Chelsea is a neighborhood in New York City which is home to a vibrant community of creatives. With a huge stock of art galleries, brownstones, and old industrial buildings Chelsea has been a destination for artists, writers, and musicians for over 100 years.
One of the most prominent buildings in Chelsea’s creative enclave is the Chelsea Hotel. Built-in 1885 on New York’s 23rd Street is the red brick 250 unit hotel building which stands 12 stories tall and was one of the first buildings constructed to become private Co-op apartments in New York City. A utopia for creatives and work class alike the co-op would share in utilities and amenities to conserve costs.
In 1905 the co-op went bankrupt and the building was converted into a luxury hotel that attracted many famous guests. In the post-war ’40s into the ’50s the hotel was showing its age and room rates dropped. The hotel continued to attract the likes of Jackson Pollack and Dylan Thomas who spent his final days living in room #205 of the Chelsea while sickly and on a drinking binge. He died while in a coma in the local St. Vincent’s hospital.
The Chelsea Hotel describes itself as “a rest stop for rare individuals,” a euphemism that still manages to pass the truth-in-advertising test if you take “rare individuals” to mean artists and addicts, and rest stop to mean possible death. Legends of The Chelsea Hotel
Pulitzer Prize-winning Arthur Miller moved into apartment #614 after his divorce with Marilyn Monroe.
Leonard Cohen wrote “Chelsea Hotel #2” after his romantic encounters with Janis Joplin in room #415. He lived in room #424.
Bob Dylan stayed in room #211 while he wrote the song “Sara” for his first wife.
Sex Pistols Sid Vicious stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen in room #100.
Club Kid Christina lived and died in room #323. Her body was discovered 5 days after her death.
Andy Warhol film The Chelsea Girls in room #442
Jon Bon Jovi wrote the song and filmed the music video for “Midnight at the Chelsea” in room #515
Madonna took the photographs for her book “Sex” in room #822
Writer Thomas Wolfe spent the last few years of his life in room #829
Patti Smith lived in room #1017 with Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe
Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey
William Burroughs wrote The Third Mind and Naked Lunch
Arthur Miller wrote After the Fall
Dylan Thomas wrote Under Milk Wood
Yves Klein wrote his Chelsea Hotel Manifesto
Joseph O’Neill wrote Netherland
Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again
If Walls Could Talk
The walls of the Chelsea Hotel were adorned with original photographs and paintings by many famous artists. In the later years, the hotel functioned as an artist flophouse as the rent was often paid with artworks. Stanley Bard was the hotel’s manager known to be lax on rents allowed artists to live and create often for years.
Drunk or high Chelsea’s occupants would stumble through her hallways, hiding from their own realities. The walls having witnessed brilliant talents and agonizing pain.
A Renewed Life
The Chelsea Hotel was purchased in 2011 for $80 million by the real-estate developer Joseph Chetrit and stopped taking room reservations on August 1, 2011. Long term residents were allowed to stay during the renovations as many were protected by rent control laws, however, the construction made the building a health hazard and many residents were forced to move out.
While protected by Landmarks of New York one would hope the fabric and spirit of the Chelsea will remain. Sadly the juxtaposition of the arts and environment has sadly died with the closure of the building and the redevelopment is certain to keep out the artists and writers that made her famous.