Jul 16, 2021 | Elizabeth Kuzyk
The Chelsea Hotel
The Chelsea Hotel, an iconic location for artists. A melting pot of creativity and energy that’s both legendary and infamous.
A gathering place for for creatives like Jackson Pollock, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, and Janis Joplin, the hotel is where Jack Kerouac wrote On The Road, where Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols murdered his girlfriend and manager Nancy Spungen, where artist Yves Klein wrote the Chelsea Hotel Manifesto, where playwright Arthur Miller took refuge (in room 614) for 6 years after his breakup with Marilyn Monroe, and wrote After the Fall and The Chelsea Affect, and the set for Madonna’s Sex book.
The hotel was opened in 1884 by architect Philip Hubert as a social experiment, a melting pot for those who built the place along with artists, writers and singers. Hubert envisioned a haven for creative types and a space for collaboration; unfortunately his vision of a utopia went bankrupt. In 1905 the Chelsea Hotel was reopened to the public as a luxury hotel, offering accommodations on Manhattan’s West 23rd Street. After decades of wear, tear and disrepair, the hotel was forced to lower its prices and became a breeding ground for bohemians.
In the 1960’s and 70’s (arguably the heyday of the hotel) Stanley Bard, who inherited the 250 unit building from his father, accepted art in exchange for rent. This exchange fostered the creative and bohemian environment.
"The hotel is an energetic, desperate haven for scores of gifted hustling children from every rung of the ladder. Guitar bums and stoned-out beauties in Victorian dresses. Junkie poets, playwrights, broke-down filmmakers, and French actors. Everybody passing through here is somebody, if not in the outside world.” recounts Patti Smith.
“I left a husband in 1969 and went to the Chelsea with a toothbrush” says designer Betsey Johnson. “I meant to stay for a couple of days and stayed for eight months.”
The hotel still stands and sixty to seventy tenants continue to call it home. This artistic community of residents have fought to preserve the building’s creative legacy, keeping the spirit of the Chelsea Hotel very much alive within its famous walls.