A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from November 28, 2004
Hell’s Hundred Acres
"Hell's Hundred Acres" was the name for the area of SoHo, just before that name was used in about 1970.

"Hell's Hundred Acres" was used during World War II, describing a difficult battle ground. In 1960, the New York City fire commissioner used the name for the old buildings in the SoHo area that he determined to be fire traps. "Hell's Hundred Acres" is not used today. Thankfully, most of those old buildings have been renovated.

2 February 1944, Los Angeles Times, pg. 1:
It's a "hell's hundred acres" which has been the scene of the main German defense on the Cassino line, the so-called Gustav Line.

22 November 1960, New York Times, pg. 37:
Describing the area as "Hell's Hundred Acres," he gave its boundaries as Reade and Eighth Streets, between Broadway and the Hudson River. Of the 3,000 old buildings in the area, Commissioner Cavanaugh (Fire Commissioner Edward F. Cavanaugh Jr. - ed.) said, he expects to close a "couple of hundred."

21 February 1961, New York Times, pg. 41:
Fire Commissioner Edward F. Cavanaugh Jr. warned last night that he might take "more drastic measures" to prevent fires in the downtown area he has labeled "Hell's Hundred Acres."

Did you know that Soho was once known as "Hell's Hundred Acres"?

Currently one of New York City's trendiest neighborhoods, Soho has undergone a number of transformations over the past 200 years.

Throughout the first half of the 19th century, the area south of Houston Street -- today's Soho -- was an upper-class residential neighborhood, home to an array of prominent New Yorkers. In the late 1850s, stores such as Lord & Taylor and Tiffany & Co. began setting up shop in the neighborhood. As grand cast-iron buildings were erected on once-quiet streets, the growth of commercial activity prompted many wealthy residents to leave the area by about 1865.

By the turn of the century, factories started to take over the neighborhood, which soon became home to one of Manhattan's infamous red-light districts. Rampant fires -- fueled by the wooden floors and beams of the new buildings -- plagued the area, earning it the nickname "Hell's Hundred Acres."

Posted by Barry Popik
Neighborhoods • Sunday, November 28, 2004 • Permalink

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