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My Footnote of a Footnote in History at the Chelsea Hotel, and Brussels Wanderings

August 3, 2011

chelsea hotel

Chelsea Hotel in New York City

Call it delusions of grandeur if you want, but today I felt like I had become a footnote of a footnote in the history of the illustrious Chelsea Hotel in New York City, where so much cultural history of the last century was written. I’ve never been to the Chelsea Hotel. But next week I am going to New York City for a week to play in the open mics, and I decided to stay at the Chelsea and I booked a room. Today I was hit in two waves by the news that I would NOT be staying there.

First let me mention for readers who don’t know it, that the Chelsea is a landmark hotel in NYC, where writers, artists and various other outsiders have lived for decades. I cannot make a list of them all here, but get the mix: Virgil Thomson, the composer, Arthur C. Clarke, the writer, Dylan Thomas, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sid Vicious – who apparently stabbed Nancy Spungen to death there – and many others who popped by and used it as a meeting place, like Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Williams Burroughs. I can’t finish the list. I have a photo book that shows many of the other memorable tenants, like a guy who wrote 55 novels and never published one of them….

Anyway, there’s the history. In recent years it changed hands and the guy who ran the place – and was a part owner – left around four years ago and it eventually ceased accepting permanent residents and became a “regular” hotel. But it also kept the permanent residents who were still there.

In any case, last week I managed to book a room for my entire stay in NYC. I received a confirmation of the booking and I have been walking on clouds since then. After all, what a great place to stay in while I do the open mics and work on my film. Classic!

Then this morning as I was wandering around Brussels – actually, to be more precise, I was sitting in the restaurant on the 10th floor of the Musical Instrument Museum waiting for 1 PM to arrive so that I and my kids could get in for free, as they do at that time on the first Wednesday of each month. And I was trying to finish reading my International Herald Tribune from yesterday. And I saw a headline on the last page that attracted my attention as it spoke of a NYC landmark closing down.

Then I got the shock of the story that said the Chelsea was changing hands and no longer accepting guests and that all guests who had reserved a room were being kicked out or refused. I visited my musical museum and then another museum and then returned to my hotel room to write this blog post. And there in my mailbox was a letter to me from the Chelsea Hotel, basically telling me that as its valued guest I could go fuck myself.

Just when I thought I was going to have a wonderful time at the Chelsea Hotel – “I remember it well, at the Chelsea Hotel” – I got the big let down. Then I thought, well, on the other hand, here I have a letter addressed to me in a difficult and transitional moment of the history of this NYC monument and landmark. That’s kind of cool. I am sharing the letter with you below. And as my Internet connection is horrendously slow here in Brussels – where I am on a family vacation, but also looking for open mics and other musical things – I will do my Brussels post tomorrow or the next day, rounding it all up.

Here is the letter from the Chelsea Hotel:

August 2, 2011

Dear Valued Guest,

We are writing today in regards to your reservation for August 2011. We regret to inform you that we are unable to honor your reservation, as the Hotel Chelsea property has recently been sold.

We understand that this might be short notice, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, however the decisions were made outside of our control.

Please note that there will be NO charges on your credit card.

It is with a heavy heart that we close this chapter in the Hotel Chelsea’s rich and illustrious history. We wish you a safe and enjoyable stay in New York .

As a courtesy, we have listed several alternate Hotel recommendations located in the neighborhood and /or with a similar atmosphere and feel to the Legendary Chelsea Hotel.

We apologize once again and thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter.

Alternate Hotels in the Area

Chelsea Savoy- 204 West 23rd Street [212-929-9353]

Chelsea Gem- 300 West 22nd Street [212-675-1911]

Chelsea Star Hotel- 300 West 30th Street [212-244-7827]

Standard Hotel- 848 Washington Street [212-645-4646]

Alternate Hotels with Similar Feel

The Carlton Arms- 160 E. 25th Street [212-679-0680]

The Jane Hotel- 113 Jane Street [212-924-6700]

Yours truly,

Reservations Department

Hotel Chelsea

222 West 23rd Street

New York, NY 10011


  1. Hotel Chelsea remains open for residents. Any clue for when it will re open for guests?

    • Hi Paul, no, I have no idea. I dropped by the hotel when I was in New York, but I got no further information. The people at my hotel did not know either. The residents remain because of legal reasons, as far as I can see. They could not be ejected as quickly as short-term guests!

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