There is some mystery surrounding Hell’s Kitchen and how it got its name. There’s the tale about two policemen discussing how horrendous the neighborhood was back in 1880’s. The rookie cop turned to the veteran cop and said, “this place is hell.” The veteran cop replied, “No, this is hell’s kitchen.” Some say it's named after a notorious 19th century motorcycle gang. Even the historians will tell you the neighborhood's name has dubious origins.
Regardless of how it got its name, Hell’s Kitchen is here to stay.
Hell’s Kitchen is an iconic neighborhood on the west side of Manhattan. Its boundaries are 34th and 59th streets and 8th Avenue to the Hudson River. The neighborhood has a dense urban feel with plenty of bars, bodegas, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s inhabited by an eclectic mix of young professionals, long term residents from the old days, LGBQT community and members of the performing arts community - due to the highest number of off Broadway theatres in all of New York CIty.
From the early 1800’s to the 1980’s, Hell’s Kitchen held the title for one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city. In its early history it was populated by poor working class Irish and street gangs. Riots, violence, and crime were not uncommon. During prohibition times it was said that Hell’s Kitchen had more speakeasies than children.
Several attempts of neighborhood rebranding have taken place over the years. Clinton, Midtown West, and even the short-lived Hell’s Canyon are a few of the replacement names that have been used. Hell’s Kitchen has a lot of grit and no shortage of fortitude. A trendy name change seems doubtful.
Hell’s Kitchen benefited greatly from the Times Square clean up in the 1990’s. When crime rates lowered and adult theatres and prostitution disappeared, Times Square became less sleazier. Soon after, Hell’s Kitchen changed. The days of Gangsters, Irish immigrants, and rough and tumble housing tenements are part of its storied history. They’ve been replaced with bars, bodegas, restaurants, off broadway theatres, and luxury buildings. The recent completion of Hudson Yards and the Highline extension has brought new life into Hell’s Kitchen
Low-rises, brownstones, row houses and 5 to 6 floor walk ups with studio and one bedroom apartments are common in Hell’s Kitchen. The local zoning laws from previous years kept the building heights on the lower side. Over the past decade, developers have been granted exceptions to building height zoning laws and created more modern highrise developments.