Tuesday, April 27, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Historic Hotel Chelsea

The Hotel Chelsea, located on 23rd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, is not only among New York's historic centerpieces of art, music, writing, photography and overall culture, but it remains as vital today as it did in the 1950 and 1960s, when it housed such luminaries as Dylan, Joplin, Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen, Arthur Miller... oh, yeah, and Sid Vicious.

The 10-story building was built in 1881 as a coop—then the city's tallest building—but after teetering toward bankruptcy, it became a "hotel" in 1905, albeit with a host of long-term residents. My pal Leonard Barton is among those who thrived in its heyday, as a resident from age 8 to 18. His mammer was a tenant from 1956-2006 and his stepdiddy, artist Chuck (Nahum) Tschacbasov, from 1940-1984. Over the years, Tschacbasov occupied as many as five residences & studios in the building, while Leonard called Apt. 1029 home.

On Saturday, we returned to his stomping ground for a visit, where manager Victor welcomed him with open arms. Tourists are not allowed to take photos inside the hotel—but The Smoking Nun was not only allowed access, but we were able to take the elevator to Leonard's original childhood home. Following is a rare look inside the Hotel Chelsea, from the lobby to the top floor.Hanging in the lobby, behind the front desk, Tschacbasov's work "Playground," painted in 1983, which has been on display since 1986.Upward to the 10th floor!Above, staircase, looking downward. Below, Leo on 10th-floor stairwell.You can go home again.View from the end of the hallway, 10th floor.One of the nightly "rooms" for rent on Floor 10.And finally, out front, where Leonard reconnected with David Bard, the grandson of David Bard senior, an original owner. The hotel was then managed by Stanley Bard, whom Leonard knew well.What an amazing experience, truly gaining the inside view. Unforgettable. (PHOTOS: THE SMOKING NUN)