JABEZ BURNS, Hells Kitchen

by Kevin Walsh

Here’s a placid scene at #605 West 42nd Street in 1940, just west of 11th Avenue in Hells Kitchen. Well into the 1980s, this was a somewhat sketchy part of town, with plenty of gang activity and crime. It appears that the building on the left has just been constructed and there’s a restaurant, helpfully named “Restaurant” on the right. A painted ad on 11th Avenue advertises for Jabez Burns & Sons, founded 1864.

There were two notable Jabez Burns in recorded history, an uncle and nephew. The first Jabez Burns (1805-1876) was an influential British preacher, one of the first to say that abstinence is next to Godliness and thus, helped set off the mid-1800s temperance movement in England and the USA and ultimately resulted in the USA’s Constitutional amendment legislating Prohibition from 1920-1933.

Jabez Burns the Younger was the son of the preacher Burns’ brother, William. He arrived in the USA with his mother in 1844 and was apprenticed to coffee merchant Henry Blair. In the 1850s, he devised a calculator to process complicated transactions. He and his sons founded his coffee business in 1864, and a coffee roaster he invented was purchased by the Arbuckle Brothers, who distributed Yuban from their warehouses in DUMBO in Brooklyn. Jabez Burns & Sons remained in business until 1960.

As you may expect, 605 West 42nd currently looks nothing like 1940. A glassy residential tower, Sky, now occupies this site.

Check out the ForgottenBook,┬átake a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



Mike O. May 4, 2020 - 10:12 am

My friend’s father was one of the last white gang leaders in Hell’s Kitchen and he did time for bank robbery in the 40s.

Bill May 4, 2020 - 1:30 pm

Commas and their absence are important. Forget about the recently famous “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” Imagine the apocalyptic headline “Jabez Burns Hells Kitchen.”

Ob Askin May 4, 2020 - 4:08 pm


redstaterefugee May 6, 2020 - 11:26 am

Hi, Ob. How’s your pal Dr. Martin Abend? Send him my regards.

redstaterefugee May 5, 2020 - 11:16 am

The Westies prospered in Hell’s Kitchen until about the ’90’s:


AB. May 5, 2020 - 8:23 pm

I grew up in Hell’s kitchen in the 70′ and 80’s. My dad lived there from mid 60’s until he pass in ’06. 11 ave and 51st.

Tal Barzilai May 7, 2020 - 6:31 pm

For those who don’t know, the building that replaced this site over on the Google Maps link is known as The Orion.

Bill May 12, 2020 - 8:53 pm

I assume 42nd was a two-way street then. What’s with the car parked against the traffic direction? You can’t do that now, can you? Could you do it then? You don’t have to answer. I’ll live.


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