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The History of Hell's Kitchen, NY

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The sexual assault lawyers in Hells Kitchen, NY, present this article to share some historical insight on the area.

Hell’s Kitchen, also less-so-known as Clinton, is a neighborhood on the West Side of Manhattan in New York City. Close to the Hudson River, within the boundaries of south 34th street and north 59th street, Hell’s Kitchen is home to 45,884 residents. The area is part of Manhattan Community District 4 and is known for its extensive selection of multiethnic, small, and relatively inexpensive restaurants, delicatessens, bodegas, bars, and nightlife.


Hell’s Kitchen is home to many modern people in business, restaurants, and nightlife. However, if you take a deeper look, the area holds great history.

Following the American Civil War, an influx of people migrated to New York City. The tenements in Hell’s Kitchen became rapidly overcrowded, and many of those living in the congested, poverty-stricken area turned to gang life.

Following the age of Prohibition in 1919, the district's warehouses became ideal locations for bootleg distilleries. At the beginning of the 20th century, the area was run by violent gangs. Early gangs, like the Hell's Kitchen Gang, transformed into organized crime entities. At the same time, Owney Madden, leader of the Gopher Gang, became one of the most powerful mobsters in New York City. The neighborhood quickly became known as the "most dangerous area on the American Continent.”

In 1959, a rival arose between Irish and Puerto Rican gangs, which led to the infamous "Capeman" murders in which two innocent teenagers were killed. By 1965, the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood was the home base of the Westies, an Irish mob aligned with the Gambino crime family.

By the 1980s, widespread gentrification started to alter the demographics of the working-class Irish American neighborhood. It was also during the 1980s that the Westies lost their power after the RICO convictions in 1986.

Hell's Kitchen links to gang activity impacted the neighborhood’s reputation and real-estate development until 1969. During that year, the City Planning Commission's Plan for New York City reported development pressures related to its Midtown location were driving people of modest means from the area.

Since the early 1980s, the area continues to gentrify, and rent has risen rapidly. Today, Hell’s Kitchen is home to the Actors Studio training school and adjacent to Broadway theatres. The neighborhood’s reputation has dramatically shifted and today is home to many working actors. The area is also known to have a large LGBTQ population and hosts many LGBTQ bars, including the popular Flaming Saddles Saloon, and businesses.

Popular Culture

Being near Midtown and Broadway has driven working and aspiring actors to Hell's Kitchen. Therefore, it is not surprising that several notable movies have been filmed and set in the neighborhood. Some films include:

  • The Devil's Party (1938), film by Ray McCarey, based on the novel Hell's Kitchen Has a Pantry by Borden Chase.
  • Fail Safe (1964), film by Sidney Lumet.
  • Taxi Driver (1976), film by Martin Scorsese, filmed and set largely in Hell's Kitchen.
  • State of Grace (1990), film by Phil Joanou set in Hell's Kitchen
  • Sleepers (1996), film by Barry Levinson based on Lorenzo Carcaterra's 1995 novel.
  • In America (2002), film by Jim Sheridan, set in 1985. The family settles in Hell's Kitchen.
  • Ash Wednesday (2002), by Edward Burns, set in the Hell's Kitchen of the early 1980s
  • The Kitchen (2019), by Andrea Berloff, set in the Hell's Kitchen of the late 1970s.

Did you enjoy this article? Learn more about Manhattan in History Found in Upper Manhattan, NY

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Laurence P. Banville
Date Published: May 28, 2021
Laurence P. Banville is the managing partner of Banville Law. As an experienced personal injury attorney, Mr. Banville helps clients recover compensation from those responsible for his clients' injuries. Our firm is located in New York City, serving clients from the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
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