Shanghai tunnels

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Part of the tunnels

The Old Portland Underground, better known locally as the Shanghai Tunnels, is a group of passages in Portland, Oregon, United States, mainly underneath the Old Town/Chinatown section and connecting to the main business section. The tunnels connected the basements of many hotels and taverns to the waterfront of the Willamette River. They were originally built to move goods from the ships docked on the Willamette to the basement storage areas, allowing businesses to avoid streetcar and train traffic on the streets when delivering their goods. There is also a great deal of documentation in the newspapers of the 1800s, and in old court records. that many of the tunnels were also built by Chinese Gangs when Chinatown was the center of gang activity related to the different tongs. The gambling dens, brothels, and opium parlors of Chinatown were connected to separate labyrinths, with steel doors, trap doors leading to secret stairways, and tunnels for escape into far alleyways. These were security measures designed for dealing with both rival tongs and police raids. [1][2]

During 1990,local businessman Bill Naito was quoted in the newspaper The Oregonian as saying that the tunnels are underneath "Northwest Couch, Davis and Everett streets".[3]

Historians have stated that although the tunnels exist and the practice of Shanghaiing was sometimes practiced in Portland as elsewhere, there is not any evidence that the tunnels were used for this.[4]

In Barney Blalock's book, "The Oregon Shanghaiers", Blalock a Portland historian, dates the notion the tunnels were used to shanghai sailors to a series of apocryphal stories that appeared in The Oregonian in 1962, and the subsequent popularity of "Shanghai tunnel" tours that began in the 1970s. He says the tours were popular but misled visitors.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Portland historian Barney Blalock, 2014 book, "The Oregon Shanghaiers"
  2. ^ Portland historian Barney Blalock's blog post on the subject
  3. ^ Pickett, Nelson. "Free Tours of Oldtown Set to Start." The Oregonian December 1, 1990, 4 ed., sec. C: 07. America's Newspapers. NewsBank. Multnomah County Library, Portland. 30 Apr. 2008. Keyword: Shanghai tunnels.
  4. ^ The Oregonian: "Portland's buried truth" Helen Jung, 2007, Last accessed November 7, 2008
  5. ^ The Oregon Shanghaiers:: Columbia River Crimping from Astoria to Portland by Barney Blalock ISBN 1626194300

External links

  • Engeman, Richard. "Shanghaiing in Portland and the Shanghai Tunnels Myth". The Oregon Encyclopedia. 
  • Cascade Geographic Society, offers tours of the basements near the tunnels.

Coordinates: 45°31′26″N 122°40′23″W / 45.524°N 122.673°W / 45.524; -122.673

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