The Historic Neighborhood of Chelsea, New York
In West Manhattan is a small, lively neighborhood called Chelsea. Like many New York neighborhoods, it has strong roots. Yet, it differs from many with its refusal to remain in the past. It moves forward, embracing the present changes with its art galleries, indoor Chelsea Market, the High Line, revamped Chelsea Piers, modern high rise apartment buildings and condos in west Chelsea area. Yet, Chelsea still recognizes and respects its history.
The History of Chelsea
The origins of the neighborhood’s history are tied to the land. A British Major, Thomas Clark, retired to be a gentleman farmer. He constructed a Georgian style manor home on a lot at what now covers the distance of 23rd St. between 9th and 10th Ave. He called his new home, “Chelsea” in tribute to the great Thomas More. The family farm did not remain intact after his death. His daughter Charity inherited. She had married a Benjamin Moore. It was under the ownership of their son, Clement Clarke Moore that Chelsea began to change substantially.
The once thriving apple orchard became church property in 1827. The Episcopal Diocese of New York received it as a donation. Upon this particular piece of property rose the General Theological Seminary, its Gothic brownstone campus structures home to tubular bells. Ninth Avenue bisected the property and Moore began to subdivide the property along these lines. His buyers were wealthy New Yorkers.
Chelsea began to expand beyond these early divisions. Factories, expressly forbidden by Moore, began to grow and produce. This led to the construction of row houses and immigration, particularly from Ireland. Politics began to take over and the secluded district of Chelsea was altered forever.
Yet, it was not all manufacturing. In 1869, Chelsea saw the start of its now well-known theater district. In fact, it was a first for the city of New York. Here was an opera house. In Chelsea, Mary Pickford shot movies that were seen across the country.
The Historic District
While many buildings did not survive the years that passed, some have. In the Chelsea Historic District many structures remain some dating back to the 1800s; others are from the early 20th century. Among the most famous is the Chelsea Hotel. It has been the residence of many famous and infamous musicians and artists including William S. Burroughs, Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas and Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. You should also visit the Chelsea Market in the old Nabisco Factory, the revamped Chelsea Piers, the repurposed Starrett-Lehigh building and the Empire Diner.
West Chelsea Condos provide a view of the historic era and make a modern statement. Yet, the neighborhood is never divorced totally from its memorable past. Time has moved on, but old structures remain, many revamped for the new purpose the present world demands.
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