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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

The Chelsea Hotel Closes Its Hallowed Halls for the First Time

by Susan Leem, associate producer

The Chelsea HotelThe Chelsea’s famous signage. (photo: Mr. Littlehand/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

"The Chelsea was like a doll’s house in the Twilight Zone, with a hundred rooms, each a small universe. I wandered the halls seeking its spirits, dead or alive."
~Patti Smith, from Just Kids

The musician and poet lived in the hotel during the 1970s with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and called the place her "university." The Chelsea opened in 1884 as one of New York City’s earliest cooperative apartment houses, and, two decades later, it was turned into a hotel. Other cultural icons like Sid Vicious, Dylan Thomas, O. Henry, Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs, and Bob Dylan (who, in the lyrics of "Sara" wrote, ”Staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel, writing Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands for you”), also called this historic New York landmark home.

Hotel guests were asked to leave on August 1st, and no new reservations will be accepted as ownership changes hands and their doors close on an era of art, poetry, and music. The future of current residents is uncertain.

Chelsea foyerA resident relaxes amid the art installations in the foyer of the iconic Chelsea Hotel. (photo: AndyWilson/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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