What You Need To Know About The Shanghai Tunnels In Portland
No visit to Portland is complete without a visit to the Shanghai Tunnels. These tunnels are filled with history, and they are part of the criminal past of Portland. Portland used to be considered one of the most dangerous parts of the United States and many people considered it a forbidden city. Portland had this reputation for close to 100 years, from 1850 to 1941. Portland had a huge criminal underground, and it also had a physical underground that was called the Shanghai Tunnels.
The Shanghai Tunnels are tunnels that run under the streets of Portland that go to bar and hotel basements. The tunnels also run to the docks on the Willamette River. Illicit and legitimate business was done in these hidden tunnels. When the ships came to the docks with supplies for the restaurants and bars, workers could use the tunnels to take them safely to the bars and restaurants without having to worry about the shipments getting wet, and it was also an efficient way to bring in supplies.
Unfortunately, the tunnels were also used for illegal dealings and crime and people used to be abducted and sold to captains of ships to be used for labor. The name for this was called Shanghaiing. These poor men would be drugged or hit over the head and then dragged through the tunnels to cages where they would be sold.
The bars and hotels had trapdoors in the floors where these poor men were dropped through so they could be taken to the slave cages. Women were also kidnapped and sold into the sex trade. The tunnels were also used for drugs and drinking during prohibition. When you visit Portland, you can take a tour of these fascinating tunnels, and you will also enjoy a lecture.
During your Shanghai Tunnel tour, you are going to get to experience the group cells, and you can visit an opium den. You will see the trap door where the victims were smuggled, and you can also see other remnants of the tunnels. This history of the tunnels is fascinating, and men were kidnapped to work on ships because the working conditions were so poor on the ships that no one would work as a sailor.
If men didn’t want to be sold into white slavery, then they needed to avoid Portland, and it became known as the “Forbidden City” and the “Unheavenly City.” The tours are fascinating, and each tour is about one and a half hours. During the first part of the tour, you get an oral history of the Portland underground, and then you get to see the tunnels.
The tunnels are musty and dusty so you might want to bring a dust mask if you are sensitive to dust. You will stop at different stations where you will learn what went on at each station and you will learn so much during the tours. The Shanghai Tunnels in Portland are full of history.