*(Following notes from wikipedia)* As in much of San Francisco, a period of criminality existed during the late 19th century; many tongs arose, trafficking in smuggling, gambling and prostitution. From the mid-1870s, turf battles sprang up over competing criminal enterprises. By the early 1880s, the term Tong war was being popularly used to describe these periods of violence in Chinatown. At their height in the 1880s and 1890s, twenty to thirty tongs ran highly profitable gambling houses, brothels, opium dens, and slave trade enterprises in Chinatown. Overcrowding, segregation, graft, and the lack of governmental control contributed to conditions that sustained the criminal tongs until the early 1920s.
Chinatown is such a remarkable and magical place for me. Growing up here in Northern California and attending University just across the bay from San Francisco _ this is where I discovered dim sum, tasted incredible birthday cakes from the best bakeries, and learned to love slurping noodles with friends at 2 am.
San Francisco has the oldest Chinatown (established in 1848) in North America and the largest Chinese enclave outside Asia.Chinatown was the port of entry for early Chinese immigrants from the Guangdong province of southern China from the 1850s to the 1900s. The fact that the SF Chinatown continues to thrive and hold on tightly to its heritage is a bold statement about inclusivity and intercultural education here in California.
It also has a very colorful past.