Historians recall hidden "Chinese underground" under OKC streets

Oklahoma City's landscape has been transformed many times.From the Pei plan in the 60s and 70s, to today's intensive expansion and revitalization, the face of Oklahoma City has changed a few times.But at one point it was what was underneath these city streets that had some in Oklahoma City enthralled.Bradley Wynn is an urban archaeologist. He's studied downtown Oklahoma City for years. He says in the corner of Robinson and Sheridan, where the Cox Convention Center now stands was a secret underground society for Chinese immigrants, afraid to spend too much time in public because of anti-Chinese sentiments."The Chinese, out of frustration, kind of took their culture, their existence, into what we call an underground existence, both figuratively and in many cases, literally," Wynn said.While Oklahoma City has an underground system of tunnels now, connecting buildings, this was different, really more of just a series of rooms under the buildings."Each room would accommodate a family, however big that family may be. If there were basements in the building next door, they would knock out part of the wall to create a doorway into that basement."It wasn't until city leaders demolished the old Commerce and Exchange building to make way for the convention center that they found the rooms underneath the streets.The city's mayor, George Shirk, wanted to preserve the area and learn more, but other city leaders wanted to keep the construction on schedule, and the underground areas were lost forever."Any remnants of that particular Chinese network is long gone. But there are still elements that may be undiscovered around this area where we're at now because this is where it was centralized, this was known as China street, this was Oklahoma City's Chinatown, centralized at this intersection."Oklahoma City's history is still be evolving from past to present daily.But the hope for that hidden history gem keeps guys like Wynn looking.At the height of the Chinese underground, OKC was host to 150 to 200 immigrants.
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