Must-See Hell's Kitchen
by David Sokol, 07/08/2014 [Updated 05/22/2015]
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum photo by Marley White • Hudson River Park photo by Malcolm Brown
Well before it was known as Hell's Kitchen, everything was coming up roses along the Hudson River in Midtown Manhattan: Dutch colonists called this westernmost part of the island Bloemendael, for its floral meadows. By the mid-19th century, the neighborhood had rightfully earned the appellation by which it is known today. After the Civil War, children of local longshoremen and slaughterhouse workers formed posses that fiercely roamed from tenement to tenement—one of which was so dangerous that in 1881 The New York Times dubbed the building Hell's Kitchen, in the moniker's first-ever printing. Violence continued for another century, whether at the hands of the gangs who inspired West Side Story or Irish mobsters through the 1980s.
In the few short decades since then, dramatic transformation has shed Hell's Kitchen of its intimidating reputation, yet vestiges of deep and recent history remain. The $20 billion Hudson Yards complex currently under construction at the neighborhood's southern tip features the third and final phase of the High Line, for example; the elevated park was originally a railroad corridor servicing docks and meatpacking facilities. The 29-year-old Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which millions of users regard as an event destination or feat of architecture, was first proposed in 1962 to remedy long-standing urban delinquency. Today these landmarks are two roses of a different kind, as Hell's Kitchen is again blooming, this time with gastronomy, culture and fun. Here are some highlights of the figurative garden.