Hell’s Kitchen: From “Little Ireland” to “Hell’s 50th”
Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood in Manhattan, has had many nicknames throughout its history, each one reflecting a different era of the neighborhood’s development.
The Early Days: “Little Ireland”
In the late 19th century, Hell’s Kitchen was a haven for Irish immigrants and was known as “Little Ireland” or “Irish Town.” It was during this time that the neighborhood earned its official name, Clinton, in honor of DeWitt Clinton, a former governor of New York State who worked to improve the state’s infrastructure.
The Dangerous Years: “The Devil’s Playground”
In the early 20th century, Hell’s Kitchen was one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New York City, a hotbed of gang activity with groups like the Gophers, the Hudson Dusters, and the Westies battling for control. It was during this time that the neighborhood earned the nickname “The Devil’s Playground.”
The Nightlife Era: “Gay Kitchen”
Despite the danger, Hell’s Kitchen was also known for its vibrant nightlife, which included jazz clubs, speakeasies, and the famous Studio 54 discotheque. During the 1970s and ’80s, the neighborhood became a focal point for the LGBT community, and it was during this time that it was given the nickname “Gay Kitchen.”
The Upscale Present: “Hell’s 50th”
Today, Hell’s Kitchen is completely transformed from its past. Thanks to gentrification and the influx of luxury high-rise apartments, the neighborhood is now one of the most expensive places to live in New York City. Despite this transformation, locals still have affectionate nicknames for the area. Some residents refer to it as “Clinton,” while others call it “Midtown West” or “H.K.” One of the more interesting nicknames for the neighborhood is “Hell’s 50th,” a play on the fact that the area is roughly bounded by 50th Street to the north and 34th Street to the south.
Hell’s Kitchen has come a long way from its early days as a dangerous slum. Today, it’s a vibrant and exciting place to live, work, and play. But no matter how much it changes, the neighborhood’s various nicknames serve as a reminder of its rich history.