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…
222 West 23rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues
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: