New York Hotels Blog

August 26, 2010

Hotel reviews: The Chelsea Hotel, New York City

The neighborhood known as Chelsea, like the rest of New York City, is home to a hodgepodge of architectural styles. No specific examples dominate the streets of Chelsea, although there are probably a greater number of Art Deco and Greek Revivalist buildings than anything else. There exists at least one instance of the Queen Anne style, uncommonly used for anything other than single-family dwellings, in the Hotel Chelsea (colloquially referred to as the Chelsea Hotel, and hereafter, simply the Chelsea).

Designed by architects Hubert, Pirsson and Co. and constructed in 1883-4, the Chelsea was the first co-operative apartment complex in New York. Upon its completion, it was the tallest building in the city and remained so until 1902. The building sported “wrought-iron balconies, apartments of one to seven rooms (built to the purchaser’s specifications), high ceilings, fire and sound-proof walls, wood-burning fireplaces, and private penthouses. A unique iron staircase, constructed with a wrought-iron balustrade and mahogany banister, ran (and still runs) from the lobby to the twelfth floor” (1). Its exterior features ruddy brick with white accents beneath the bay windows and above the arched doors and windows, and short Corinthian-style columns on the ground and second stories. The wrought-iron balconies mentioned above adorn nearly the entire faade, in keeping with the relatively few identifying features of the Queen Anne style. Other marks of the style include irregular roof shapes that are often steeply pitched, front-facing gables, polychromatic and decorative ornamentation, and sometimes rounded or square towers and turrets (2). Queen Anne commercial buildings tend to be multi-storied with bay windows. Richard Norman Shaw was, in his time, England’s most prominent architect and the greatest promoter of the Queen Anne style, which, in contrast to its name, was prevalent during the last two decades of the 19th century and not during the reign of Her Majesty in the early 18th century. The style “represented [the] culmination of picturesque, romantic styles of [the] 19th century. Anything goes: style itself is based on “decorative excess” and variety. No focus on specific historical detailing; rather, a combination of various forms/styles” (2). It is commonly considered the most eclectic of the Victorian-era architectural styles.

And that last fact is perhaps the most befitting feature of the style as it applies to the Chelsea, in light of the apartment

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