I wrote about Doyers Street here, and its impending demise, thanks to its discovery by the gentry. In a way, you might say things haven't changed very much.
As Julia Solis writes in New York Underground, "In the 1890s...the area had become a popular destination for adventurers from the city's more affluent quarters who wanted to go on slumming tours." With the opening of Apotheke, we see a similar trend, though you no longer have to be very adventurous to venture here. The hatchet-wielding crimps are gone and the bar comes with a "friends only" hidden entrance, a slummers' homage to Doyers' rich history of being tunneled.
There is still a real adventure to be had beneath Doyers, I'm sure of it, but I can't quite figure out how to access it.
I ventured down into the one open tunnel, a revamped relic from the Tong War days. It is nothing like my fantasy of it, something close to Portland's Shanghai Tunnels, a dreamy, dark place filled with opium bunks, dust-covered masonry, and trapdoors. No, the Doyers Street tunnel is a business arcade. Kind of a mall.
To get to it from Doyers, enter through a wall of Chinese signage, the Wing Fat arcade, and step down into the underground. Beneath a dropped ceiling lit by fluorescent bulbs, you'll find an assortment of businesses: a philatelic shop displaying old postcards from Shanghai, acupuncturist offices, English-language schools. On the other end, you exit by the OTB beneath the Wing Fat Mansion building.
the geomancer and the Donald
Most interesting may be the metaphysics office of a geomancer, feng shui master Tin Sun. Donald Trump asked them for advice when building the Trump International Tower. They've since been "adapting the ancient nature-based system...to modern glass-tower life," says CNN. They also feng shui'd the offices of Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley. (Maybe that's what's kept those houses both alive through the current Wall Street carnage.)
So far, nothing very exciting, but off this main corridor of subterranean Wing Fat are several locked doors. Some have Chinese writing on them, others state in English "Keep Out" and "Do Not Enter." Stand at these doors and dream of what lies beyond--dusty corridors hiding opium artifacts, cloisonne pipes lying in ash next to wooden bunks, ghosts of tong soldiers drifting like smoke among velvet curtains, the skeletons of their captives buried inside hollow walls.
If anyone knows anything about what's back there, please tell me. My heart speeds up just to think of passing through those doors to discover a hidden lost world.