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Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown

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[Detail: The legend from Farwell's Map of Chinatown via Big Map Blog Click to enlarge.]

Yes, thank you, we know Roman Polanski and Robert Towne were referring to another Chinatown. But it's the line that keeps coming up as we ponder the mysteries of this 1885 map of our very own San Franciscan Chinatown. First off, the name 'Chinatown" is racist- a name applied by Anglos across America to describe their urban Chinese ghettos- and it took us a few minutes to realize all those properties with the name "White" didn't mean someone named White owned them, or that a Mr. White had cleverly bought all the property surrounding Chinatown. It meant "No Chinese." Put together for the Board of Supervisors by a Mr. Farwell, the map has lovely vintage engraving along with a color-coded legend for Chinese Prostitution, White Prostitution, Chinese Opium Resorts and Chinese Gambling mixed in with the General Chinese Occupancy. We can't decide if it's a map for late-night fun, outraged zealots of various persuasions, or graft opportunities for pols and cops from the days when Grant Avenue was called Dupont Street. Or all three?
Farwell oriented his map with Kearny Street on the bottom, giving it a 90º turn from the usual North-South orientation common today, so Portsmouth Square is located bottom center. But we can't resist the temptation to see where all that ill-repute and drug abuse was, now long gone and forgotten. And given the top-to-bottom clout of the Chinese community in today's San Francisco, we can't resist another line from the film, spoken by the prescient villain Noah Cross:

'Course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.Farwell's map is brought to us by the Big Map Blog, a source for hours of looking back at maps from our past.
· Chinatown Quotes [IMDB]
· Farwell's Map of Chinatown in San Francisco [Big Map Blog]