Archive for the ‘Chelsea’ category

Ankling to the Chelsea Hotel…or is it the Hotel Chelsea? (Part 2)

November 20, 2007

Okay, my previous post was all about the exterior of the famous Chelsea Hotel.  It’s nondescript on the outside but has a wall of plaques that would be the envy of any hotel anywhere.  The hotel is reknowned as a last vestige of the Bohemian movement in NYC.  It sure won’t win any awards for glossiness.

The doorway is ordinary.  Double-wide glass doors.  The lobby is relatively tiny with the desk set in the far back.  I asked if they minded if I took pictures.  The gentleman seemed taken a little aback, but granted it.  I presume he was taken aback by the request for permission.  I don’t think he was surprised that someone would want to take its picture.  It’s…an unusual lobby.


Yes, a girl in a swing.  But note that it isn’t a red velvet swing.  That’s a story about Madison Square Garden for another time.

The walls are lined with artwork.  The first one, apparently named “Presidents” was one that I found a bit captivating.  I sure don’t know why, though.  It looks like the old Dutch Masters cigar box.




I’ve no idea whose bust that is, but it looks a bit like Harry Truman.


This is what you see when you first walk in…other than the woman on a swing.


You’ll note that I’m not posting any pictures of the lobby itself.  Just the walls.  The furniture, in a word, is non-descript.  Boring.  Pretty comfortable, but not old.  Just some cloth covered seating for maybe 15 or 20.  There were a number of people in the lobby doing work (on laptops) or reading.  I didn’t want to bother them so I did my photography around them.

I didn’t go into any of the rooms, or even go past the desk area, so I don’t know if the rest of the place is swanky or not.  I imagine it’s not.  I think they’re letting the history of the place speak for itself…and the artwork.  I wonder if it ever changes.  I wonder what the criteria for inclusion is.  I can’t imagine taking down the woman in the swing, though.

So, is it the “Chelsea Hotel” or the “Hotel Chelsea”?  The plaques keep saying “Chelsea Hotel”.  The hotel’s website is  I’m all in favor of voting:  when I google “Hotel Chelsea”, I get 383,000 hits.  When I go after “Chelsea Hotel”, it returns 653,000 hits.  The affectation-friendly “Hotel Chelsea” seems the loser.  Even the hotel’s official website gives it both names.

Would the plaques lie to us?

Oh, and the place has an interesting blog:  Living with Legends.


Ankling to the Chelsea Hotel…or is it the Hotel Chelsea? (Part 1)

November 19, 2007

Chelsea is one of those “hot” areas that I really don’t understand.  Everybody always talks about how it is one of those places that you have to see and be seen…but I’m only moderately fond of it (and that’s a bit of an overstatement).  My lack of hipster credentials grows ever more apparent.

But don’t be in doubt, there are some really great places there.  I’ll be writing about some of them over time, but mostly places I already know.  The Chelsea Hotel?  I had heard about it, but hadn’t paid too much attention to it.  On a day off with the weather getting “iffy”, I wanted to go to someplace nearby and decided that I would finally take a look at the place.  The only thing I really knew about it was that’s where Nancy Spungen was killed (apparently by Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols).  I had heard it was connected to the old Bohemianism stuff that evolved into the counterculture of the 60s and all.

Walking up to it…well, it doesn’t exude flashiness or modernness or even seem to stick out in any way.


But, then…you get to the doorway and the importance of the place becomes evident.


Sorry about the shaky shot, it happens sometimes.

Okay, that’s one plaque.  That’s not too difficult to get in a town with the history of NYC.  But I counted ten plaques all clustered around the front door.  I’ve put in Wikipedia links on the names for further backgroup, if you wish.  Click on the plaque names to open a jpeg of the plaque.

First, a plaque to Pulitzer Prize winner Virgil Thomson who lived at the hotel for more than 50 years.


The next is for Arthur Clarke.  I don’t know that he “invented” the communication satellite, but he was apparently just the first to conceptualize and popularize it.  But writing “2001: A Space Odyssey” at the Chelsea Hotel is something else.


A plaque for Shirley Clarke an avant-garde filmmaker from the 50s and 60s.  Apparently some of her films were made in the hotel itself.


The next plaque gives something of the history of the hotel.  It was designed by Hubert & Prisson, opened in 1884 as a cooperative apartment, and became a hotel in 1905.  It then gives the names of some of its famous residents:  Arthur B. Davies (a famous painter from the early 1900s), James T. Farrell (a writer who did the “Studs Lonigan” series), Robert Flaherty (a documentary filmmaker who did the “Nanook of the North” film in 1922), O. Henry (the short story writer), John Sloan (a painter), Dylan Thomas (poet and writer of “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night“), and Thomas Wolfe (author of “Look Homeward Angel” which has to be one of the most depressing, but great, books I’ve ever read).


The next plaque is for Brendan Behan, an Irish writer.


A plaque to Pulitzer Prize winning poet, James Schuyler.


Another plaque to Thomas Wolfe, a writer whose works I’ve enjoyed.  He died at 38 and it says he lived at the Chelsea Hotel “during the last years of his life”.


And another to Dylan Thomas.  There’s a weird statement on this one:  “Who Lived and Labored Last Here at the Chelsea Hotel and From Here Sailed Out to Die.”  It’s strange because Wikipedia says that he died after collapsing at the White Horse Tavern in nearby Greenwich Village.  Okay, it’s strange just as a statement, too.


And, finally, a plaque for playwrite Arthur Miller.


And those are just the plaques I saw.  I doubt they’re any others on the exterior, but I won’t venture as to what plaques exist on the interior. 

You know, I had expected this post to be very short, but got so involved in the exterior that I’m going to break it into two parts.