Two cops, a veteran and a rookie, were observing a riot near the corner of West 39th Street and 10th Avenue in New York City.

“This place is hell,” said the rookie officer.

“Nah,” said the veteran. “Hell is mild. This place is hell’s kitchen.”

Or, so goes one story about how one New York City neighborhood got its name. While Hell’s Kitchen is probably the most dangerous-sounding name on the list, there are quite a few other cities with unusual neighborhood names as well as some interesting back stories. Let’s take a look:

Hell’s Kitchen, New York

According to the Hell’s Kitchen Cultural Center, the area was rough for quite a while, and gang competition there even led to the inspiration of “West Side Story.” The ‘hood isn’t quite as dangerous as it once was, but the Hell’s Kitchen moniker has been slowly erased and the area is now named Clinton — perhaps in an attempt to appeal more broadly to potential residents, although many locals still refer to it as Hell’s Kitchen.

Hell’s Kitchen, or rather, median Clinton home values, are currently $718,000 and are increasing 4.8 percent year-over-year.

For around $700K on the Clinton real estate market, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything larger than a one-bedroom. This home (below) has one bedroom, but has a spacious floor plan and large windows overlooking the Manhattan skyline as well as high-end appliances and finishes.

505 W 47th St #2E-S, New York, NY 10036 (photo below)
For sale: $689,000

Cabbagetown, Atlanta

Cabbagetown is one of Atlanta’s oldest industrial settlements, home to two factories. The history of its designation is a little muddled, but there are two stories that are most often recounted. One theory is that the neighborhood got its name from the Appalachian settlers who moved to the area to work in the factories. They planted cabbage in their front yards and cooked it often and the smell would permeate the neighborhood. The other story goes that a cabbage truck crashed in the street, causing a mob as people rushed to grab the vegetable.

Much of Cabbagetown real estate is on the National Historic Register. Median Cabbagetown home values are currently $166,700. For that price, you can pick up a 1,036-square-foot place that is a hip, urban loft, like the one below.

170 Boulevard SE STE 100B, Atlanta, GA 30312 (photo below)
For sale:$168,900

Frogtown, St. Paul

Officially referred to as the “Thomas-Dale” neighborhood, others refer to the north-central St. Paul neighborhood as Frogtown. While there is no authoritative story behind the naming of St. Paul neighborhood Frogtown, there are three candidates listed on Frogtown’s neighborhood website. The first one goes that the name was an ethnic slur aimed at the many French settlers in the region. Another claims the moniker is from the large marshes in the area that were home to frogs — and led Austro-Hungarian settlers to call the area “Froschburg” (frog city). The third theory is the association made with many railroad workers who lived in the area — couplers on railroad cars are called “frogs.”

Today, Frogtown is one of the city’s largest working class neighborhoods with many architecturally significant buildings. For the price of the median St. Paul home value of $131,100, you can pick up a completely remodeled 3-bedroom home with Brazilian teak floors, granite countertops and a redone master suite.

926 Charles Ave, St. Paul MN (photo below)
For sale: $129,900

Tangletown, Seattle

Tangletown, a tiny ‘hood north of downtown Seattle, sits at an intersection of several tangled streets and the intersection of three major neighborhoods: Wallingford, Phinney Ridge and Green Lake. If you don’t mind the winding, nonsensical streets, Tangletown boasts popular cafes and shops and high median home values of $444,000.

This Tangletown treasure (below) is steps from the popular Green Lake park and has undergone a complete remodel which includes heated tile floors.

2349 N 64th St, Seattle WA (photo below)
For sale: $462,500

Back of the Yards, Chicago

This name isn’t a reference to grassy back yards and playgrounds, but a call to Chicago’s past as the nation’s meatpacking capital. Back of the Yards refers to its location southwest of the old Union Stock Yards. The neighborhood once housed the thousands of immigrant stockyard workers, but today, Back of Yards real estate is primarily commercial. Median Back of the Yards home values are more affordable than most other Chicago real estate, ringing in at $110,500.

For $289,900, you can pick up a four-bedroom, 2-bath home with 3,100 square feet of living space, a patio, front porch and detached two-car garage.

2325 W 41st St, Chicago IL (photo below)
For sale: $289,900

The Tenderloin, San Francisco

Out of the neighborhoods on this list, the Tenderloin district is by far the most infamous. The area has a reputation as the one of the worst spots in San Francisco and most tourist guides advise visitors to steer clear. The neighborhood even got its name because of its tough nature. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, policemen that patrolled these mean streets were paid more and as a result, they could afford better cuts of meat, such as tenderloin.

Despite the Tenderloin’s bad reputation, the neighborhood has experienced some positive changes, reports the Chronicle, and could, perhaps, turn around homes values for Tenderloin real estate.

For the moderate price of $265,000 — moderately priced for San Francisco real estate that is — you can pick up an alcove studio (below) in the famous Hamilton building. The home has 9 feet ceilings, Pergo floors and a walk-in closet in the bedroom.

631 Ofarrell St Apt 305, San Francisco CA (photo below)
For sale: $265,000

Foggy Bottom, DC

The name Foggy Bottom sounds like a marshy place out in the country rather than a neighborhood that is home to famous political landmarks such as the Kennedy Center, Department of State and Watergate. Once the city’s industrial center, the area was reportedly named for the fog that used to rise up off the Potomac. Another story is that the fog also mixed with smog from the several industries that were located in the 19th-century working class neighborhood. The area is a far cry from its humble beginnings. Besides housing several government agencies, Foggy Bottom real estate is exclusive; median Foggy Bottom home values are currently $304,900.

For $350,000 you can snag a one-bedroom co-op (below) with floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Washington Monument, a long balcony and “beautiful built-ins.”

700 New Hampshire Ave NW #1014, Washington D.C. (photo below)
For sale: $350,000

Pearl District

The Pearl District of Portland is a diamond in the rough — an art district punctuated by breweries and warehouses and some of the most vibrant culture in the city. According to, a gallery owner coined the phrase, suggesting that the warehouse buildings in the district “were like crusty oysters, and that the galleries and artists’ lofts within were like pearls.” Despite some initial push back, the name stuck. Today, the Pearl is home to Powell’s bookstore, several breweries and up-and-coming boutique hotels.

For $250,000 (Portland’s median home value), you can pick up a piece of Pearl District real estate on the Willamete River. The modern 1-bed, 1.5-bath apartment has hardwood floors, fireplace and large kitchen with an island.

1310 NW Naito Pkwy Unit 312 Portland OR (photo below)
For sale: $250,000

Squirrel Hill

It’s simple: This historic neighborhood in Pittsburgh got its name for the furry creatures that dominated the region when the area was first settled.

According to the I heart PGH blog, “Squirrel Hill has always been known for its abundance of gray squirrels in the days of the early pioneers, the squirrels were so numerous that their chatter created a din.”

Today the residential neighborhood is split between Squirrel Hill North and Squirrel Hill South. Median North Squirrel Hills home values hover at $352,400.

Listed for $279,000 on the Squirrel Hill North real estate market is this brick three-story home. Built in 1923, the house has five bedrooms and two bathrooms.

5852 Northumberland St., Pittsburgh PA (photo below)
For sale: $279,000


Like Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill, Ironbound is now divided into two different areas: North and South. Although greenery is rare in the Newark’s grittier neighborhood, the district was first all farmland and called “Dutch Neck” or “Down Neck” due to way the Passaic River curved.

With the dawn of the industrial age, the neighborhood transformed and earned its moniker “Ironbound” either due to the large number of forgeries and factories, or the railroad that crisscrossed the area beginning in the 1830s, according to the New York Times.

Today, median North Ironbound home values are $238,800 with the majority of real estate dedicated to apartments and condos, rather than single family homes.

This two-bedroom, two-bath condo has Passaic River waterfront access and is two minutes from Penn Station for a commute into New York.

33-35 Freeman St. Apt B1, Newark NJ (photo below)
For sale: $215,000


About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

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