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How Chelsea Became a Neighborhood: From Orchards to Nightclubs

PODCAST What does the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea mean to you? Religion and architecture? Art galleries and gay bars? Shopping and brunch after a stroll on the High Line? Tens of thousands of people, of course, call it home.

But before it was a neighborhood, it was the Colonial-era estate — the home of a British military officer who named his bucolic property after a London veterans hospital.

His descendant Clement Clarke Moore would distinguish himself as a theologian and writer; he invented many aspects of the Christmas season in one very famous poem. But he could no longer preserve his family estate when New York civic planners (and the Commissioners Plan of 1811) came a-calling.

Chelsea House, home of Clement Clarke Moore

Moore parceled the estate into private lots in the 1820s and 30s, creating both the exclusive development Chelsea Square and the grand, beautiful General Theological Seminary.

Slowly, over the decades, this charming residential district (protected as a historic district today) would be surrounded by a wide variety of urban needs — from heavy industrial to venues of amusement. One stretch would even become “the Bowery of the West Side.”

Further change arrived in the late 20th century as blocks of tenements were replaced with housing projects and emptied warehouses became discotheques and art collectives. Then came the Big Cup.

Join us as we celebrate over 200 years of urban development — how Chelsea the estate became Chelsea the neighborhood.

LISTEN NOW: HOW CHELSEA BECAME A NEIGHBORHOOD

DESIGNATION REPORTS

Hotel Chelsea (1966)
Church of the Holy Apostles (1966)
Chelsea Historic District (1970)
Starrett-Lehigh Building (1986)
West Chelsea Historic District (2008)
Lamartine Place Historic District (2009)
147 Eighth Avenue (2009)

Photo by Greg Young
Two gorgeous townhouses on Chelsea Square. Photo by Greg Young
Photo by Greg Young

Photos from the General Theological Seminary. Leave your ID at the front desk and you can go on a tour of this lovely site yourself…..

The seminary in 1900, Detroit Publishing Co, courtesy Library of Congress
London Terrace 1919 / New York Public Library
London Terrace in 1931.
London Terrace today. Photo by Greg Young
The Grand Opera House, 23rd and 8th Avenue, Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York
Some older structures along Ninth Avenue. Photo by Greg Young
Photo by Greg Young
Greg on the unfinished part of the High Line with the Starrett-Lehigh Building in the background, 2012
Starrett-Lehigh Building today
Captivating Lamartine Place on West 29th Street with Hudson Yards looming in the distance.
The Big Cup on Eighth Avenue. Picture courtesy the Facebook group THEN & NOW: Uncle Charlie Remembers Our LGBT Memories of NYC

A short documentary on the nightclub called Tunnel:

FURTHER LISTENING

After listening to this episode on the history of the Chelsea neighborhood, check out these past episodes with similar themes and subjects


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5 replies on “How Chelsea Became a Neighborhood: From Orchards to Nightclubs”

Years ago I had the good fortune to be invited to play golf at the beautiful Misquamicut club on the Long Island Sound coast of Rhode Island. The memory of the day is even better because I got to use the locker of Clement Clark Moore lV.

Thank you for this episode, it was just brilliant. I lived in Chelsea from 93-2016 until I immigrated to brooklyn. I loved the history and vibrancy of the neighborhood and miss it very much. I learned so many things by listening and will be sharing with friends and family.

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