Geography

History

Before the boundaries of Hell’s Kitchen were established as 34th Street to 59th Street and 8th Avenue west to the Hudson River, there were many discrepancies about how to define Hell’s Kitchen as a physical space. Although most people – both of authority and commonplace – have stated that Hell’s Kitchen extends west of 8th Avenue, its northern and southern boundaries used to be a topic of debate. According to national data, Hell’s Kitchen occupies roughly .0841 square miles.

Theodore Dreiser, author of The Color of a Great City, defined the southern and northern boundaries of Hell’s Kitchen to be between 36th Street and 41st Street. Lloyd Morris, author of Incredible New York, advocated for the boundaries to be between 23rd Street and 40th Street. And even then, some authorities even believed that Hell’s Kitchen encompasses 23rd Street to 59th Street. It was common for many New York residents to group neighborhoods such as Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, and bordering neighborhoods together to make up the West Side of Manhattan.

The gridlocked nature of Hell's Kitchen

Street Organization

As we walked around Hell’s Kitchen, staring at the map of the neighborhood in our hands, it was clear that Hell’s Kitchen displayed a “gridlock” organization. The streets are neatly organized and every block is roughly the same width and length.

Although the majority of Hell’s Kitchen represents an orderly grid, physical diversity is prevalent in the neighborhood. The feel of the area near the Hudson River differs from the rest of Hell’s Kitchen. As you walk closer to the Hudson, the avenues are wider and more pedestrians are seen on their leisurely strolls. Bryant and Leslie Manela, a young couple living in Hell’s Kitchen, stated that they take their children to 12th Avenue by the river every weekend – weather permitting – to get some fresh air and peace away from the indefatigable city. As the city melts away in to the river, you are no longer suffocated by tall buildings, but rather are refreshed by the open space and cool air. This diversity, as Jane Jacobs suggests in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, is what attracts people of all kinds to the city.

Taken from a sidewalk right by the Hudson River, this photo shows the contrast between the enclosed streets and the freedom of 12th Avenue.

 

Relationships with Bordering Neighborhoods

This map shows the neighborhoods that surround Hell's Kitchen.

With Chelsea on its southern border, the Theatre and Garment Districts on its eastern border, and the Upper West Side on its northern border, Hell’s Kitchen acts as a “transitional neighborhood.” Throughout history, Hell’s Kitchen has never acted as necessarily a destination neighborhood. Due to the prevalent crime in the neighborhood, it was mostly avoided at any cost. However, local authorities have been working hard to diminish the historic reputation and rebuild Hell’s Kitchen into a neighborhood that is modern and attractive. New upscale hotels such as the Windermere will hopefully attract tourists and improve the rapidly growing nightlife. As a transitional neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen is a common detour stop for all kinds of people in neighboring areas. Theatre goers often stop by Restaurant Row on 9th Avenue to grab a quick bite before heading to a Broadway show. Midtown employees stop by Hell’s Kitchen for a lunch break. The evolution of 9th and 10th Avenue from the dangerous and crime-ridden streets of the past to the now Restaurant Row and residential space, it is clear that Hell’s Kitchen is quickly improving. Hell’s Kitchen’s central location made it simple for both residents and tourists to briefly visit before proceeding with their daily agendas.

Accessibility 

To get to Hell’s Kitchen by subway, take the ACE line and get off at any stops from 34th Street (Penn Station) to 59th Street (Columbus Circle). The ACE line runs down 8th Avenue which is the eastern border of Hell’s Kitchen. There are no other subway lines in the middle of the neighborhood. Hell’s Kitchen is also extremely easy to navigate around. There is a clear sense of where the streets lead, much of this due to the gridlock fashion. The open space improves visibility – especially near 12th Avenue – and allows for easy navigation.

Now, with its established boundaries, Hell’s Kitchen is a great neighborhood to witness how far along a neighborhood can improve. There are plenty of attractions unique to Hell’s Kitchen that are worth visiting. Learn more about these Notable Locations!

Works Cited

O’Connor, Richard. Hell’s Kitchen; the Roaring Days of New York’s Wild West Side.Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1958. Print.