The Hotel Chelsea, a 12-story red-brick Victorian behemoth with flowered balconies on West 23rd Street in Manhattan, was the tallest building in New York when it opened in 1884. By the 1950s it had developed a reputation as a historic bohemian retreat for writers, painters , actors, rockstars, drug addicts, and rebellious youth of the time. The colorful legend endures, but after 11 years of litigation and renovations it has reopened, rather, as a luxury hotel.
Fortunately, Chelsea, as it is known, has not lost its charm. The hotel’s grand public spaces, 125 rooms and 30 suites have been redesigned by current owners Sean MacPherson, Ira Drukier and Richard Born, a trio whose previous modern Manhattan hotel projects include the Jane, the Bowery and Maritime. “Ultimately we got carried away by the romance of the building and wanted to restore it, not destroy it,” says McPherson, the group’s photogenic 50-something frontman, who has retained boyish good looks and a California surfer air.
Hotel Chelsea’s luxury makeover will soon be complete with the addition of a rooftop spa and gym. Whether the often spotted ghost of Dylan Thomas will join hotel guests for a dip in the hot tub remains to be seen.