Springtime in New York is about to begin, so the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations will be in full swing across the 5 boroughs and a sea of people in green will be found on Fifth Avenue for the most festive parade of the year. But Irish history in New York goes back further than a parade and a few pints. Take a trip to the Big Apple and celebrate the culture and traditions that the Irish people bring to this cultural melting pot we know as New York.
Irish immigrants came to America well before the 19th century, but in the 19th century, large crowds flocked to New York due to the Great Famine in Ireland, making up almost a quarter of the population at the time. The first immigrants settled in rented apartments on the Lower East Side in Manhattan and in Hell’s Kitchen. Visit the Tenement Museum (103 Orchard St) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to learn how newcomers to New York lived. You can see replica homes with artifacts and photos of the former residents, giving you an idea of what life was like for the immigrants.
New York and the Statue of Liberty have welcomed countless immigrants ashore
You can still find hidden moonshine pubs and bars downtown today, reminiscent of days gone by when moonshine spirits were illegally traded. Greenwich Village has a few more as well as other significant sites. Beauty & Essex (146 Essex St) appears to be a working pawnshop from the outside, but inside you’ll find a hidden restaurant, bar, and lounge. Please Don’t Tell (113 St Mark’s Pl) is another secret East Village cocktail bar that you enter through a phone booth at Crif Dogs (located next door). At The Dead Rabbit (30 Water St) in the Financial District, named after the infamous 19th-century street gang, you can burrow into rusty arbors and sip an Irish coffee while being surrounded by a decor of Irish hats and whiskey advertisements.
If the walls of this alcove furnished studio on Little Italy’s historic Mulberry Street could talk, they would surely tell stories about this important area. The exposed brick walls and decorative fireplace are charming features of the past, adding warmth and coziness to the space, making one feel at home.
Visit the Gothic masterpiece of St. Patrick’s Cathedral with its spiers towering over Midtown Manhattan
With an abundance of different markets and bakeries in the area, you’ll be inspired to try the cuisine of other cultures in your fully equipped kitchen. Head outside to see if you can find some of the old addresses that have made this area so notorious. A stone’s throw from this building is St Patrick’s Old Cathedral, a landmark steeped in Irish history.
Follow the fun and the luck of the Irish to 5th Avenue’s St. Patrick’s Day parade Photo credit: flickr, left-Richie S, right-MarineCorps
Downtown, now known as Little Italy, you’ll find St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral (263 Mulberry St), built rather than the famous cathedral on 5th Avenue. St Patrick’s Old Cathedral is steeped in history and was a church for the poor and working-class Irish immigrants in the 19th century. The catacombs under the cathedral hold many notable names and have also featured in films such as The Godfather.
Make your way to Midtown and stop to admire the magnificent Gothic architecture of the grand St. Patrick’s Cathedral (5th Ave & 50th St). St. Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration of Ireland’s patron saint.
Rent this sophisticated 1 bedroom furnished apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in a pet-friendly concierge building where you’ll be close to the action of the parade with a view of the city from your living room. The green spaces of Central Park are also within walking distance. On 80th & 5th Avenue, you can visit The American Irish Historical Society, a historic center and library celebrating Irish achievement, history, and culture in the United States.
The Empire State Building is bathed in green to celebrate Irish history
Image: Arturo Pardavila III CC BY 2.0
In a big city, it can be easy to feel lost and without a sense of community, which means that immigrants tend to move to an area where their fellow countrymen have also put down roots. You can find such ethnic neighborhoods in all New York boroughs. The beauty of New York’s melting pot culture is that everyone can feel like they belong here, no matter where you’re from.
The people of Brittany may have French passports but also share the Celtic history and a language of Celtic origin. If you are a proud Breton immigrant or just love Brittany, then please come and wave your flag with your Irish brothers and sisters on this special day of Celtic celebration. For more information on joining the BZH New York Volunteer Association or walking in the parade with them, visit their website.
In Lower Manhattan near Battery Park is The Irish Hunger Memorial (75 Battery Place), a fascinating memorial to the Great Famine of Ireland. The interior is filled with messages about the 19th-century event as a reminder that famine is still a topical issue in the world. The exterior of the memorial represents a slice of the Irish countryside, with a potato field, stone walls, and stone cottage built using materials brought in from Ireland and native plants and flowers.
Sample great Irish cuisine and pub culture in New York
Image: Elise Bauer
Celebrate the holiday and Irish history in one of the many Irish pubs, some of which have been around since the 19th century. Founded in 1854, McSorley’s Old Ale House is one of the oldest Irish taverns in New York. Located at 15 East 7th Street in the East Village, it offers a nostalgic vibe and Irish bartenders.
The walls are decorated with old newspaper articles, pictures of prominent Irish politicians, and firemen’s helmets (the Irish have a long history in the New York Fire Department), and the floors are covered in sawdust. Another popular pub with a nostalgic atmosphere and a large selection of Irish whiskeys is The Late Late (159 East Houston St) on the Lower East Side, named after The Late Late Show, a popular talk show in Ireland in the early 1960s years ago in the style of an Irish home.
Enjoy a concert of Irish music during your stay in New York this spring
Irish cuisine is definitely on the menu on New York’s culinary scene, with heart-warming Irish taverns and pubs serving up old family recipes. In Gramercy, stop by Molly’s Pub & Shebeen (287 3rd Ave) and sip pints of Guinness with friends and dine on lamb stew, shepherd’s pie, or salt beef and cabbage in a cozy nook surrounded by sawdust floors and a wood-burning stove.
U2 always plays for extra crowds in New York
Image: Felipe Vidal
Irish art and music have also left their mark on American soil. While in New York, enjoy a performance of traditional Irish music and dance at Radio City Music Hall.
Irish music has influenced many musical genres and New York has seen many Irish musicians, from U2’s sold-out shows at Yankee Stadium or Madison Square Garden to The Chieftains embarking on their ‘Irish Goodbye’ tour of Celtic music and folk in The Town Hall (123 W 43 St) on St. Patrick’s Day.
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