Designated: June 22, 2021
*The Kimlau War Memorial is a granite ceremonial gateway located within Kimlau Square, which is under the care of the New York City Parks Department. The arch, sponsored by the American Legion, honors Chinese American soldiers who died while serving in the United States military. Both the arch and plaza are named after Second Lieutenant Benjamin Ralph Kimlau (1918–1944). Kimlau lived in Chinatown with his family until he enrolled at the Pennsylvania Military College, where he graduated in 1942, the only Chinese American in his class. Despite widespread discrimination against Asian Americans in the 1940s, Kimlau served as a Second Lieutenant in the US Army Field Artillery Branch. He died while attacking Japanese military installations in the South Pacific in WWII, at the age of 26.
The memorial, designed by the prominent Chinese American architect Poy Gum Lee, is a restrained modern granite ceremonial gateway with a peaked roof, flanked by two benches finished in pebbledash concrete. Poy Gum Lee’s work has been cited by scholars as among the most important Chinese American architecture of its time. Many of the most recognizable buildings associated with the Chinese American community in Chinatown were Lee’s designs or developed from his concepts. The arch and its pair of benches consist of a unique blend of traditional Chinese architectural forms with a streamlined mid-century modern aesthetic. Inscribed on the nearly 19-foot-high arch is a dedication in both English and Chinese to the memory of Chinese American war casualties. As part of Kimlau Square, the arch continues to serve as the site of an annual celebration to honor war veterans and remains an important tribute to Chinese American patriotism.
STATUS Designated Individual Landmark
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