In the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, nestled between the Hudson River, Times Square, Columbus Circle, and Chelsea lies Hell’s Kitchen. If you’ve just moved, or are considering moving, to Hell’s Kitchen: you’ve just inherited a long list of To-Do’s in the area.
Comprised of mostly artists, long-time residents, and those working in either the theater industry or Midtown West, this New York City neighborhood is one of the many reaping the benefits of gentrification since the early 1990’s. The neighborhood is also referred to by its nickname given in the 1960s, “Clinton”; though rarely anyone calls it by that name. The average cost of rent for a one-bedroom in Hell’s Kitchen is approximately $3,390 per month.
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Hell’s Kitchen’s Notorious History
Known for Off Broadway theaters, luxurious condo towers and great restaurants, Hell’s Kitchen is a distinctive neighborhood with an equally distinctive past.
In the Prohibition days, the neighborhood was said to have more speakeasies than children in the Irish Catholic area.
From the mid-1800s into the 1980s, Hell’s Kitchen was notorious for its gangsters, speakeasies, and other mysterious activities.
Originally inhabited by Dutch settlers, Hell’s Kitchen was home to African-American workers tasked with completing the Croton Aqueduct in the 1840s. Later in history, the area was comprised of working class Irish and German immigrants who worked at the Hudson River docks and in the neighborhood’s slaughterhouses, lumberyards, and factories; as well as for the Hudson River Railroad.
The workers and their families inhabited tenements built in the 1850s, and from those tenements sprung the gangs of young men who ruled the streets post-Civil War. In Herbert Asbury’s 1927 book “The Gangs of New York”, Asbury referred to The Hell’s Kitchen Gang as “a collection of the most desperate ruffians in the city.”
With constant brawls with City police and gang rivals such as the Parlor Mob, the Gophers and the Gorillas, The Hell’s Kitchen Gang members had names like Goo Goo Knox and Stumpy Malarkey. According to Asbury, one such member known as One Lung Curran “blackjacked the first policeman he encountered” and stole his coat when his girlfriend complained of the cold.
In 1881, The New York Times referred to an especially scandalous tenement on Battle Row (block of West 39th between 10th and 11th Avenues) as Hell’s Kitchen in print for the first time, and the name stuck ever since.
These days, auto body shops and a Lincoln Tunnel ramp lie in place of the once notorious tenements.
Dining and Activities
9th and 10th Avenues are lined with a wealth of bar and dining options thanks to the gentrification of the neighborhood.
As Hell’s Kitchen’s newest or soon-to-be resident, you can start off your day at Amy’s Bread with carrot cake and other amazing organic pastries.
Choose from ritzy restaurants such as Print to classic Italian dining at Bello. Enjoy Rudy’s dive bar for great eats or head to Annabel for excellent NYC pizza. Oh – and did we mention BarBacon? This joint is a must for all things bacon and bourbon.
Located close to both the Actors Studio training school and Broadway theaters, Hell’s Kitchen is a long-time host to beginning actors, and more recently to young Wall Street financiers.
At the neighborhood’s most southern tip lies the currently under-construction $20 billion Hudson Yards Observation Deck, soon-to-be host to the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere, which also features the High Line.