Young, monied professionals and a sizable gay community have joined the blue collars and largely Latino old-timers in calling Hell's Kitchen home. Now you'll find chichi boutiques among the many reasonably priced ethnic restaurants that dot Ninth Avenue?trendy bars and restaurants are even popping up on the strip south of seedy Port Authority. Locally owned shops and cheap eats are supplanted by chain stores and gawking tourists once you head east of Eighth Avenue into Midtown West. Although there continues to be a stark contrast in housing inventory here, there is not much available in between tenement walk-ups and the newly developed luxury high-rises. Housing in this neighborhood is among the city's cheapest.
From the slaughterhouses and breweries of the 1800s, the 1863 draft riots, the Fighting 69th of World War I, the home of New York City's most dangerous criminals from the early tenement days to Prohibition to the Westies, Hell's Kitchen rose from the blood and fire of the poor dreaming their riotous dreams and searing the urban landscape with a wild, demanding spirit. By the start of the Civil War, the population of Hell's Kitchen soared had to over 350,000, and that population was housed primarily in rows of tenements that were hastily erected amid the slaughterhouses and factories. Most residents, in fact, walked to work. The neighborhood slaughterhouses emitted such a stench that 39th Street was nicknamed Abattoir Place.
Although the name Hell's Kitchen refers to a rough section on the South Side of London, the term in reference to New York City first appeared in print on September 22, 1881 when a New York Times reporter went to the West 30s with a police guide to get details of a multiple murder there. He referred to a particularly infamous tenement at 39th Street and 10th Avenue as "Hell's Kitchen" and said that the entire section was "probably the lowest and filthiest in the city." According to this version, 39th Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues became known as Hell's Kitchen, and the name was later expanded to the surrounding streets. Another version ascribes the name's origins to a German restaurant in the area known as Heil's Kitchen, after its proprietors. But the most common version traces it to the story of Dutch Fred The Cop, a veteran policeman, who with his rookie partner, was watching a small riot on West 39th Street near Tenth Avenue. The rookie supposedly said, "This place is hell itself," to which Fred replied, "Hell's a mild climate. This is Hell's Kitchen."
What's Next? Midtown West is poised to be New York City's fastest appreciating neighborhood for the next 10 years. With commercial space prices having gone through the roof in the last 12 months, and residential high-rise developments going up all along the 30s, 40s, and 50s on the west side, housing will increase in value as well as quality for the foreseeable future. As retail spaces continue to proliferate along the avenues and as entertainment options increase, this area of the city -- and its popularity -- will undoubtedly rise.
Midtown West Buildings