Port Arthur, New York, 1920s
A Chinese immigrant, Chu Gam Fai, established The Port Arthur Restaurant on New York's Mott Street in 1897, naming it after his home city on China's northeast coast. With a garish pagoda-style frontage, the property stood out among the joss houses, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and gambling parlors of the Lower East Side. Located on the second and third floors of 7-9 Mott Street, it became a magnet for "slummers" – American tourists looking to do something exotic in the evenings. They sat at mahogany tables inlaid with mother of pearl, ate chop suey, listened to music played on a baby grand piano and congratulated themselves on their spirit of adventure. When Port Arthur became the first Chinese restaurant in the city to obtain a liquor license, it became an even more risqué and fashionable place to be, though in truth, there was never any danger attached to going there. Local Chinese made the restaurant their prime destination for weddings and family ceremonial dinners, taking over the banquet hall upstairs. The Port Arthur Restaurant operated continuously for 85 years before closing.
Courtesy Private Collection.
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