Must-See Meatpacking District
by Christina Parrella, 09/02/2014
Gansevoort Hotel. Photo: Julienne Schaer • JT Jobbagy. Photo: Marley White
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A contender for the most glamorous neighborhood in Manhattan, the Meatpacking District is known for its go-go nightlife and exclusive door policies, where sun-scorched insomniacs party in hot tubs while sipping fruity cocktails. But the neighborhood, which runs from Gansevoort Street to West 14th Street and from the Hudson River to Hudson Street, has plenty of cultural, outdoor and culinary pleasures, making it much more than a bacchanalian hub.
For a start, it has a major legacy in the historical narrative of NYC. The Meatpacking District first became a hub for activity in the early 1800s, growing throughout that century into the market-filled industrial center that helped earn its current moniker. By the turn of the 20th century, rows of open-air meat markets, pork and veal packers, meatpacking plants, lumberyards and tenements lined the cobblestone streets. The 1960s saw some of the City’s first underground gay clubs migrate here, and the '70s brought leather shops geared to a gay clientele; the mid-'80s arrival of the (now-defunct) restaurant Florent marked a new neighborhood voice. The 24-hour French-American diner was one of the few eateries in the area, and it served as a nightspot for all, attracting a subculture of club goers and artists. Years later the French bistro Pastis (also now closed) and, following that, the Gansevoort Hotel opened up the floodgates to a crowd of fashionistas, foodies and club goers drawn to the stores, eateries and late-night venues that would take root here.
Even though the area's character has changed, the Meatpacking District is not a neighborhood with a meaningless name. Along the cobblestone streets, facades of former meat lockers as well as a few meatpackers like John Jobbagy, of J.T. Jobbagy Inc., remain. With that industrial history fading, the neighborhood's edge has been further transformed by an increasingly cohesive community and the must-see destinations that have emerged here. Family-run shops, grassroots activities and the City’s popular public park, the High Line, are drawing a new crowd of visitors, and the spring 2015 opening of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s new location will only add to that. There’s no denying the neighborhood is undergoing yet another evolution.