Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970s

Hell’s Kitchen, one of New York’s more colorfully named neighborhoods, sits on the west side of Manhattan between 34th and 57th Streets, Eighth Avenue, and the Hudson River. The area was long home to poor and working-class Irish-Americans. Even well into the late twentieth century, when gentrification began sweeping New York, the neighborhood’s gritty character kept rents below those of most other parts of the borough. But given its proximity to Midtown, it was no surprise when gentrification eventually came to Hell’s Kitchen. Rents there now surpass Manhattan’s average.

Ninth Avenue, the neighborhood’s main street, runs north-south through the area and is best known for its plethora of ethnic restaurants. In the early 1970s, the first Ninth Avenue International Food Festival was held there, a festival New Yorkers still celebrate each May. The festival bills itself as the “oldest and largest free continuing food festival in the East.”

Artist A.S. Graboyes, my mother, was at the festival when it first began. I’ve always seen New York through her eyes. Her incredible photos of the festival in the 1970s showcase a different city than the one we know now: a city filled with different cars, different hairdos, and bigger glasses, but also aging buildings and peeling paint, ragged curtains and rusting air conditioners, Schaefer beer cans and life on the fire escapes, fur coats and rabbits hanging in windows. These images show a place a fascinatingly far cry from today’s New York.

All photographs by A.S. Graboyes.


Ninth Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen (A.S. Graboyes)


Men playing dominoes over cans of Schaefer beer (A.S. Graboyes)


“With love from Sweden” (A.S. Graboyes)


The meat market (A.S. Graboyes)


King Kong (A.S. Graboyes)


Polytaste Food Shop (A.S. Graboyes)


Rabbits hanging in the window (A.S. Graboyes)


Husbands Oppressed: Help Preserve the Male Species (A.S. Graboyes)


Asian Trading Enterprises (A.S. Graboyes)


Street art (A.S. Graboyes)



  1. Priceless! I really like the photo of the little girl painting and the “Preserve the Male Species” one:0)). I remember things being more free and unfussy then and sometimes I miss that.

  2. Wonderful time travel! Regards Thom.

  3. Reblogged this on salonnico28 and commented:
    interesant,cine ghiceste ce joc este?

  4. “sits on the west side of Manhattan between 34th and 57th Streets” It’s between 34th Street and 59th street.

  5. I was born there in 1982 and I take Old Hell’s Kitchen over the New Superficial One Any day of the week. I’ll NEVER Call it Clinton.

  6. Gloria · · Reply

    I was born on 53 street 9th ave in 1958…went to PS 111…I miss those wonderful, days of non electronics, we played in the school yard, we bought a portable record player to listen to the music….I love the people I grew up with, …I miss my building where my father was a super….of buildings 405-407-409..on 53 st ..his name was Charles…we left Hell’s Kitchen 1973….my heart always will be with my

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