No one knows the exact origin of Hell's Kitchen's unique name, but the controversial moniker persists despite a long standing attempt to rename the neighborhood.
Sometimes known as 'Clinton' in the real estate context, Hell's Kitchen's boundaries are just as controversial as its name. Loosely comprising a rectangular section from 34th St to 57th St, between 8th Ave and the Hudson River, Hell's Kitchen began as a haven for Irish refugees escaping the Great Potato Famine in the mid-19th century. It also, consequently, became a major area of Irish organized crime at the time—one theory for the origin of the name.
Throughout the years that followed, Hell's Kitchen experienced a colorful transition from shantytown, to mobsterville, to a haven for actors and performers, due to its proximity to the Broadway theatre district and relatively low housing costs. At different points, it was home to countless celebrities before they were famous. Some of these household names include James Dean, Madonna, Jerry Seinfeld, Bob Hope, Sylvester Stallone, and others.
In the mid-twentieth century, Hell’s Kitchen experienced a large influx of Puerto Ricans. The conflicts between the Irish, Italian, and Puerto Rican immigrants are immortalized in the classic musical, West Side Story.
Today, Hell’s Kitchen has become a thriving, vibrant, exciting area full of culture and life. It is home to a large number of landmarks. Among them are Windermere Complex, Manhattan’s second oldest big house of apartments, The Actors’ Studio (where Bravo Network’s Inside the Actors’ Studio is filmed), Manhattan Plaza, a complex of two 46-story towers which was erected in the 70s to provide housing for performing artists, Actors Temple, CBS Broadcast Center, Sony Music Studios, Manhattan Center Studios, Troma Studios, a horror/cult film studio famous for films such as The Toxic Avenger, which has been turned into a musical currently playing at New World Stages, Alvin Ailey Dance Studios, Clinton Community Garden, Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, a docked military submarine, NY Passenger Ship Terminal, the Javits Center, an enormous convention center.
Other places of note are the studios where the ever-popular Comedy Central shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are filmed.
Restaurant Row is a destination for post-theater activity and neighborhood diners. Restaurants there and other parts of the neighborhood include Lattanzi, Barbetta, Hourglass Tavern, The Irish Rogue, and the world-famous Carnegie Deli. In addition, 9th Avenue is known for its plethora of ethnic restaurants. Every year since 1974, 9th Avenue also hosts 9th Avenue Association’s International Food Festival, one of the city’s oldest street fairs. Other annual festivals include Hell’s Kitchen Jazz Festival, and the Rhythm in the Kitchen Food Festival.
Other entertainment can be found at places such as the American Folk Art Museum and the Castlerea Railway Museum, not to mention the countless Broadway theatres in the immediate vicinity.
Local schools include the Hell’s Kitchen Public School, PS 12 Midtown West, Repertory Company High School for Theater Art, High School for Environmental Studies, Professional Performance Arts High School, and the High School of Communication Graphic Art. Local hotels include the Big Apple Hotel, the Hudson Hotel, and Hotel Edison.
The famous Port Authority Bus Terminal provides transportation via the A, C, and E subway lines, while nearby Times Square provides the N, Q, R, W, 1, 2, 3, and the 7, and a shuttle to Grand Central Station. One can also take a bus out to practically anywhere in driving distance, from Port Authority.