When West 14th Street was “Little Spain”

Today, 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues is a mix of delis, small shops, and restaurants . . . as well as insane crowds spilling over from the Meatpacking District.

But in the 20th century it was a tiny neighborhood of Spanish immigrants, with a “Little Spain” merchants group and festival featuring flamenco dancers and mechanical bullfighting.

A few remnants of that neighborhood remain. One is Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, built in 1902 inside two 1840s brownstones. (1930 photo, from the NYPL, right)

It’s no longer open for regular church services, but the lovely Spanish baroque facade still makes an impression.

Our Lady of Guadalupe today, with its beautiful balcony and detailing:

The still-active, 142-year-old Spanish Benevolent Society, closer to Eighth Avenue, also remains. They run a decent tapas restaurant on the ground floor of a brownstone.

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7 Responses to “When West 14th Street was “Little Spain””

  1. chas1133 Says:

    Woody McHales’ on that same street (14th bet. 7th & 8th) is a great little place with a below street level entrance…

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Somehow the Ipanema bar hangs on a bit farther down the block from Woody’s.

  3. Joe R Says:

    Hi Ephemeral-
    This particular church was open until just about three or four years ago. Due to the large influx of Mexicans to NYC since the early 90′s, this little chapel became too small to handle the new parishioners. (Our Lady of Guadalupe being the patron saint of Mexico.) The parish relocated down 14th Street to the under-utilized and much larger St Bernard’s Church between 8th and 9th Avenues.
    Also, do you recall a few years back when this immediate area had at least three Spanish-language bookstores? Do you suppose that this was a remnant of the old Spanish neighborhood?

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    I do remember those bookstores; one closed just a few years ago and had been around for decades. I think it’s safe to say it was a remnant of the old Spanish neighborhood that also featured a Spanish grocery store and the HQ of a Spanish theater company. All gone now.

    I lived across the street from Our Lady of Guadalupe in the late 1990s and remember the massive overflow crowds you speak of. Mass was sometimes broadcast over loudspeakers!

  5. Aonghais Macinnes Says:

    I remember the Spanish language bookstores, in the 90s there were also several groceries when you could buy chili peppers that you couldn’t really find anywhere else.
    I also remember the days when the only “Mexican” restaurant in NYC was Panchitos.

  6. Nancy Vazquez-Camardo Says:

    My family immigrated here from Spain…I have so many wonderful memories from 14th street while growing up with my family…the feasts, the social clubs, restaurants, church, shopping with family and many friends…it’s so sad that generation is almost all gone, but I will never forget all the good times

  7. juan Lopez Says:

    Yo soy un gallego como muchos otros que en 1965 estuve navegando en una compañía holandesa llamada Holland America Line, que tenia su muelle en Nor River, Pier 40, y desde allí nos acercábamos a la pequeña España, pues era donde nos divertiamos y hacíamos nuestras compras y regalos que traíamos para España cuando volvíamos de vacaciones. En la calle 14 frecuentabamos La Casa de España donde hacían bailes y era curioso porque mismo enfrente teníamos otro centro con el mismo nombre, también me acuerdo de un comercio que se llama la Valenciana,El restaurante Quijote de un gallego en la 8ª avenida y la gran cantidad de bares y comercios cuyos propietarios eran españoles y entre ellos muchos gallegos.Los casi dos años que estuve embarcado cada 20 días atracábamos en New York. También hacíamos visitas a muchos españoles que residían en la ciudad y por la zona. Fue un gran descubrimiento el saber que en una ciudad tan grande los españoles tuvieramos un sitio donde encontrarnos como en España.

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