New York’s last great bohemian outpost may be doomed.
The Hotel Chelsea, the Renaissance-style landmark that attracted artists such as Sid Vicious, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg, went on sale yesterday. The news made some observers wary, and others lament that the hotel’s classic soul is already gone.
The three families that primarily own it cited overwhelming maintenance costs, reports said, and insisted its legacy will survive a change of hands.
Daniel Walkowitz, a professor of metropolitan studies at New York University, is concerned about what a change at the hotel could mean for the neighborhood’s character.
“I’d feel a great sense of loss, as an historian and as a resident [of the neighborhood], if it turned into just another hotel.”
The Chelsea opened in 1884 as one of the city’s first co-ops, but the 12-story building transformed into a 250-room building in 1905.
A stark contrast to today’s boutique-hotel boom, the hotel for much of its history cultivated a community of struggling artists and creatives.
But the man who shaped that community for 50 years, Stanley Bard, was ousted in 2007, in what may have been a precursor to the sale.
Still, the hotel insists its vibe will stay intact.
“Anybody who’s going to be looking to buy the Chelsea knows [what it is], and there’s nothing you want to do to change what the Chelsea is,” said hotel spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt.
Yet other similar hotels, like the Gramercy Park Hotel, have undergone upscale face-lifts in recent years that rendered them unrecognizable.
Simeon Bankoff, executive director of the Historic Districts Council, said only memories remain of the Chelsea’s “glory days.”
“All of the things that the hotel means in our mind, it hasn’t been that place for many years,” he said.