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Tour Shows Off Hell's Kitchen's Irish Heritage

By Mathew Katz | March 12, 2013 4:11pm

HELL'S KITCHEN — As hordes of St. Patrick's Day revelers prepare to spend the holiday going on pub crawls and stocking up on Guinness, one tour guide plans to show visitors that the city's Irish heritage consists of more than just pints of beer and plates of corned beef.

Historian Joyce Gold plans to hold a different kind of tour: one showing off the old Hell's Kitchen of Irish gang members like One-Lung Curran and Stumpy Malarkey.

Gold will host a walking tour of Hell's Kitchen's Irish history, meant to evoke a time of Irish immigrant dock-workers, crime-ridden streets, and pungent slaughterhouses along Ninth Avenue.

Gold, who has 35 years' experience leading historical tours and has taught Manhattan's history at NYU for 25 years, said the tour will shine a light on the neighborhood's oft-forgotten time as a slum and how it influenced what the neighborhood is today.

"It was a very tough neighborhood, thus the name — it was in very bad shape until the eighties," she said.

"The theme of the tour is about revival, so we'll see how all the changes have come about."

Now a haven for bars, clubs, and new luxury condo developments, the neighborhood was home to the aptly-named Hell's Kitchen Gang, along with the Gophers (pronounced "Goofers"), the Hudson Dusters, and the Lady Gophers, a women's gang that survived until 1910. Dangerous members often had colorful names, like Goo Goo Knox and Happy Jack Mulraney, whose paralyzed face made him look like he was always happy.

The tour will also look at the Westies, a gang that plagued the community until 1987.

"The neighborhood has changed so much, so we'll look at some of the things that have come along and demolished some of the Irish section, like the Port Authority, and what's taken their place," she said.

The tour will also take a look at the history of the city's now-massive St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Gold said that the sea change in the neighborhood came as it became more multi-ethnic and community activists took charge, but still stressed the importance of Hell's Kitchen's Irish heritage.

"There are old-timers that are Irish, the political clubs are still Irish," she said. 

"It's still there and they did enormous things."

Joyce Gold's Irish History Tour starts off at 1 p.m. on Sat. Mar. 16 outside of The Bread Factory at the corner of West 43rd Street and Ninth Avenue. The tour is $18 for adults and $15 for seniors.