U.S. cities rich with Irish history

Photo by Rick Harris
Photo by Rick Harris

Perhaps last week’s post has you re-thinking your plan to retire to Ireland, or maybe you are resolved to plan your next getaway to the Emerald Isle to check out one of the top small towns for visitors, but short on the funds to make the big jump across the pond. Either way, discovering Irish culture is fun for everyone, and the more you experience, the more you are guaranteed to fall in love with the country and culture. But it is not always necessary to leave the U.S. to get a taste of Irish history. Boston for example is a great destination for a trip where you can divulge into the history of Irish immigrants who had a massive influence on the population and city as a whole.

The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provides a glimpse to other American cities and neighborhoods that are especially Irish. The survey shows that the “most Irish” cities are mostly along the east coast, and concentrated in the Northeast. After Boston and the surrounding towns, a few of the other top places include Albany, NY coming in 4th with 15.6% of the population claiming ancestry of primarily Irish roots, and Philadelphia, with 14.2% (the 8th most Irish city according to the survey, but known more commonly as the 2nd most Irish of large U.S. cities).

Albany Capital Building. Photo by Pete Dzintars.
Albany Capital Building. Photo by Pete Dzintars.

Albany has a rich Irish tradition, with mention of Irishmen noted as far back as 1649. The city itself is full of Irish establishments, from the Capital District Celtic Cultural Association which promotes the dance, education and performance of various Celtic organizations, to traditional Irish pubs such as McGearys or Public House 42, where you can get authentic Irish dishes while enjoying a delicious pint.

For those who love to dive into history, Albany is home to the Irish American Heritage Museum, which features a wealth of knowledge and resources about Irish culture and history, and even has monthly visits from a genealogist who can help patrons learn more about their Irish ancestry.

Photo by R'lyeh Imaging
Photo by R’lyeh Imaging

The Irish Famine brought many immigrants to Philadelphia at a time when the industrial revolution was in need of hard workers. The surge of Irish led to the creation of many Irish centered organizations, and the opportunity to build a community that kept Irish tradition alive. Any trip to Philadelphia is not complete without a visit to the Irish Memorial on the Delaware River. As a National Monument, it includes 35 bronzed statues that depict the story of the Great Hunger in Ireland, and the subsequent journey to the U.S. The memorial is dedicated to the over 1 million individuals who died during that time period.

With so much of America’s history being tied to the plight and experience of Irish immigrants, there is plenty to see and do to connect with Irish ancestry without needing a passport. Exploring these places allow individuals a glimpse into what life was like over 150 years ago for their ancestors.

Have you visited Albany or Philadelphia? What are your favorite Irish spots?