If you’ve ever walked the blocks of Hell’s Kitchen, you can likely pick out at least a few of its greatest architectural hits  — now a new, comprehensive guidebook from the Historic Districts Council (HDC) highlights even more hidden histories as well as the longstanding legacy of a neighborhood where both everything and nothing changes. 

Hell's Kitchen
Exploring the architectural diversity and history of Hell’s Kitchen streets. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The HDC has designated Hell’s Kitchen as one of New York’s “Six to Celebrate” neighborhoods — noting its evolution from a Westie-controlled mob’s nest to a bustling theatrical and LGBTQIA+ community through a detailed walking map and informational pamphlet. “The six, chosen from applications submitted by community organizations, are selected on the basis of the architectural and historic merit of the area, the level of threat to the neighborhood, the strength and willingness of the local advocates and the potential for HDC’s preservation support to be meaningful,” reads a foreword from the advocacy group for the preservation of legacy architecture citywide. “The core belief of the Historic Districts Council is that preservation and enhancement of New York City’s historic resources — its neighborhoods, buildings, parks and public spaces — are central to the continued success of the city.” 

But in an area where dozens of buildings have a storied past, how does the HDC determine which corners to highlight? Members from Manhattan Community Board 4 (MCB4)’s Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee spent “countless hours” walking the sidewalks of the West Side with HDC staff to narrow down the selections, said local realtor and MCB4 Land Use Co-Chair Paul Devlin, who credited Co-Chair JD Noland as well as members Brian Weber and Joe Restuccia with spearheading the gargantuan task. “We began this process in 2019, and it got waylaid by the pandemic,” explained Brian. “But we’re finally getting it out!” 

“The physical brochure can’t even accommodate all of the historic sites in our district, so we had to winnow it down,” added Paul. “The guide is a reminder of the transition of the way we live today as a connection to the people from the past,” he added. “Today’s activities are rooted from a much longer history.” 

Here are just a few of the highlighted historic sites that made the list: 

Paddy’s Market
9th Avenue between W38th-W42nd Street

Paddy's Market
Paddy’s Market on 9th Avenue. Photo: George Miller Jr/MCNY

Lower 9th Avenue’s mercantile thoroughfareadded to the National Register of Historic Places in 2022 — was a clear choice for the guidebook, said Brian and Paul, who added that the area’s past is still present in today’s international food and retail shops located on the avenue. “9th Avenue is the restaurant hub of our neighborhood — where did that come from? It came from Paddy’s Market,” said Paul. “The transformation of our neighborhood didn’t happen in the last 10 years — it’s happened over 100 years. 9th Avenue today is to us what Paddy’s Market was then.” 

The McGraw Hill Building
330 W42nd Street (between 8/9th Avenue)

McGraw-Hill Building
The McGraw Hill Building on W42nd Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Like many Hell’s Kitchen residents, both Paul and Brian cited the Raymond Hood-designed art-deco publishing house (and first W42ST headquarters!) as one of the neighborhood’s architectural crown jewels. “I’m particularly fond of the McGraw Building – I think it’s pretty incredible that it was all based here in Hell’s Kitchen,” Brian told W42ST. Referencing the community’s battles to preserve the building’s exterior façade amid its transition to a mixed-use residential building, he added, “The community really rallied to preserve the iconic signage — after discussions with the developer and the community board, the developer saw the value in leaving it, based on the presence it’s had in the neighborhood.” McGraw-Hill’s latest chapter is “very indicative of the way the historic fabric of this neighborhood is converted to meet current day demands,” said Paul. “I love the fact that the original McGraw-Hill Building on 10th is still in existence and the second building on W42nd is being reimagined.” 

St Benedict the Moor Church
324 W53rd Street (between 8/9th Avenue)

St Benedict the Moor Church on W53rd Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

The first Black Catholic parish north of the Mason-Dixon Line, St Benedict the Moor was named for a 16th-century African-born Franciscan friar and served Hell’s Kitchen residents until it was renamed the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in 1954 and deconsecrated in 2017. In January, the church was sold for $16 million to billionaire developer Walter Wang’s JMM Charitable Foundation. While Wang’s plans for the property remain unknown, the sale agreement maintains that the church building must remain intact for at least 20 years. Paul pointed out that many passersby may not be familiar with the property’s unique legacy. “St Benedict the Moor was the first Black Roman Catholic church in New York — we don’t think of that cultural significance when we walk past that building on that block.” 

Churches turned into theaters — The Westside Theatre, New Dramatists, The Actors Studio and The Actors’ Temple

The Actors Studio
The Actors Studio on W44th Street. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Have I walked past the Actors Studio on W44th Street a thousand times? Yes. Did I know the history of that building itself? I never really gave it much thought,” said Paul. The Greek revival church-turned longtime home of the famed theatrical training and performance center’s journey from worship center to artistic hub was indicative of the greater neighborhood’s shift from industrial midway to creative fulcrum, he added. “The conversations we had as we went through the process were to determine, ‘what are some of the themes of this neighborhood?’” Paul explained. “This neighborhood really was a manufacturing area that housed working-class people — there was this concept of a community where people worked, lived and worshiped. Places of worship transforming over time into artistic hubs shows how communities shift,” he added.

The Former Davenport Theater (now AMT Theater)
354 W45th Street (between 8/9th Avenue) 

AMT Theater
The former United Electric Light & Power Company plant is now the AMT Theater. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Originally built by the United Electric Light & Power Company to serve Broadway and Times Square’s bright lights, the W45th Street building underwent several different uses before becoming a theater, operated by producer Ken Davenport until 2019. In March 2022, veteran producers Al Tapper and Tony Sportiello took over the space to launch the locally-focused AMT Theater, an incubator for new works and community-led programming. “It’s great to see AMT in use as a theater,” said Paul, “especially since people who live in the neighborhood are the ones who converted it.” 

The Landmark Tavern
626 11th Avenue (corner of W46th Street) 

Landmark Tavern
The Landmark Tavern was in Hell’s Kitchen before 12th Avenue even existed. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Tucked away on a far-west corner is the iconic Landmark Tavern. An Irish pub originally opened in 1868 by Patrick Henry Carley before 12th Avenue even existed, the historic (and potentially haunted) bar has seen everything from Westies gangsters to tourists in its more than 150 years in Hell’s Kitchen. “I’m so glad it was included in the Six to Celebrate,” Brian said. “I feel like it’s an out-of-the-way place that you can speak about to people who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen — they all have stories about it,” he added. “Many of those stories aren’t fit for publishing, but they all have stories!” 

Hartley House 
413 W46th Street (between 9/10th Avenue)

Hartley House
Hartley House on W46th Street has been a thriving community center since 1987. Photo: Phil O’Brien

A thriving community center since its inception in 1897, Hartley House provides Hell’s Kitchen youths and seniors with home outreach, after-school care and social support. In 2018, the 19th-century tenement house was saved from closing through community advocacy and a partnership formed with the Clinton Housing Development Corporation and Hudson Guild. “Hartley House is an example of something the neighborhood fought to protect as a community center,” Paul said. “The history of the Hartley House and its contributions to so many who live here inspired the fight to protect it.”

Fighting to protect Hell’s Kitchen’s historic gems is a key aspect of working with the HDC, said Paul, who hopes that an increased awareness of the many neighborhood landmarks that are not yet legally landmarked might spark additional advocacy against demolition. “We want the Landmarks Preservation Commission to recognize more sites and buildings that have not been recognized officially yet for important protections — notably, Paddy’s Market doesn’t have the designations necessary to make sure that it’s protected and preserved,” explained Paul. “It’s a Nationally Registered Historic site, but it’s not a historic landmark in New York City, which would protect it. Protecting the past as a role in our present to ensure a more vibrant future is the direction we need to go.” 

“Unfortunately, people don’t take notice until it’s too late and the wrecking ball’s already descending upon a property,” added Brian. With so many of the neighborhood’s historic buildings for sale, “we don’t know what the future holds for them,” he added. “Perhaps the new owners want to maintain the buildings the way that they are, but that’s wishful thinking — it’s possible the clock is ticking for these buildings. It would be unfortunate if all that’s left behind is a plaque showing that it used to be there.” 

The HDC guidebook is another step towards petitioning the city for additional protections, said Brian, noting that MCB4 has proposed a series of protected historic districts to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Six to Celebrate pamphlet is “on its surface, a nice historical document of our neighborhood and various typologies of buildings that are here and histories behind them,” Brian added, “but perhaps it can be another step towards creating a landmark district.” 

St Kyril Bulgarian Cathedral
Saints Kyril & Metodi Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Diocesan Cathedral on W50th Street is also featured in the historical guidebook. Photo: Phil O’Brien

And though there are many miles (and bureaucratic processes) to go before a Hell’s Kitchen historic district makes its debut, the Land Use Committee is proud of the progress they’ve already made to carry on the legacy of the community members that came before them. “Prior to my involvement with the board, the community member who had always led the charge on the history of Hell’s Kitchen was Ed Kirkland, who has since passed away,” said Brian. “We’re working off of all the work that Ed Kirkland had done over decades — and I think he’d be very proud to know that we are one of the Six to Celebrate.”  

You can read the full Six to Celebrate guidebook here

Join the Conversation


  1. Bravo, all! Every square inch of Hell’s Kitchen needs protection from rapacious development. Fond memories of Mr. Kirkland, a true urban

    1. Hero amongst many. I was a proud resident from 1988-2011,when it was still a hidden gem, rough around the edges. I joined the diehards, of all shapes and colors who stood united and fought so hard and loudly against the gentrification of our beloved home. In fact, my Irish ancestry is deeply rooted in HK. I pray that those who now live there will respect what it took to make it a place they could call home, and stand up for her.

  2. Thank you for the great information that I Appreciate the older I get history is very important thanks to Jackie Kennedy, who was a very aware person that stopped many of the sad decisions New York City was going to make.

  3. Thanks for this! Must keep Hell’s Kitchen the beautiful residential area that it is and we must appreciate and preserve our history and those that lived here before us.

  4. Great article! And there are so many more: Power Station, Hit Factory, Restaurant Row, CBS tv/film studios, etc. Someone needs to make a thorough coffee book! 🙂

  5. YES!!! So happy to hear all of this! Surprised the Tootsie Roll factory didn’t make it in. The original smokestack still stands on W45 between 9&10!(I believe!) I’m always devastated when beautiful old builff do inns get demolished. And concerned to read about so any being for sale. It would be nice to hear about proposals before demolition. Yet, how strange it’s always after the fact or on very short notice with inadequate time for a counter proposal. It’s almost as if the developers do it on purpose so they can’t be someone challenged. Hmm. When I moved to New York I only ever wanted to live in Hell’s Kitchen. I love any opportunity to learn more about its history. Maybe because I’m Irish. Maybe because my career was in theatre. It just has always felt like home!!!!

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