Who knows what the future holds for the famed Hotel Chelsea (usually referred to incorrectly as the Chelsea Hotel), located in the Manhattan neighborhood it’s named after? But no matter what happens, it probably won’t ever again be home to generations of artists both established and up-and-coming, in a city where busloads of young people still arrive every day with dreams of making it big. It has become another New York landmark whose importance has become mostly symbolic, but unlike hundreds of other historic buildings mercilessly knocked down to make way for newer, uglier glass boxes, at least the 12-story brick structure is still there.
Sherill Tippins, who has made a specialty of chronicling famous bohemian haunts — she’s also the author of February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof in Brooklyn — had her work cut out for her with Inside the Dream Palace, her new history of the Chelsea. Luckily for us, Tippins proved equal to the task, shedding light on nearly every famous resident to either live there, as well as some of their famous guests. Inside the Dream Palace is a history that balances facts and figures with a feeling that you’re actually in the hotel’s rooms with some of the residents she focuses on, and ultimately delivers the best full book on the iconic residence, without coming off as too gossipy.
But this is the Hotel Chelsea we’re talking about, so of course there’s good gossip to be told. Here are some of the best tidbits.
Rent in New York is always a crazy game, but a month at the Chelsea in 1884 cost you $41-$250, which comes out to $986 to $5910 today. Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe paid $55 a week for their room in 1969, which would be $337 a week in 2013.