway up the block with the heavily leaning sign, is still in operation, although it is now across the street opposite the church.

As for the name of the Port Arthur restaurant, it certainly would have been quite topical at the time. The Russo-Japanese war was ended at the Portsmouth Peace Conference of 1905. Teddy Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering the peace. The 1904 battle and siege of Port Arthur were the most famous military actions of that war.

Alas

the Port Arthur is no more, but the building still stands.

And tell me what street

Compares with Mott Street in July?
Sweet caskets gently gli-
-ding by ...

It's (Also) Very Fancy

on old Delancey Street, you know?

I have a warm spot in my heart for any Chinese restaurant named "Port Arthur" (and there were many around the country by that name at the turn of the century), since I spent six months of my working life in that Texas town many years ago. I haven't looked at a map of contemporary China lately, but I'll bet the name of that coastal city has been thoroughly Sinocized since the late 1940s.

Chinese Funeral

Isn't white the mourning color for the Chinese, hence the white coach and horse covers?

[White funeral coaches were not uncommon back then. Lots of them in the photo archives. - Dave]

Horse couture

Wow, I love the webby tasseled crocheted horse-blankets.

Re: Branding

Plus the Port Arthur passes the most important test for a restaurant in a Chinatown: it's not on street level. The street level places are generally for the tourists: the rent and therefore the prices are higher. (I haunted San Francisco Chinatown as a callow youth.) The best food is usually to be found up or down a flight of stairs.

And tell me what street

Compares with Mott Street
in July?


View Larger Map

Branding

Boy oh boy, nothing says "authentic Chinese cuisine" like the name "Port Arthur." (Which, yes, was a military base in China, but still.)

 
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