New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, March 22, 2010

Living With Legends

Virtually every New Yorker has heard of the Hotel Chelsea, more commonly known as the Chelsea Hotel. The hotel is most well known for its roster of well known long-term residents - many living at the hotel for years. The hotel has been a home to writers, artists, actors and film directors.
A short list includes: Mark Twain, O. Henry, Dylan Thomas, Arthur C. Clarke, William S. Burroughs, Arthur Miller, Quentin Crisp, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (who wrote On the Road there), Simone de Beauvoir, Robert Oppenheimer, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Wolfe. Stanley Kubrick, Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper, Uma Thurman, Elliot Gould, Jane Fonda, The Grateful Dead, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Dee Dee Ramone, Henri Chopin, Edith Piaf, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Sid Vicious, Leonard Cohen, Madonna, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Crumb, Jasper Johns, Willem De Kooning and Henri Cartier-Bresson.


The hotel has always been a center of artistic and bohemian activity and it houses artwork created by many of the artists who have visited. The hotel was the first building to be listed by New York City as a cultural preservation site and historic building of note. The twelve-story red-brick building that now houses the Hotel Chelsea was built in 1883 as a private apartment cooperative that opened in 1884; it was the tallest building in New York until 1899. At the time Chelsea, and particularly the street on which the hotel was located, was the center of New York's Theater District. However, within a few years the combination of economic worries and the relocation of the theaters bankrupted the Chelsea cooperative. In 1905, the building was purchased and opened as a hotel.

Owing to its long list of famous guests and residents, the hotel has an ornate history, both as a birth place of creative modern art and home of bad behavior. Bob Dylan composed songs while staying at the Chelsea, and poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso chose it as a place for philosophical and intellectual exchange. It is also known as the place where the writer Dylan Thomas died of alcohol poisoning on in 1953, and where Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols may have stabbed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, to death on October 12, 1978.

Hotel Chelsea is also architecturally significant. The Victorian Gothic red-brick structure with its wrought iron balconies, located at 222 West 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. One of the main attractions here is the art that graces the lobby and the 12-story stairway. The stairway is off limits to walk-in visitors (there is a monthly tour), however, the lobby is open to all.

I cannot speak to the rooms here - I have never been in one, but the place does has a reputation for shabby chic. People stay here for the history and artistic clientele and ambiance, not for the ultimate in luxury or slick room furnishings. At the current time, there are approximately 250 rooms in the hotel - roughly half are still occupied by permanent residents. Long-term residency is no longer granted to newcomers, and as rooms of long-term tenants are vacated, they are converted to hotel rooms.

The Hotel Chelsea is one of the most unique residences/hotels in New York City, if not the USA. For most of us, its past residents are a who's who of American culture. For those who were fortunate enough to have stayed there in the past, it was living with legends...

8 comments:

Enda said...

Hi Brian,
I've been reading your blog daily since I came home from my summer in NY, I'm glad you are so dedicated and your posts are so regular! Keep up the wonderful work!

Anonymous said...

Always you have great photos and stories...love your blog!

Anil P said...

What a great facade. The feel is truly historic, and significant for the roster of folks who graced it with their presence over the years.

1ondoncalling said...

Hello from London.
You know what?!
This hotel actually looks a bit like the Russell Hotel in London!

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to a new york times article about one artist that lives in the hotel...

Masking-Tape Art, With One Vehement Critic

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/masking-tape-art-with-one-vehement-critic/

Juan Miguel said...

Thanks for showing us this historical and legendary hotel, I began to hear about it some time ago explaining that it even had some ghosts inside!

http://www.myspace.com/espaciojuanmiguel
http://blogs.myspace.com/espaciojuanmiguel
http://www.lamusicadelanoche.blogspot.com

Simone Anne said...

Love this! :D Good perspective and I like that there's no distractions to the hotel.

http://simoneanne.blogspot.com/

new-york said...

Stayed in the big building next to it for few days during christmas. Glad to know more about it. I knew i'd find something here. Merci.