Exploration of the hidden history of the Manhattan art district via a weekly blog. After a few years of leading guided tours of the neighborhood, I developed a hunger to know more about social histories in the area that lack three-dimensionality. 


Early 1800s Chelsea was far north of New York City’s booming economic and residential center. Clement Clarke Moore a religious scholar, church organist and author who grew up on 9th Avenue and 22nd Street wrote a pamphlet arguing for the preservation of Manhattan’s old Dutch character in an effort to block the 1811 Commissioner’s Plan, which imposed a grid street plan onto Manhattan. As a child Moore would relocate surveyor’s markers to delay development and stop the demolition of neighbor's homes. Despite Moore’s efforts his family’s home, where George Washington was once entertained and slept, was demolished in 1818 to make way for the creation of Ninth Avenue and urban progress. 

This entry was posted in Invisible History of Chelsea on February 23, 2014.


A lonely iron structure sits on Pier 59 at the southern edge of Chelsea's shore. The site is where the Titanic was scheduled to dock upon its arrival in New York in April 1912. Frantic friends and family gathered at the Pier for news of the disaster and to learn the fate of the Cunard Line's passengers. The Cunard name can still be made out on an iron header. 

This entry was posted in Invisible History of Chelsea on March 30, 2014.

French actress, Sarah Bernhardt, a legend of the stage and screen lived at the Hotel Chelsea from 1886 to 1900. The tragedienne became a sensation for her portrayal of Hamlet in the screen adaptation of Shakespeare's classic by Adolph Zukor. The eccentric artist also travelled with a coffin, which she set up in her lodgings as a bed. Bernhardt also loved chess and one of her favorite opponents was an automaton named Ajeeb at the Eden Musée a block a way from the Hotel Chelsea. In 1915 an old injury due to a stage accident worsened and the threat of gangrene resulted in the amputation of Bernhardt's leg. Despite the tragic loss, she continued to perform with a wooden leg.

This entry was posted in Invisible History of Chelsea on April 27, 2014.


The nineteenth century heart of Chelsea is the Episcopal Seminary, which sits on land donated by Clement Clarke Moore, a biblical scholar who taught linguistics at the Seminary. The site was once an apple orchard cultivated by Moore's maternal grandfather, Captain Thomas Moore, who named his estate and the neighborhood Chelsea after the eighteenth century military hospital in London. The Gothic Revival church at the center of the campus is modeled after Magdalen College at Oxford University, a nod to the Seminary's Anglican roots. The photo at left shows the original fifteenth century Magdalen Tower that inspired the Seminary's landmark architecture. 

This entry was posted in Invisible History of Chelsea on May 30, 2014.


Dia Center for the Arts has occupied 535 West 22nd Street for over two decades where it has presented a wide range of exhibitions, readings, symposia, concerts and cultural programs. In 1987 Dia, an early pioneer of the Chelsea Art District, organized the installation of 7,000 Eichen an experiment in environmental awareness by German artist Josef Beuys. The public art project included the planting of  Oak trees along the sidewalk at regular intervals, which are punctuated by rough-hewn basalt stele. This special edition of an Earth-art installation is a symbolic warning to humans to respect and preserve nature. The trees provide oxygen and represent life, while the basalt stones represent eternal time. 

This entry was posted in Invisible History of Chelsea on June 29, 2014.