You'll know you're in Chinatown when you see the fabulously ornate Gateway Arch at Seventh and H Streets, NW. The iconic Chinatown Friendship Archway, produced as a joint US – Chinese project in 1986 is located next to one of the busiest Metro stations in the city (Gallery Place/Chinatown). This 48-foot-high, 75-foot-wide gateway is the nation's largest Chinese archway and welcomes visitors to the city's small historically Chinese community.

Washington's Chinatown dates to the 1880s, when immigrants settled along Pennsylvania Avenue between Third and Sixth Streets, NW. After it was forced out by construction of the Federal Triangle in the 1930s, the community moved north to the current location, one of the city's oldest residential sections. While many Chinese Americans, generations removed from the immigrant experience, have left Chinatown for the DC suburbs, a small community survives. In the 600 block of H Street you'll see the Wah Luck House senior community, whose architect, Alfred Liu also designed the arch, and the Chinatown Community Cultural Center, dedicated to preserving and promoting the neighborhood's cultural heritage.

The arrival in 1997 of the Verizon Center (originally called the MCI Center), which hosts more than 220 events and attracts 2.6 million people annually, has changed the neighborhood dramatically. Its opening brought development pressures to Chinatown. While some of the old, inexpensive restaurants remain, featuring authentic Chinese hand-noodles and barbeque, many have closed. They have made way for familiar western eateries — albeit with names in Chinese characters.


This self-guided walking tour reveals the story of Downtown, including sections of Chinatown. Follow the signs to learn more about the neighborhood before Chinatown arrived, including John Wilkes Booth's escape route after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln as well as Clara Barton's Civil War-era "missing persons" bureau. Add to your exploration by taking along Cultural Tourism DC Audio Journey for the Downtown Heritage Trail. The free audio tour, accessible on your mobile phone by visiting, takes listeners by the ear and leads them through Downtown Heritage Trail, adding more facts and stories in dramatic fashion.


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