Posts Tagged ‘23rd Street’

Why is Lady Liberty’s torch in Madison Square?

May 10, 2012

It’s very strange to see the Statue of Liberty’s enormous hand and torch parked in front of the western side of Madison Square—a genteel, elite neighborhood at the end of the 19th century.

But it all came down to fund-raising, and Madison Square was where the money was.

The hand and torch were placed in the park from 1876 to 1882 to get enough donations from Americans to complete the pedestal (the statue itself was the financial responsibility of the French).

Cash was coming in slowly, so Joseph Pulitzer, editor of The World, stepped in.”Pulitzer used his newspaper to criticize both the rich who had failed to finance the pedestal construction and the middle class who were content to rely upon the wealthy to provide the funds,” reports this Statue of Liberty website.

“Pulitzer’s campaign of harsh criticism was successful in motivating the people of America to donate.”

An unexpected stay at the Chelsea Hotel in 1978

August 10, 2011

The long list of famous folks who made the Chelsea their home has been well-documented, especially since management shut the doors to short-term guests on August 1.

But what about the non-celeb working people who did a stint there? Author Mary Cantwell documented her time at the Chelsea with her teenage daughter while the two were between apartments in 1978.

“By now we had run out of sublets, and there was nothing for it but the Chelsea Hotel,” she writes in her 1995 memoir Manhattan, When I Was Young.

Cantwell explains that she’d been in the Chelsea three times previously and that “on leaving it one walked through scarred corridors to a street where old black men, and a few old white men, held sad travesties of cocktail parties with cheap wine in paper bags and a brave bonhomie.”

“I had a horror of the Chelsea, yet here we were, with three cats, a dog, a few clothes, our portable television set, and my hot rollers, lodged directly above the room in which Sid Vicious had murdered his girlfriend, Nancy, a few days before.

“‘Did you hear anything?’ the plainclothes man who knocked on our door asked. ‘We’re new here’ I answered, and tried to make it clear that we were only passing through.”

They ended up staying eight months, snug in small, overheated accommodations, before moving on:

“It was a cold winter, but the radiators shuddered with heat, and in the fireplace the Dura-Flame logs from the delicatessen shook with flame. . . . The dog and the three cats nudged us in our sleep, jubilant because they were never more than five feet from their owners.”

[Top: NYPL photo of the Chelsea in the 1920: right: the Chelsea in 1996; source: Gyrofrog]

The wrought-iron flowers on the Chelsea Hotel

September 30, 2009

The Chelsea Hotel’s aesthetic appeal is pretty obvious: This 1883 structure—originally one of the city’s first apartment houses—has gothic-Victorian turrets, short corinthian columns, and a deep red brick facade.

It’s all the more striking considering how unremarkable the rest of the stretch of 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues is.


But have you ever really noticed the balconies, with their wrought-iron flowers, stems, and leaves all woven together? They’re really lovely, and easy to miss amid the hotel’s other beautiful design touches.