Two punks pushing middle age, a man and a woman dressed in black, sat together on a bench in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 29. The room was decorated for Halloween… A small pack of German tourists filed past with rolling suitcases to check in at the desk. The couple was on vacation in New York City, and the Chelsea was their last stop. Ten days earlier, the hotel’s owners—a group of 16 shareholders led by the descendants of three Hungarian men who purchased it in 1946—announced that, after years of bad publicity, abortive management changes and dozens of lawsuits including some against each other, the icon was for sale.
The Chelsea Hotel has history and architecture. Is that sufficient to justify a $100 million sale price?
The Chelsea sits fortresslike on 23rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth avenues. When the 12-story building opened in 1883, as a 44-room co-op apartment house, it was the tallest in New York. The Chelsea isn’t named after the neighborhood; the neighborhood is named after the Chelsea.