Chelsea is the former home of the man who brought Christmas to America with A Visit from St. Nicholas (also known as The Night Before Christmas and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas from the first line of the poem). This poem, first published anonymously in 1823, and now attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, is responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid 1800s to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his transportation by sleigh, the number and names of his reindeer and the tradition of bringing toys to children.
Clement Clarke Moore, a graduate and professor at Columbia College, inherited a large family owned estate which lay north of Houston Street. This area of the city was mostly undeveloped countryside at the time. Clement fought development of New York City as it moved north from lower Manhattan. The proposed street grid in the Commissioner's Plan of 1811 would run through the Moore estate. In 1818, the city's Common Council agreed to spare the area from Houston to 14th Street, west of Sixth Avenue. This is the reason that this neighborhood, the West Village, has such a quaint mélange of narrow streets with curves and oblique angles.
Moore did, however, begin to develop Chelsea, dividing it into lots and selling them to prosperous New Yorkers. An apple orchard was donated to the Episcopal Diocese, now home of the General Theological Seminary, which spans an entire city block and where Moore served as the first professor of Oriental Languages.
Regarding the name Chelsea, according to the New York Times, "It was Moore's grandfather Thomas Clarke, a retired British naval officer, who had bought an old farm in 1750 for his retirement and named it Chelsea after the Royal Chelsea Hospital for veterans in London."
Chelsea is largely a residential enclave with streets lined with historic townhouses. This neighborhood was the location of my first apartment in New York City - you can see it here. The western area of Chelsea, along 10th and 11th Avenues was industrial and in the 1990s, there was a migration of galleries and art studios from SoHo to this area, where there are now several hundred galleries.
Apart from the gallery district, Chelsea is not heavily touristed. However, there are numerous places of interest - the Chelsea Market, Chelsea Piers, the High Line Park, Hotel Chelsea, London Terrace, the Empire Diner, the IAC Building designed by Frank Gehry, the Rubin Museum of Art, the Joyce Theater, Dance Theater Workshop and the Kitchen.
In today's photo you can see a small group of historic buildings on Ninth Avenue. The corner property at 183 Ninth Avenue at 21st Street) is the Royer-Wells House, the second oldest house in Chelsea. This Federal-style home was completed in 1832.
I owe the charm of my first residence and my love of the West Village to Clement Clarke Moore :)