With its diverse ethnic character and traditional community feel, Hell's Kitchen, more recently referred to as Clinton, continues to be a popular living spot for trendy New Yorkers, and a still upcoming neighborhood despite it once sordid past. Safer and more attractive than ever, the area that runs from West 34th to 59th Streets and from the Eighth Avenue to the Hudson River was once the city's roughest, dirtiest, most crime-ridden part of town. Though the exact origin of the name "Hell's Kitchen" can't be pinpointed, local residents and many New Yorkers today appreciate its more sophisticated name Clinton, which came from DeWitt Clinton, a nephew of first New York State Governor George Clinton who owned the farmland back in the late 18th Century. Whatever you call it, this area has shed all negative connotations and is a prime example of a successful ethnically-mixed neighborhood with great conveniences.
In the mid-18th Century, Hell's Kitchen/Clinton was home to small streams and farmhouses that were replaced by the NYC's first community garden, DeWitt Clinton Park, in the early 1900s. For many years the neighborhood was known for its fights and race riots. In 1851 the Hudson River Railroad opened a station at West 30th Street, bringing factories, lumberyards, slaughterhouses and tenements to house immigrant workers. Poverty and close quarters bred ill will between neighbors. Eventually, gangs ruled the streets, ultimately inspiring the setting for Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. The 1930s brought destruction of some of the worst tenements, and the surface railroad tracks that gave 11th Avenue its reputation as Death Avenue were moved to a safer spot. The Ninth Avenue Elevated train that blocked sunshine for generations was also dismantled. Attracted by its easy access to the Theater District, actors moved into Hell's Kitchen, Off-Broadway theaters flourished, and the Actors Studio on West 44th Street fostered stars like Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe. Residents took control of their blocks, transforming vacant lots into parks and driving out hoodlums. By the end of the 1950s, developers rejected the infamous Hell's Kitchen designation in favor of a more sophisticated name resurrected from the past: Clinton.
Made up of about 20 streets lined with attractive brick row houses, lush trees and garden boxes, Hell's Kitchen/Clinton is now home to thousands of people and businesses. The cultural diversity of inhabitants over the years is reflected in the numerous restaurants of varying ethnic cuisine. The area attracts hungry theater-goers, particularly along "Restaurant Row" on West 46th Street. Ninth Avenue, the heart of the neighborhood, is known for its annual International Food Festival with stands selling delicious fare from around the world. Many TV studios are also here in this artsy part of town. The area's homogenous housing, predominantly five- or six-story walkups, is famous throughout Manhattan, with different features apparent inside each apartment. Newly-renovated buildings have much more kitchen, bath and closet space than older designs. Plus there are numerous luxury hi-rises offering some of the best views in the city. Transportation is very convenient with access to Penn Station, the Port Authority, and the Times Square subways.