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Little Spain and La Nacional Social Club & Restaurant

About this listing

Spanish-speaking New Yorkers have long gathered here

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Greenwich Village
Commercial, Food & Drink

Place Matters Profile

La Nacional, located in "Little Spain," is the oldest Spanish restaurant in New York City, and according to its current owner, Jesus "Lolo" Manso, the 2nd oldest Spanish society still in operation in North America.

239 W.14th St. (bet. 7th and 8th Avenues), open daily from noon to 11pm, 212-243-9308.

Go through the nondescript downstairs door and you come upon the area where old timers drink a glass of wine or cup of coffee while watching soccer on TV. Or get a table in the restaurant proper and try the tapas or the paella for which the restaurant is famous. (Upstairs from La Nacional is a place rented out for music events (salsa, tango, flamenco), but it has no connection to La Nacional and does not serve its food.)

"The snow of Manhattan blows against billboards / And carries pure grace through the fake Gothic arches."

The famed Spanish poet...

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Interview with Jesus Manso by Elena Martinez, Place Matters, 2007

Statistics and graph from Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales: Secretaria de Estado de Inmigracion y Emigracion, www.ciudadaniaexterior.mtas.ed/estadisticas.htm

Consejo Superior de Emigracion (Spain), Emigracion transoceanica, 1911-1915.

On The Web

Our Lady of Guadalupe at St. Bernard's
La Nacional Tapa Bar
Asociacion Tepeyac De New York
"Little Spain" usage


Columbia University GSAPP HIstoric Preservation Studio 2006

At the turn of the century, Spanish immigrants settled in the area around West 14th Street. The degree to which this was the center of Spanish life in the city is visible in the number of services that were offered within the area, and particularly on this block. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the Casa Maria, a Spanish settlement house protecting the temporal, social, mental, moral, and religious welfare of young women and Spanish speaking people, the Spanish Benevolent Society, and St. Raphaels Spanish Immigrant Society all located on this block, while still more, such as the Spanish American Workers Alliance, the Hotel Espanyol, and many other businesses serving Spanish and Spanish-speaking people located nearby. In 1902, the Augustinians of the Assumption established the Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church, the first Latino church in Manhattan, in order to do their work for the Spanish speaking people.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, at 229-231 W. 14th Street, possesses rich architectural and historical significance despite being a small parish church. Founded at the turn of the twentieth century by the Augustinians of the Assumption, Guadalupe became the first Spanish-speaking Catholic parish in New York City and for a time served as the national parish for Spanish-speaking Catholics. In 1939, the New York City Guide published by the WPA acknowledged that, while the Spanish Colony has declined, many remaining institutions still preserved the Iberian flavor. Continuing waves of Spanish-speaking immigrants, most noticeably those from Puerto Rico in the second half of the twentieth century, have also gathered in this area.

Today, the area serves the larger Hispanic community of New York with the Spanish Benevolent Society, the Asociacion Tepeyac de New York, the Centro Espanol La Nacional, Spanish-language bookstores, and the Lady of Guadalupe Church, albeit relocated and consolidated with the nearby St. Bernards. While there have been and continue to be many geographic centers for Spanish and Hispanic immigrants, 14th Street's Little Spain is significant as being the first major gathering place for generations of Spanish and Hispanic immigrants.

The building occupied by Guadalupe is a mid-nineteenth-century brownstone (interestingly, the former home of restauranteur Charles Delmonico) that has been masterfully converted from a posh rowhouse to a double-height sanctuary, complete with a monumental entrance, side chapel, tiny balcony, and clerestory. This transformation from residence to church, a form which makes Guadalupe extremely rare, if not unique in the city, spanned two decades and involved several notable architects, including George H. Streeton, Paul C. Hunter, and Gustave Steinback. Steinback, known for his work on religious projects, designed No. 229s classically proportioned Spanish Revival faade in 1921. The Spanish-like faade on No. 231 was added at a later date by a yet unknown architect. Although the church remained extremely popular, it was consolidated with nearby St. Bernards parish and closed in 2003. Today, Guadalupe is a rare architectural trace of Little Spain. (February 2007)

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