Monday, August 1, 2011
After its recent sale for a piddling $80 million to developer Joseph Chetrit, the legendary Hotel Chelsea closed its doors to guests Saturday night for the first time in its 130-year history. Extensive renovations are expected to last the better part of a year. The hotel’s 100 permanent residents are apparently allowed to stay during the re-do.
The iconic 10-story Queen Anne red brick building at 23rd Street between Seventh & Eighth Avenues opened in 1881 as a coop. It transitioned into a hotel in 1905, maintaining scores of full-time occupants, along with its standing as an historic centerpiece of art, music, writing, photography and overall New York culture. In the 1950s-1960s, it housed such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen, Arthur Miller and Sid Vicious.
New owner Chetrit insists he will maintain the Chelsea as an inn, though potentially prohibitive costs—including an overall of all plumbing, ventilation and electrical—may change that. An architect working on the project assured The New York Times that the destination's charm would be preserved. One positive variable: The building is landmarked, so there's no danger of it becoming one of the nabe's generic new brick boxes.
Residents in the Times article say the hotel’s character shifted irrevocably after former manager and part-owner Stanley Bard was ousted by the hotel’s board four years ago. He had acted as curator, deciding who got to stay and how much they paid. Hotel occupancy and room rates have suffered since, with celebrities and artists replaced by budget tourists.
My pal Leonard Barton (above) is among those who thrived in the Chelsea's heyday, as a resident from age 8-18. His mammer was a tenant from 1956-2006 and his stepdiddy, artist Chuck (Nahum) Tschacbasov, from 1940-1984. Over the years, Tschacbasov occupied five residences & studios in the building, while Leo called Apt. 1029 home. Tschacbasov's 1983 work "Playground" has been displayed behind the lobby's front desk since 1986. Leonard & I were allowed a rare inside look in April 2010, when he returned to visit with friend David Bard, son of Stanley...