Categories: Books

Inside the Dream Palace

By Sherill Tippins
Mariner Books; $16

You can tell what kind of New Yorkers you know by the names they drop when they explain the Hotel Chelsea. Literay fans, for example, might mention Mark Twain (for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court) or Madonna (for Sex). Everyone knows it’s where Sid maybe murdered Nancy. Sherill Tippins drops all the names — from 1884 to present — in Inside the Dream Palace. Built as a utopia for bohemian ideals, the building has functioned as a hotel, a residence, a convalescence house for Titanic survivors and a salon — often all at once.

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Tippins’ history never gets too academic but maintains a respect for this landmark of both architecture and culture. It’s a true New York story: sex, drugs and real estate. Over the past few years, the property has been in the news as longtime residents (such as party promoter Suzanne Bartsch) have tenaciously clung to rent-controlled apartments within, insisting that management’s desires to “perform renovations” are veiled attempts to drive them out. The Chelsea is expected to reopen as a hotel sometime in 2015; presently, it houses a trendy doughnut shop. How New York indeed.

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Matt Gurry

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