by Kevin Walsh

This bar named “Paradise Alley” on 150th Street and 41st Avenue in Murray Hill always sounded vaguely familiar to me. The name has a long pedigree, but I can’t put my finger on where it originated.

“Paradise Alley” was the name of a theater piece in 1897. It was the name of a Broadway musical that played for a couple of months in two theaters in 1924. “Sunshine of Paradise Alley” was a 1926 feature film. In 1955, Allen Ginsburg used the phrase in his most celebrated poem, “Howl“: “….who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley.” Carole King recorded a` song called “Paradise Alley” in 1968. It’s also the name of a Sylvester Stallone vehicle in 1978 that was set in the world of pro wrestling in the 1940s. The bar opened in 1979 so it was likely inspired by the movie. A number of bar/restaurants opening around the same time had the name including one in Harrisburg, PA. The name also found its way into William Kennedy’s “Quinn’s Book.” It’s the title of a song by Foghat. The two words together have probably been used thousands of times. But what was the first time?

It was also the name of a book by novelist/historian Kevin Baker, set during the 1863 Draft Riots in Manhattan. Kevin Baker supplied one of the blurbs on the back cover of Forgotten New York the Book, so I have reached out to him to see if he knows the origin of the name.

Finally, in the 1970s, Paradise Alley was shown on the Hagstrom maps in those years in Old Place, near the Goethals Bridge in Staten Island.

Meanwhile, as always, the floor is open in Comments.


1 comment

Peter May 19, 2021 - 1:07 am

It took me longer than it should have taken to realize the bar is Murray Hill in Queens and not Manhattan.


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