Even in overcrowded Manhattan, it’s possible to find places where you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. One such place is the Chelsea district, where you can find peace and quiet in one of the many local parks and reminisce about the so-called old New York.
Chelsea stretches along the west side of Midtown, between 14th street and 30th street, all the way to the Hudson River. The quarter, which is the work of Clement Moore, is full of architecturally interesting buildings, decorated with small details, ornaments and sculptural figures. The local houses and charming little churches give this district something of a 19th century atmosphere. Many New Yorkers have found peaceful living in these attractive townhouses and are very proud of their homes located near the center of the metropolis. Today, Chelsea is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Chelsea Historic District.
The area of today’s Chelsea was originally the property of the Dutch, the first farm was founded here by the settler Jacob Somerindych. In 1750, however, English army captain Thomas Clarke bought it from him. He also renamed the area Chelsea, after London’s Chelsea Royal Hospital. The houses that later started to grow here were also inspired by the architecture of the London district of the same name. Chelsea began to develop under the guidance of the versatile professor and writer Clement Clarke Moore – grandson of Thomas Clarke. For example, Moore donated a square lot on Ninth Avenue near Chelsea Square to the oldest Episcopal seminary in the country – the General Theological Seminary. It was there that he taught biblical languages. The courtyard is surrounded by buildings, the oldest of which is the West Building from 1836, which is a typical example of the Neo-Gothic style in New York.
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Opposite the seminary we find seven houses built in the neo-Greek style known as Cushman Row. Some of the windows are decorated with wreaths, and pineapples can be seen hanging from the columns near the stairs, as a sign of hospitality. These houses were built between 1839 and 1840 for businessman and builder Don Alonso Cushman. He was also responsible for the construction of four Italian-style buildings at the north end of the street. The narrow Italianate houses nearby are named after another important builder, James N. Wells. Wells’ home was the 1835 Greek Revival house #414.
Clement Clarke Moore, in addition to the aforementioned seminary, also founded the Episcopal Church of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, consisting of three buildings built between 1836 and 1838. The rectory here is the oldest neo-Gothic building in all of New York. The iron fence you can see here dates from 1790 and originally belonged to the chapel of St. Paul’s Chapel, located on South Broadway. Also of note is the 1846 Church of the Holy Communion, which was designed by Richard M. Upjohn. In 1858, the transversal nave of the Church of the Holy Apostles began to be built, which today is decorated with an unconventional tower with a bronze and slate tip. The authors of the windows here are John and William Jay Bolton, who were the first in the United States to start producing stained glass.
Chelsea is currently one of the city’s most dynamically developing districts. There are more than 190 art galleries, fashion stores, restaurants, high-tech companies, and the former shops of the Ladies’ Mile along Sixth Avenue have come to life. Chelsea is also known as a gay-friendly area and is also home to several important tube stations.
Located in the center of Chelsea is the Dia Center for the Arts, which opened in 1987. It has 3,720m2 of exhibition space where you can see exhibits of modern art that are too large to be displayed in smaller spaces. The new Chelsea Art Museum was created right next door with an exhibition of post-war European art. Art is also focused on the Rubin Museum, which is the first museum on the American continent dealing with Himalayan art. The exhibition is housed in a six-story building, where it is carefully arranged around a central spiral staircase. The Rubin Museum really stands out among other art-focused venues.
If you enjoy looking at fine art photographs, visit the John Stevenson Gallery. Photographs and other interesting exhibits are displayed in showcases in the cozy atmosphere of the town house. The real gem is the Museum of Sex, which is the first cultural institution in the country to deal with human sexuality.
Another interesting building is the Chelsea Hotel, which began to be built in 1884 according to the design of Hubert, Pirsson and Co. But then came the economic crisis and much of the Chelsea neighborhood was ruined. In 1905, however, the hotel was completed in its current form and opened. Almost immediately, it became a sought after residence for artists, writers and musicians. It has always been associated with artistic and bohemian activity. It is the first hotel that has maintained an artistic touch since its inception, moreover, at the time of its opening, Chelsea was known more as a theater district. Today, the hotel is decorated with ornamental wrought iron balconies and plaques on the facade honoring distinguished guests such as Mark Twain or Tennessee Williams.