Spofford Alley

Street in North Beach & Chinatown

Sun Yat-sen once plotted the overthrow of China’s Manchu dynasty here at number 36, and, during Prohibition, this was the site of turf battles over local bootlegging and protection rackets. Spofford has mellowed with age: it’s now lined with seniors community centers. But the action still starts around sundown, when a Chinese orchestra strikes up a tune, the clicking of a mah-jongg game begins, and barbers and florists use the pretense of sweeping their doorsteps to gossip.