Little Ireland in Woodlawn, the Bronx
In the northern portions of the Bronx, located just above Woodlawn cemetery and east of The Bronx’ Van Cortlandt Park, you will find a neighborhood called Little Ireland, New York City’s proud center of Irish culture and its people. This is where I grew up. Could it be more Irish-American anywhere else in the nation?
The neighborhood is actually called Woodlawn Heights but New Yorkers simply say Woodlawn, that’s how it is known. For many years, the neighborhood has been an important New York destination for the Irish exodus.
Woodlawn was originally populated by people of German descent, but today, the neighborhood is predominantly Irish in combination with quite a few Italian-Americans.
Woodlawn is the part of New York City where you will find the most 4-leaf clover insignias on buildings and storefronts across the city. Woodlawn has pretty definitive borders, but you’ll find the local Irish community on either side of McLean Avenue, the city line between Yonkers and New York City.
Both sides of McLean Avenue are pretty much indistinguishable if you judge them by their residents, neighborhood character, and businesses. Most residents have been living here for several generations, which made the area home to both Irish immigrants and the Irish-American population.
The fact that the neighborhood is located so close to Manhattan, and that the availability of imported Irish products was so varied, have resulted in a constant attraction to people from all parts of America and across the big pond. The Irish presence is also found in other New York neighborhoods, like the Bronx’s Norwood or Riverdale, and Inwood across the river in Manhattan, but the atmosphere in Woodlawn is definitely very special Irish.
It can be quite a trek to access the neighborhood depending on what method of transportation you choose. Woodlawn’s Little Ireland can best be reached by the Metro-North Harlem line, or by vehicle. The Metro-North Harlem line stops near the Bronx River Parkway, at East 233rd Street, and the number four subway line stops at Woodlawn Cemetery’s southern part, though you need to walk quite a distance to Woodlawn’s center.
Once you get there, however, be prepared to enjoy the Irish atmosphere, that best can be felt on Woodlawn’s main commercial district, Katonah Avenue, that’s full of Irish pubs, restaurants, cafés, and shops that specialize in genuine Irish imported goods and authentic gifts.
You’ll find several Irish festivities in the neighborhood, and Woodlawn also boasts a lot of green space in the bordering Van Cortlandt Park, a 1,186-acre beautiful area. If you’re intrigued by spooks, then go to the Woodlawn Cemetery, a famous setting that boasts eerie tombstones and grand mausoleums set in a beautiful green surrounding. Woodlawn cemetery offers guided tours and it is the final resting place of notable and famous figures such as Latin artist Celia Cruz and the Olmstead brothers.
If you love Irish style partying, it’s a good idea to stop at The Tombstone Saloon or the Rambling House, and when you get hungry, places like Patrizia’s Of Woodlawn or Mary’s Celtic Kitchen are sure to satiate your palate. Check out also the Woodlawn Arts & Music House where local artists show their best, so whatever your cravings, a trip to Little Ireland in New York City’s Woodlawn neighborhood in the Bronx will definitely set your mind on traces of Ireland.
Woodlawn Cemetery is among New York City’s largest cemeteries and is a designated National Historic Landmark. The cemetery radiates the character and atmosphere of a small rural cemetery, and it was opened during the American Civil War in 1863.
The area in which Woodlawn Cemetery is located was annexed to New York in 1874 and a few of the great figures that have found their final resting place are authors Herman Melville and Countee Cullen, and musicians Miles Davis, Irving Berlin, Max Roach, Duke Ellington, and W. C. Handy.