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Midtown West – Neighborhood Series

Midtown West – A neighborhood that’s evolving beyond the roots of its original name: Hell’s Kitchen and succeeding spectacularly. Midtown West is now home to a diverse population and beautiful architecture. 

Geography

The boundaries of Midtown West or Hell’s Kitchen (including the Theater District) may vary depending on the sources. But traditionally it is known as covering 34th to 59th Street, and 5th to 12th Ave.

History

Relatively little is known about Hell’s Kitchen’s history before the 1800s, apart from the fact that farmhouses were owned here by Andreas Hopper and later its descendants. George Clinton also had a farmhouse here. In the 1850s, the opening of the Hudson River Railroad contributed a lot to the industrialization of the neighborhood. 

During the early 1900s, the warehouses in the neighborhood proved the ideal location to store alcohol in the prohibition era. The population saw a major shift first in the 1930s when prohibition ended, and when container shipping became the norm and piers connected with Midtown West slowly declined. Many longshoremen were out of work. The area changed further when the Lincoln tunnel was built. 

In the 2000s, the development of Hudson Yards contributed to making the neighborhood more upscale. 

Origin Of The Name

The name “Midtown West,” while referring to the geographical location of the neighborhood, is relatively new. However, Hell’s Kitchen is the name that goes far back (to the 1800s). There are multiple theories as to how this area (or part of the neighborhood that originally got that name) got the name Hell’s Kitchen (Possibly in the mid-1800s). Some say that a police officer referred to it as “Hell’s Kitchen” in a comment to his partner. Others refer to a comment made by Davy Crocket. The first print appearance of the name was in 1881.

Nowadays, the neighborhood is mostly referred to as Midtown West or Clinton, after DeWitt Clinton. 

Main Attractions Of The Neighborhood

There are a lot of great places to eat in Hell’s Kitchen and an amazing ethnic variety. 

  1. Empanada Mama (765 9th Ave): It’s one of the best places for Colombian food in the neighborhood and has a sizable Latin menu. The food is affordable and empanadas, as the name suggests, are their forte. 
  2. Sullivan Street Bakery (533 W 47th St): It’s a well-known bakery in the neighborhood and quite famous for its chocolate chip cookies. The sandwiches are amazing as well. 
  3. Mamasita Bar & Grill (818 10th Ave): If you crave Mexican food when you are in the neighborhood, Mamasita is the place to go. The food is great, the price is reasonable, and the margaritas are phenomenal. They are what this place is known for. 
  4. 44 & X Hell’s Kitchen (622 10th Ave): It’s an upscale restaurant that offers great ambiance and American comfort food. Thanks to its proximity to the theater district, it’s the go-to place for theater-goers. 
  5. Rudy’s Bar & Grill (627 9th Ave): It’s a bar in the heart of the neighborhood, geographically as well as emotionally. It has been around since 1933 and is arguably the best dive bar in the neighborhood. The environment is lively, and the drinks are quite reasonably priced.

    Midtown West has a number of impressive architectures to offer, both old and new.

  6. Film Center Building (630 9th Ave): This 13-story art-deco office building was built in 1928. It houses a lot of businesses associated with film production and is famous for its striking interior design.
  7. Mercedes House (550 W 54th St): The luxury apartment building in the neighborhood is a unique piece of architecture. It’s a reverse “Z,” which also uses elevation for the characteristic design, as one end of the building is far taller than the other, with the middle part combining the two goes down at an angle.
  8. World Wide Plaza Residence (350 W 50th St): It’s among the 50 tallest buildings in NYC and the tallest in the neighborhood, standing 778 feet tall. 
  9. Manhattan Plaza (484 West 43rd Street): The building, which opened in 1977, is famous for its artistic residents (performing arts), which occupy around 70% of the housing units. A lot of famous names are associated with the building.
  10. Hearst Tower (300 W 57th St): It’s a platinum LEED-Certified building that offers an amazing, easily recognizable design: Steel Triangles encasing the building’s glass exterior. 

    The neighborhood has a lot to offer when it comes to attractions.

  11. Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (Pier 86, W 46th St): It’s one of the most visited attractions of the neighborhood. It’s an American military and maritime museum with stellar exhibits, including fighter aircraft and a concord. 
  12. Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises (83 North River Piers West 43nd Street and 12th Ave): The Circle Line is another “maritime” attraction of the neighborhood. It offers guided cruise tours of NYC.
  13. The New Yorker Hotel (481 8th Ave): Also called the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel, it’s an art-deco building that was opened to the public in 1930. It remained the largest hotel in the city for several years, thanks to its 2,500 rooms. 
  14. DeWitt Clinton Park (11th Ave. &, W 54th St): Named after DeWitt Clinton, this park is partly the reason for Hell’s Kitchen’s other name: Clinton. It’s famous for its multiple doughboy statues, though nowadays it’s mostly used for sports events.
  15. Bella Abzug Park (542 W 36th St): It’s a beautiful park that’s only partly within the neighborhood boundaries. The park’s main attraction comes from its association with the Vessel and its beautiful architecture. It was named after a leader of the women’s movement in 1971.

What Is Midtown West Known For?

  • A lot of theaters and dance clubs.
  • Its diverse population. 
  • An amazing food scene.
  • Its artistic/theatrical population. 

Population 

The recent estimates for the population of Midtown West put it somewhere around 50,000. That’s a modest increase from the 2000 population of about 44,000.

Interesting Facts About Midtown West 

  • It’s home to NYC’s first community garden that was given permanent parkland status. 

One building in the neighborhood (Manhattan Plaza) is associated with several celebrities: The idea for Seinfeld was conceived, Alicia Keys wrote her first song, and Samuel L. Jackson worked as a guard there.