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The Chelsea: A Hotel for Writers

Towering above Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, The Chelsea Hotel stands alone as a true city landmark. It isn’t just located in the heart of the city; this hotel has been described by some as the heart of New York’s artistic community. In a city of beautiful and noteworthy hotels, it has become notorious as host to many a multitude of creatives, including those who write. For generations, scores of writers, poets, and musicians have frequented The Chelsea and many have even taken up residence there at one time or another. This establishment didn’t just host these writers; it’s said to have inspired some of their best work.

Arthur Miller

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For some, The Chelsea served as a place of refuge. Such was the case of Arthur Miller, who moved into the hotel in an attempt to escape his troubled marriage to Marilyn Monroe. It was there than he wrote his play After the Fall. Unfortunately, this play was somewhat ill-fated, though it did inspire other authors to write at The Chelsea. When Monroe committed suicide, Miller was accused of having written the play about her and the role he played in her self-destructive lifestyle. This negative press surrounding Miller did not help the success of his play, which met with little critical acclaim. Years earlier, he had first become drawn to The Chelsea while visiting poet Dylan Thomas there.

Edgar Lee Masters

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One of the most famous works to chronicle The Chelsea was a poem titled “Hotel Chelsea”. Written by Edgar Lee Masters, “Hotel Chelsea” told of The Great Depression and the turbulent economic times it brought. Rumors that The Chelsea was on the verge of being torn down under pressue of bankruptcy had people – such as Masters – scrambling to save it. The poet refused to leave his room in the hotel even after his wife walked out. Thankfully, The Chelsea remained standing tall, as it does to this day.

Brendan Behan

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A true rogue with a notoriously troubled life, Brendan Behan found himself at The Chelsea and on his last legs. His alcoholic habits and brushes with the law kept him away from his native Ireland and gotten him kicked out of multiple hotels in England. The playwright and novelist was barely able to write with a pen by the time he arrived at The Chelsea. He regained his health there, though, and was able to dictate his work Brendan Behan’s New York into a tape recorder. It was also at The Chelsea that he befriended poet Allen Ginsberg, also a frequent hotel resident.

Thomas Wolfe

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During his time at The Chelsea, Masters inspired other writers to join him there. One such writer was Thomas Wolfe, who became known for pacing the halls of the hotel at night, going over scenes for his current novel. He and Masters would frequently drink late into the night to take a break from writing.

The Chelsea saw Wolfe complete two novels, You Can’t Go Home Again and The Web and The Rock during his time there. Years later, a young author named Jack Kerouac would become inspired by Wolfe’s stories and would become part of a new generation of writers at The Chelsea.

Arthur C. Clark 

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One author relied on support from his Chelsea neighbors for a work that would shape his career. Arthur C. Clark worked diligently on the screenplay adaptation of 2001: A Space OdysseyClark found himself unable to work alongside his partner Stanley Kubrick, but his comrades from The Chelsea, such as Arthur Miller, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs helped inspire him through the difficult project. When the film proved a overwhelming success, Clark returned to The Chelsea and, as a thank you, gave his friends many demonstrations of the groundbreaking scientific tools used for the film, making The Chelsea more noteworthy than ever before. 

Featured image courtesy of The Red List.