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Chelsea – Neighborhood Series

Delicious food, amazing museums, powerful history, diverse and inclusive population, and a vibrant nightlife – All of these can be used to describe one of the few NYC neighborhoods that still retain their colonial names. This beautiful, culturally enriched, and historically potent neighborhood holds a great many attractions for its visitors.

Geography

The boundaries of Chelsea have been a bit contentious. By the most generous definition, Chelsea is bounded by 34th street, 7th Avenue, and 14th street on the northern, eastern, and southern sides, with Hudson River on the west. This puts one of the youngest neighborhoods: Hudson Yards inside Chelsea boundaries. More restrictive definitions pull the neighborhood down (from the North) to 29th street. But the core of the neighborhood (undisputed part of it) is below 27th street. 

History

The Manhattan neighborhood we call Chelsea was once inhabited by Algonquin Indians and was known for its abundance of game. Then came Europeans who developed it as farmland, with Chelsea becoming part of Jacob Somerindyck’s farmland, who sold it to an English major (Retired) in 1750, and it remained in his family for some time. In the 1800s, Clement Clarke Moore, English Major’s grandson (maternal) who is famous for “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” started dividing the land he owned and selling it to New Yorkers with guidelines and restrictions on how to build. 

It remained mostly residential until the mid-1800s, when industrialization along the Hudson River changed the neighborhood (and its population). In the late 1800s, the neighborhood became a focal point of the early motion picture companies. Following the commercialization, Chelsea became primarily residential again in the early 1900s. 

Origin Of The Name

Chelsea got its name from the retired British major and landowner Thomas Clarke who bought 94 acres of land (in 1750), where we currently have the neighborhood of NYC. That land became the root of the Chelsea neighborhood, and Clarke named it Chelsea after an English veteran hospital and soldier’s home called Royal Hospital Chelsea, founded in the late 1600s. Chelsea is one of the few neighborhoods in NYC that retained its original name. 

Main Attractions Of The Neighborhood

Chelsea is well-known for its food scene and is home to many great food establishments:

  1. NY Pizza Suprema (413 8th Ave): It’s either in Chelsea or Hudson Yards (depending on the boundaries), but it’s arguably one of the best places in NYC for a plain slice and offers a great variety.
  2. Los Tacos No. 1 (75 9th Ave): It’s a great Mexican place that offers authentic flavors and some of the best tacos in Manhattan. There is usually a long line, but most Taco lovers find it well worth their time.
  3. Buddakan (75 9th Ave): It’s an Asian Fusion restaurant in the Chelsea Market with great ambiance and amazing Chinese food. 
  4. Coppelia (207 W 14th St): If you are looking for comfort food in a casual setting, this pan-Latin/Cuban fare might be perfect for you. Its Lomo Saltado is quite famous.
  5. The Raines Law Room (48 W 17th St): It’s a remnant of Chelsea’s prohibition days –With a semisecret entrance (which is no secret nowadays), and you have to ring a bell to get in. It boasts amazing architecture and a great selection of drinks.

    Chelsea has its fair share of famous buildings, most prominent of which are:

  6. The Vessel (20 Hudson Yards): The Vessel is an architectural marvel. It’s an apartment building with a honeycomb structure and a vessel shape, making it more spread out on the top and thinner in the bottom. It’s a gorgeous building and a major tourist attraction. 
  7. Pennsylvania Station: It’s an impressive piece of architecture and the busiest transport facility (not just the subway) in the Northern Hemisphere. 
  8. London Terrace Towers (440 W 24th St): The apartment building complex originally opened in 1930 was the largest apartment complex in the world at that time and covered an entire block. 
  9. Chelsea Savoy Hotel (204 W 23rd St): It’s also called Chelsea Hotel or simply the Chelsea and was built in 1884. It’s associated with many significant events and has been a landmark building since 1977. 
  10. Google Building (111 Eighth Avenue): It’s the fourth largest building in NYC (by floor area) and one of the largest office buildings in the world owned by tech companies (in this case, Google). The company bought it for about $1.9 billion in 2010, making it one of the most expensive real estate deals in the city’s history.

    Chelsea, by virtue of its location and history, is home to many great attractions for both locals and newcomers.

  11. The High Line: It was elevated tracks that were laid in order to avoid deaths related to street-level freight trains in 1934. The 1.45 mile-long part of the original elevated tracks was converted into a park relatively recently. Now, it offers amazing views of Chelsea from a height and is connected to the Vessel.
  12. Chelsea Market (75 9th Ave): It’s another building in the neighborhood owned by Google. It originally consisted of a lot of baking facilities that were later merged into one company. Now, it’s a landmarked shopping center full of amazing food establishments. 
  13. Madison Square Garden (4 Pennsylvania Plaza): It’s arguably the world’s most famous arena and has a rich history. It opened in 1879 and has been the venue for several memorable events, like “The Fight of the Century” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It’s a must-visit place for sports lovers.
  14. Rubin Museum of Art(150 W 17th St): It’s a small, quiet museum that is home to a great collection of artifacts from the Himalayan region and associated with the history of countries like Bhutan, India, and Nepal.
  15. The Museum at FIT (227 W 27th St): Even if fashion is not really your thing, this museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology can be a great place to visit. It shows how fashion has evolved over the last three or four centuries.

What Is Chelsea Known For?

  • Chelsea is known for art galleries and museums
  • Its exciting nightlife and cocktail bars, many of which used to be speakeasies during prohibition. 
  • Good restaurants. 
  • Diversity and casual lifestyle.
  • Beautiful brownstones. 

Population 

Manhattan District 4 has a population of 122,119, which includes Chelsea (along with Clinton and Hudson Yards). Different sources put the population of the neighborhood itself between 48,000 and 60,000. 

Interesting Facts About Chelsea

  • Its warehouses were used to store uranium for the Manhattan Project, and it’s part of the reason the project got its name
  • Titanic was supposed to dock in Pier 58, owned by White Star Line. It’s now part of Chelsea Piers
  • It was the venue for one of the deadliest riots in NYC history (Orange Riot), which resulted in the death of 60 civilians