Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why do they call it "Hell's Kitchen"?

Who's asking: A bookseller in a bar at 48th St. and 9th Ave., on Sunday night

"Hell's Kitchen," also known as Clinton or Midtown West, is a Manhattan neighborhood that runs roughly from 34th Street to 57th Street, and from Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River. It was a desperately poor Irish neighborhood from the mid-19th century to about the mid-20th century, and the influx of Puerto Rican immigrants into the area helped inspire West Side Story, which is set there. Early residents of Hell's Kitchen were dockworkers, smugglers, prostitutes and the other fine upstanding citizens one usually found around commercial ports.

The name's origins are obscure. Davy Crockett allegedly said of the Irish immigrants in New York City, "These are worse than savages; they are too mean to swab Hell's Kitchen." "Hell's Kitchen" was a name for a London tenement district, so the name may have come from there. It may also have referred to individual buildings on 54th or 39th. It became the name of a gang that was based in the area, too.

Here in Gardiner everything is green and lovely, though it's about to thunderstorm. Dizzy is happy to be home, and so am I. I'm home for two whole days, in fact, before I head back to Boston overnight...

3 comments:

JIM LAMB said...

I was always told that it was called "Hell's Kitchen" because it was near "Hell's Gate", the very dangerous passage from Long Island Sound to the East River which claimed many sailing ships in the early days. The use of steam and Colonel Roebling, who blasted out the channel with explosives leftover from the Civil War, made it a little less dangerous.

You still don't want to go there in a small boat today except at high slack water.

Glad you're home. Get some rest.

Love, Dad

Karen Olson said...

I like the Gordon Ramsay version on Fox.

AnswerGirl said...

Ha! That one I haven't seen... I try to ration my reality TV, since my friends and relatives give me such a hard time even about "Project Runway."