On Manhattan’s West Side, Chelsea is a fashionable neighborhood between 14th Street to the south, 30th Street to the north. The western boundary, the Ladies’ Mile Historic District, lays between the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and Seventh Avenue. Chelsea is known for its views of the Hudson on its eastern border and West Street on its western border. North of Chelsea is Hell’s Kitchen, also known as “Clinton,” with a fabulous nightlife scene. The Garment District is also nearby, as are the NoMad and the Flatiron District, the Meatpacking District, and the West Village.
Chelsea’s central location brings residents from all over the city to eat, play, and live in style.
New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood contains the Chelsea Historic District and its extension, designated historical sites by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1970 and 1981, respectively. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and was expanded in 1982 to include contiguous blocks containing significant period architecture.
Primarily a residential neighborhood, the residences are comprised of tenements, apartment blocks, city housing projects, townhouses, and renovated rowhouses. However, as the area gentrified, many well known retail businesses and boutiques have moved in including Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Christian Louboutin, and neighborhood favorite Barney’s CO-OP. Residents never need leave to enjoy the best retail experiences New York City has to offer.
Even if you’re just window shopping, Chelsea has something for every sartorial palette.
Chelsea is an area known for its creativity. From Silicon Alley to theaters and museums, and the famous galleries that are all house in the area, Chelsea is a neighborhood with a rich culture. Originally New York City’s visual arts community was centered in SoHo but with increasing rents and retail competition in the late 1990s, art galleries began looking for a more affordable place to feature their gorgeous works. Needing a lot of space to display artwork of all sizes and forms, Chelsea provided just the roominess particularly in west Chelsea, between 10th & 11th Avenues and 16th & 28th Streets.
This new mecca for contemporary art, the over 200 galleries housing modern art from both established and up-and-coming artist has led the Art District to be considered a global center for the art world.
In addition to the art galleries, the Rubin Museum of Art’s Himalayan art collection, focusing on Tibetan art, calls Chelsea home as does the Graffiti Research lab and New York Live Arts, which produces and presents dance and movement-based art forms. Other well respected and highly regarded performance venues include the Joyce Theater, located in the former Elgin Theater on 8th Avenue, is one of New York City’s premier modern dance institutions. Interestingly, the Elgin had been a revival movie theater that was closed after it an iniquitous transition to porn features.
Adding to the rich culture of Chelsea is The Kitchen, a theatrical and visual arts center focusing on cutting-edge entertainment opened in 1971 by Steina and Woody Vasulka. The Kitchen is named for its original location in the kitchen of the Mercer Arts Center.
Rounding out the entertainment options in Chelsea is Pike’s Opera House dating back to 1868. Soon after construction completed on Pike’s Opera House, James “Big Jim” Fisk and Jay Gould, considered to be some of the most ruthless robber barons of the Gilded Age, bought it and renamed it the Grand Opera House. After Fisk was shot and killed by a business associate, his memorial at the Grand Opera House drew a crowd of 20,000 people to mourn the mogul. Surviving until 1960, becoming an Radio-Keith-Orpheum Pictures (RKO) movie theater. RKO was better known as one of the Big Five movie studio’s of Hollywood’s Gilded Age, having famous roots that extending into politics.
Impressively, President John F. Kennedy’s father and Kennedy Family patriarch, Joe Kennedy Sr. was a founder of RKO so it’s no surprise he chose to plant one of his studio’s movie theaters in Chelsea.
Named after San Francisco’s famous Silicon Valley, part of New York City’s Silicon Valley can be found in Chelsea. Google’s New York offices occupy an entire city blook between 15th & 16 Streets and from 8th & 9th Avenues. The offices were converted from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey after having been the organization’s former Inland Terminal 1.
Designated in 1966 as a New York City Landmark, the Starrett-Lehigh Building was a freight terminal and warehouse that, like Google, took up an entire city block. Built between 1930 and 1931, the Starrett-Lehigh was a joint project between the Starrett real estate firm and the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Notable for it’s engineering which allowed trains to pull directly into the ground floor.
The Starrett-Lehigh Building was one of only a handful of American buildings to be honored by the Museum of Modern Art’s International Style exhibition.
One of Chelsea’s most famous destinations is the Chelsea Market. Formerly the National Biscuit Company–otherwise known to most AMericans as cookie giant Nabisco–Chelsea Market is a mixed use facility featuring shopping options, a food hall, offices, and a television production facility. In fact, Chelsea Market is the birthplace of the American dessert staple, the Oreo Cookie! Television networks housed in the Chelsea Market include New York cable station NY1, the Oxygen Network, the Food Network, MLB.com, and EMI Music Publishing. YouTube has even moved in under parent company, Google.
For foodies, Chelsea Market is notable for being the site where television shows such as Iron Chef America and Emeril Live are filmed.
Opened in the spring of 2009 and completed in 2014, Chelsea’s High Line bridge is a 1.45 mile long New York City park. Linear in construction due to it’s construction from a railroad track formerly called the West Side Line. The High Line was inspired by a similar Paris, France based project in 1993, the seemingly bucoloic High Line’s theme of rails-to-trails saw the bridge turned into a lush oasis where New Yorkers and tourists can be seen relaxing and enjoying the beautiful view. The project is noted for increasing real estate values and prices along its route as a halo effect of the urban improvement it engendered.
Chelsea’s status as a cultural mecca has attracted people from all walks of life. Chelsea’s famous LGBTQ population is just one of the diverse groups who love this wonderful neighborhood known for its inclusive vibe and social diversity. Bars and restaurants aimed at LGBT customers can be found along Eighth Avenue from 16th to 22nd Streets, between 9th & 10th Avenues.
New York City’s first cooperative apartment complex, Hotel Chelsea was built between 1883 and 1885 and was the tallest building in Manhattan until 1902.
Designed by Hubert, Pirsson & Co., Hotel Chelsea was adversely affected by the relocation of the theater district at the turn of the 20th Century and closed in 1905 before reopening as a hotel. Hotel Chelsea’s famous guests included Dylan Thomas, the famously hard drinking Welsh poet and writer who died prematurely after staying there in 1953. Infamously, Sid Vicious, the famous bass guitarist of the influential punk rock band, the Sex Pistols, murdered girlfriend and manager Nancy Spungen in one of Hotel Chelsea’s suites after a drug induced tempestuous love affair.
Seemingly a meeting spot for famous literary stars, other notable Hotel Chelsea guests have included celebrities from Mark Twain, Brendan Behan, Thomas Wolfe, Tennessee Williams, and Virgil Thomson.
From 1910 to 1935, Chelsea Pier was originally New York City’s primary terminal for luxury ocean liners before the ships architects began constructing cruisers too large for the complex. In fact, the doomed RMS Titanic was bound for Pier 60. Unfortunately, it was the RMS Carpathia that docked at Pier 54 bringing the few who survived the maritime disaster when the British luxury cruise ship careened with an iceberg and sunk to the bottom of the frigid waters of the Atlantic during her maiden voyage in 1912.
The Chelsea Piers are now a sports & entertainment complex which houses film and television production facilities, a health club & spa, the largest gymnastics training center in the city, basketball courts, indoor soccer fields, batting cages, rock climbing, dance studios, bowling center, golf club, and ice skating rink. Notably, the production studio at the piers is run by NBC Universal and shoots the NYC based shows The Blacklist and Law & Order: SVU now in its 18th season!
One might say there’s something for everyone and every activity level at the Chelsea Piers.
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