Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea Hotel’

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 last New York days of Sid Vicious

April 17, 2010

The beginning of the end for Sid started on October 12, 1978, when girlfriend Nancy Spungeon was mysteriously found dead from a stab wound in room 100 of the Chelsea Hotel.

Over the next three months, Sid was arrested for Nancy’s murder, set free on bail, and sent to Bellevue after slashing his wrists in a suicide attempt.

After his Bellevue stint, he was then shipped back to Rikers Island for slashing Patti Smith’s brother’s face with a bottle at a club.

Released from Rikers on February 1, 1979, he headed over to 63 Bank Street (right), where his new girlfriend had an apartment.

During a party that night celebrating his release, Sid shot up heroin several times. (Reportedly, he got the heroin from his own mother.)

He was found dead there in the morning.

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.