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Armenians in New York, NY

Early Days: The history of Armenians in New York City dates back to 1834 when Khachadur Osganian arrived from the Ottoman Empire. Osganian, with a Protestant missionary education, came to New York to study at the newly established New York University. After graduation, he took a job with the New York Herald-Tribune and later became President of the prestigious New York Press Club. Soon thereafter, he published a book called The Sultan and His People (1857), which revealed many aspects of the Turkish life to an unfamiliar American audience.

In 1841 the first immigrants from Armenia began arriving in New York. Over the course of the next few decades, thousands of others came settling mostly in New York (and Massachusetts). Unlike most other ethnic minorities who settled across the city and relocated fairly frequently, Armenians, and other Eastern Mediterranean people, settled in the southern tip of New York (known today as the Financial District). This area soon became known as the Syrian Quarter dominated by Syrian and Lebanese Christians, as well as Armenians. However, the Quarter only survived until the 1960s, when residents began moving to other neighborhoods and the city began construction work for revitalization of the area.

By the early 1900s another Armenian enclave was emerging in the city: around East 20th St, bracketed by Lexington and Third Avenue. Armenian shops, restaurants, and residences were abundant on many streets and corners. So prominent was the Armenian community, that Nobel prize-winning writer Sinclair Lewis depicted an Armenian restaurant from an outsider's perspective in his 1914 book Our Mr. Wren: The Romantic Adventures of a Gentle Man: "The Armenian restaurant is peculiar, for it has foreign food at low prices, and is below Thirtieth Street, yet it has not become Bohemian. Consequently it has no bad music and no crowd of persons from Missouri whose women risk salvation for an evening by smoking cigarettes. Here prosperous Oriental merchants, of mild natures and bandit faces, drink semi-liquid Turkish coffee and discuss rugs and revolutions."

Although Lewis refers to the early eateries of Manhattan, later restaurants played a larger role in defining the cultural melting pot that New York was becoming. Arakel's restaurant was a popular one, which attracted many colorful personalities including collector Hagop Kevorkian. But the most prominent of all Armenian restaurants was, by no doubt, the Golden Horn located on Broadway, near Times Square. It was a magnet for sports and theater personalities from all across the city.

± Show/hide references
Vartanian, Hrag. "Tracking Armenians in New York." AGBU Magazine April 2002.

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