A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 18, 2004
Hell’s Kitchen
New York City has many hells -- "Hell Gate," for example. "Hell's Kitchen" is one of the most famous and enduring of New York City neighborhood names. "Hell's Kitchen" is on the west side of Manhattan, between 34th Street and 59th Street, and between Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River.

Hell is said to be a hot place, and any place called "Hell's Kitchen" would be even hotter than that. Many places -- in New York City, San Francisco and elsewhere -- where criminals lived outside the law were called "Hell's Kitchen" in the 19th century, and New York City had several places that used the nickname. "BATTLE ROW AND HELL'S KITCHEN What a Reporter Saw and Heard in Tenth and Eleventh Avenues" was printed in the New York (NY) Herald on November 10, 1879. Many newspapers in August 1881 reported on the rescue of children from a "Hell's Kitchen" tenement at 551 West 39th Street, near Tenth Avenue. The "Hell's Kitchen" name soon spread to the general area.

The New York (NY) Herald told a story about the name on September 18, 1921:

"This place," observed a rookie cop, according to tradition, "is hell itself."
"Hell's a mild climate," was the reputed answer of a veteran. "It's Hell's Kitchen, no less."

Wikipedia: Hell's Kitchen
Hell's Kitchen, sometimes known as Clinton, is a neighborhood on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan in New York City. It is traditionally considered to be bordered by 34th Street to the south, 59th Street to the north, Eighth Avenue to the east, and the Hudson River to the west. The area provides transport, medical, and warehouse-infrastructure support to Midtown's business district.

Once a bastion of poor and working class Irish Americans, Hell's Kitchen's location in Midtown has changed its personality since the 1970s. Though Hell's Kitchen's gritty reputation had long held real-estate prices below those of most other areas of Manhattan, by 1969, the City Planning Commission's Plan for New York City reported that development pressures related to its Midtown location were driving people of modest means from the area. Since the early 1990s, the area has been gentrifying, and rents have risen rapidly. Located close to both Broadway theatres and the Actors Studio training school, Hell's Kitchen has long been a home to learning and practising actors, and, in recent years, to young Wall Street financiers.

29 July 1877, New York (NY) Times, "Letters to the Editor," pg. 7, cols. 5-6:
To the Editor of the New-York Times:
On Ninetieth street, between Lexington-avenue and Fourth-avenue, are a row of tenement-houses and a disreputable whisky den known as Hell's Kitchen.
NEW-YORK, Friday, July 27, 1877.

Google Books
May 1879, Scribner's Monthly (New York, NY), 'A Day on the Docks," pg. 39:
We came at last to the slip of the oyster market, picked out way among the sloops and lighters, and passed under the crooked pier at the foot of West Tenth street. Here we found a long, narrow passage between the back of the new sea-wall on the right and rows of spiles on the left. The faint light shone through the forest of spiles and lighted a dismal, slimy cavern, bounded by the green ledges of the wall, the rocky shore full of dens and holes, and the heavy timbers close overhead. Large rats stared at us from the beams, sewers vomited filth and the water and the air were unendurably loathsome. This is known as "Hell's kitchen." It may seem incredible that any free man should choose such a place for his abode; yet where could a criminal find more congenial gloom?

28 June 1879, Cincinnati (OH) Daily Enquirer, pg. 11, cols. 3-4:
The Strange Fishing Excursion of a New York Reporter -- Drifting in Search of the Dead -- The River Resurrectionist and His Queer Calling -- The Romances of the New York Waters.
He knows every point and winding of the river front, from the lonely landing places far up town to the somber wharf caves, like "Hell's Kitchen," where the river thieves conceal their boats and land their plunder.

Chronicling America
10 November 1879, New York (NY) Herald, pg. 4, col. 5:
The West Side Gangs and Their Favorite Resorts.
What a Reporter Saw and Heard in Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.

Chronicling America
6 August 1881, The Sun (New York, NY), pg. 4, col. 2:
Robbed in Hell's Kitchen.
Francis Farrell, aged 14, of 546 West Fifty-fourth street, who is employed as a cart driver, stabled his horse, on the evening of the 9th ult., in West Thirty-ninth street, and then walked toward Tenth avenue, on his way home. When he was opposite the house at 551 West Thirty-ninth street, two young women dragged him into an alleyway at the side of the house. (...) The house in which the Wilsons lived has been known to the police as "Hell's Kitchen."

15 August 1881, New York (NY) Times, "Wounded by a Brother Officer," pg. 5, col. 2:
The tramps on the West Side congregate in two dilapidated buildings known as "Hell's Kitchen" and the "House of Blazes," in West Thirty-ninth-street, near Tenth-avenue.

Chronicling America
20 August 1881, New-York (NY) Daily Tribune, pg. 8, col. 1:
It was soon that Hackett had turned the children over to a Mrs. Fitzpatrick, a vicious woman living in a shanty called "Hell's Kitchen," No. 551 West Thirty-ninth-st. The block in which this place is situated is considered one of the lowest and most dangerous localities in New York; across the street from "Hell's Kitchen" is "Battle Row," and not far distant is "Sebastopol," two notorious resorts for criminals.

24 August 1881, The Christian Union (New York, NY), "Fact and Rumor," pg. 188, col. 1:
"Hell's Kitchen" is the significant name of a tenement from which the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has just rescued four little children.

22 September 1881, New York (NY) Times, pg. 2, col. 6:

12 December 1881, New York (NY) Times, pg. 5, col. 4:
"Hell's Kitchen," Nos. 551 and 553 West Thirty-ninth-street, of which a sketch was published in THE TIMES a few weeks ago, furnished another typical outrage yesterday, Ellen Mooney having been found dead and dreadfully disfigured in a shanty in the rear of No. 551.

2 March 1882, Ohio Democrat (New Philadelphia, OH), pg. 4:
Popular Names in New York.
The city has a variety of localities whose names sound strange to unfamiliar ears, and hence are among the peculiarities of the metropolis. There is "Mackerelville," and also "Cowboy," and many other spots noted in the police reports. Among the more notorious is "Hell's Kitchen," which was brought before the public by the Rooney murder. "Hell's Kitchen" is a series of rookeries inhabited by a class deeply sunk in misery, but notwithstanding poverty they always have money for whisky. Rooney only beat his wife to death -- which is so common a thing here that it hardly calls for more than passing notice. "Hell's Kitchen" is no worse than "Murderer's Row" or "Devil's Eelpot," each of which has its record. Then, too, look at the fanciful names enjoyed by an important element in our population. There are the "Short Boys," the "Dead Rabbits," the "Man Eaters," and others, who not only vote, but often control elections, and also do their share to fill the penitentiary. "Hell's Kitchen" is a richly remunerative investment to the landlord, for the poor always pay highest rent, and the tenements of this city are immensely profitable. This class of property holders claim respectability, and may live in elegant style, while their wealth is wrung from the most miserable of mankind. -- New York Letter.

Google Books
N. Y. Supreme Court
New York, NY: E. Kimpton, Jr.
Pg. 43:
Q. And Hell's Kitchen?
A. Hell's Kitchen is right across the street
A; No. 553 is Hell's Kitchen.
Q. That is a very thickly populated district?
A. Yes, sir ; there is quite a number of people there now.
Q. They are mostly tenement houses?
A. Mostly tenements.

OCLC WorldCat record
Block sketches of New York city,
Author: Clara Byrnes; May C Čermák
Publisher: New York, Radbridge Co. [©1918]
Edition/Format: Print book : English
Block sketch no. 542-543 --
Greenwich Village.--Block sketch no. 1383 --
Lenox Hill section.--Block sketch no. 1681 --
Southeast Harlem.--Block sketch no. 1078 --
Hell's Kitchen.

Chronicling America
18 September 1921, New York (NY) Herald, "Hell's Kitchen Drops From Real Battling to Mere Murder" by W. A. Davenport, sec. 7, pg. 7, col. 3:
"This place," observed a rookie cop, according to tradition, "is hell itself."

"Hell's a mild climate," was the reputed answer of a veteran. "It's Hell's Kitchen, no less."
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNeighborhoods • Sunday, July 18, 2004 • Permalink