The Chelsea Hotel. Month June. Year Two Thousand Too Late

 

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The Chelsea is undergoing extensive renovation under its new ownership, since 2011. With each roaring drill and every banging hammer, another story from the past is whispered down the hallways… Dylan Thomas… Arthur Miller… Gore Vidal… Patty Smith… Iggy Pop… Sid Vicious… wild parties, murders & suicides… Nancy Spungen… the Warhol girls and boys… Edie Sedgwick set fire to her room… Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey here… Charles James moved in and kept a tiny studio until his death in 1978. He was alone and penniless but there was always room for legends in the Chelsea.

When the makeover is complete, all signs and relics of the past glory days will be gone; with them the old school artists and eccentrics, the colourful community that kept the legend alive and called the Chelsea home. A new gentrified, modern era shall begin.

I took a long hard look at the celebrated red-brick façade before walking on, acutely aware it would be the first and last time I saw the Chelsea in this curious moment in time. I walked away with a growing sense of wonder and nostalgia; for times past, for the future, for the city that was and is no more…

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Hotel Chelsea
222 West 23rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues
New  York

18 June 2014

The Chelsea was featured in an episode of the BBC series Arena. Filmed in 1981, it follows a guiding tour, introduces some of the guests, residents and staff and gives a very good idea of the strange and wonderful community that was the Chelsea. Uploaded on YouTube  in six parts:

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6 thoughts on “The Chelsea Hotel. Month June. Year Two Thousand Too Late

  1. I’m afraid that when renovation is complete there won’t be any more walls left to weep! I haven’t read Patti Smith’s book, yet… I should, shouldn’t I? You know, she is coming to Brussels Summer Festival… she is singing on Friday! I’m not planning to go, but I put on her Banga, listening to Fuji-san as I type! x

  2. Those walls must be weeping…..such stories….such a creative space. Have you read Patti Smiths Just Kids? Transports you back to a golden era. Glad you got to see something of this iconic space.

  3. I have had friends who had lived in the Chelsea — mixed responses on it. The History will always be there, you cannot take it away. The building has been a designated New York City landmark since 1966, and on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977. BUT, “Chelsea Hotel Tenants Demand Living Conditions Be Repaired And Set Housing Court Battle” (May 7th, 2012)

    • If I had a time machine, I’d make myself at home in the Chelsea in the early 70s. I’d probably suffocate under a thick cloud of smoke but that’s a risk I’d willingly take 🙂
      Obviously, I’m totally in favour of preservation and restoration of any landmark, especially when it concerns living conditions of tenants, but in the Chelsea’s case, it’s so sad to see it become just another ”historical hotel” with its old long term residents evicted or bought out, in the name of commercialisation/modernisation.

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