A Scruffy Guitar Shop Survives the Chelsea Hotel’s Chic Makeover
Last month, we visited the former Chelsea Hotel with our own money and a tour guide named Brian. Located in a block of mid-20th-century rowhouses near the intersection of Fifth and Sixth Streets in Chelsea, the Chelsea is now a converted, $1.3-million, 1,400-square-foot Italianate mansion. The hotel, which opened in 1923, and was once one of the country’s most prestigious addresses, was designed by architects Henry B. Ash and Charles Fitch, who were part of the team that built the Hotel Coronado in San Diego. When I visited the Chelsea last year, I was so impressed with its restored elegance and rich history, I asked Brian if he would give it an overview.
What made you first become interested in the Chelsea Hotel back in the day?
What I wanted to do was find out everything there was to know about it. I’d go all over New York City looking for a hotel and then end up there. I got there and I visited the rooms and the lobby and the restaurant. I also went to a couple of rooms, but it was very hard to get into.
I didn’t even realize the hotel had been closed. But when I discovered it was, I just had to go back again. I had a very bad idea that I was going to have a great time there, that it was going to be spectacular.
I did the same thing with the Plaza, with the Chrysler Building, with the John Hancock, with all the other buildings. I would go to all the buildings. Then one day I went to the Chelsea to see if it was actually like what I thought it was. I wanted to see the rooms there in person and, most importantly, I had no idea that they actually had the room where the famous author Tennessee Williams once stayed. It’s where he wrote the play, “A Streetcar Named Desire”; it’s where he wrote “A Streetcar Named Desire.” It’s in the room named after him in the Chelsea. Not only did I go back and do an interview with