While the “Hell’s Kitchen” is no longer descriptive of the community which includes the popular restaurant row and modern World Wide Plaza it is a colorful moniker for an historic and evolving neighborhood. The Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood which lies west of Midtown between 30th and 59th street has been home to a variety of residents. In the 19th century it was characterized by poverty, street gangs and rows of slum tenements.
In response to Hell’s Kitchen’s turbulent history community groups in the 1960s tried changing the neighborhood’s name to Clinton. The aim was to create a fresh new image and there were already a high school and park named after De Witt Clinton—ten term New York City Mayor, New York State Governor, U.S. Senator and “father of the Erie Canal.” Although the area has moved on from its checkered past, the name hasn’t stuck.
Nowadays Hells’ Kitchen’s diverse immigrant heritage has led to some great ethnic cuisine and the hardships of the past have created a strong neighborhood community. Hell’s Kitchen is home to Restaurant Row on 8th Avenue which has earned this name for the scores of international food outlets that line both sides of the street. Restaurant Row is frequented by theatre goers and locals alike but beyond 8th Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen is often over looked.
Having played a strong part in the cultural development of New York each building in the neighborhood has its own personal story to tell. The Windermere, built two years before the Gramercy is one of the oldest apartment buildings in New York City. The Windermere lies on 9th Avenue but like many buildings of this age has its main entrance on the side because of the IRT Ninth Avenue Line elevated railway—New York’s first—which dominated ninth avenue until the 1940s.
The High Line—another no longer used elevated rail line—is now an urban park. The High Line connects Hell’s Kitchen with Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. Another interesting building on 9th Avenue is Bar 9. Its narrow structure was built on an old cart road left over from when Hells Kitchen was farmland crisscrossed by narrow lanes. The old buildings in the area are offset by more modern builds. World Wide Plaza takes up a whole block. You probably recognize the worldWide Plaza tower in two photos earlier on this page as it is the dominant structure in the neighborhood.
WorldWide Plaza, less than six blocks from Times Square, includes a 27,000-square-foot public plaza and 50 story tower which is an easily recognized addition to the Manhattan skyline viewed from the Hudson River as in the picture at the top of this page. Construction of the WorldWide Plaza complex was completed in 1989. The condominiums on ninth avenue which are part of the project were designed to fit in with the neighborhood’s low rise residential feel.
by Emma Jones