PHOTOS: Los Angeles Chinatown then and now

Los Angeles Chinatown then and now

Once the hub of Chinese American life in Los Angeles, the 24-block Chinatown neighborhood northeast of downtown has lost much of its luster since its heyday in the 1940s. During daylight hours, the Chinese-themed shops and restaurants clustered around three main plazas still draw visitors hunting for cheap souvenirs and authentic Asian cuisine. A slew of art galleries also draw daytime visitors. But after dark, critics say, Chinatown has become a virtual dead zone, despite efforts by city officials and business leaders to start a buzz at night.

A pedestrian makes his way past the entrance to Central Plaza on Broadway in the Chinatown section of Downtown Los Angeles in February 2010. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Entrance to the new China City, which celebrated its opening on Aug. 2, 1939. (Los Angeles Times)

Passersby are reflected in the window of the Golden Dragon storefront in Central Plaza, Chinatown. (Los Angeles Times)

A file photo from 1948 of an entire block along North Los Angeles Street, the last vestige of old Chinatown. The area was razed to make way for a freeway and park area. The historic Lugo House, a white-gabled building, is at the extreme left. (Los Angeles Times)

A group of men gather to play Chinese chess in Chinatown's Central Plaza in June 2008. (Los Angeles Times)

Chinese residents on Alameda Street in 1949 read news about the civil war on mainland China. (Los Angeles Times)

A woman walks into a gift shop at Central Plaza in Chinatown in June 2008. (Los Angeles Times)

A Dr. Sun Yat Sen parade in 1925 in Los Angeles' old Chinatown. (Los Angeles Times)

The Dragons Gate above Broadway is seen with City Hall in the background in March 2010. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The last buildings of old Chinatown are seen in June 1949 at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and North Los Angeles Street. The buildings were torn down to make way for the Hollywood Freeway and Civic Center projects. (Los Angeles Times)

Pedestrians walk along Broadway in February 2010. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A 1937 file photo shows old Chinatown and a chop suey restaurant. In the background is the construction of Union Station. (Los Angeles Times)

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