Where is “Hell’s Kitchen” and how did it get the name?

Like too many all of life’s crucial questions, there’s no definitive answer to either the where or the how, but there are many theories, all of which have some a degree of truth to them.

Hell's Kitchen boundaries
Maybe I should have made the boundary lines more blurry.

The easiest one is the where. There is definitely a place that is officially “Googley” named Hell’s Kitchen, because you can see it labeled right there in Google Maps. (Anyplace that wants to be a place must first be placed on Google Maps.)

Hell’s Kitchen is generally considered to refer to the area from 34th to 59th Streets, starting west of Eighth Avenue and north of 43rd Street. City zoning regulations generally limit buildings to six stories; therefore most of the buildings are older walk-up apartments.

As for how this neighborhood came to be known as Hell’s Kitchen, according to the Irish Cultural Society of the Garden City Area:

When, in 1835, Davy Crockett said, “In my part of the country, when you meet an Irishman, you find a first-rate gentleman; but these are worse than savages; they are too mean to swab hell’s kitchen.” He was referring to the Five Points.

An article published by Mary Clark in 1994, published in the New York Times stated:

…first appeared in print on September 22, 1881 when a New York Times reporter went to the West 30s with a police guide to get details of a multiple murder there. He referred to a particularly infamous tenement at 39th Street and Tenth Avenue as “Hell’s Kitchen” and said that the entire section was “probably the lowest and filthiest in the city.” According to this version, 39th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues became known as Hell’s Kitchen and the name was later expanded to the surrounding streets. Another version ascribes the name’s origins to a German restaurant in the area known as Heil’s Kitchen, after its proprietors. But the most common version traces it to the story of “Dutch Fred the Cop”, a veteran policeman, who with his rookie partner, was watching a small riot on West 39th Street near Tenth Avenue. The rookie is supposed to have said, “This place is hell itself”, to which Fred replied, “Hell’s a mild climate. This is Hell’s Kitchen.”

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