Twenty-four years ago, when writer Ed Hamilton and his wife Debbie Martin moved into the Chelsea Hotel “everybody at the hotel was in the arts. There were always parties, and somebody was always having a show of some kind.” They’ve spent more than two decades in a 220-square-foot SRO room, and despite not having a kitchen and sharing a bathroom, they have loved every second of it. Where else could you live down the hall from Thomas Wolfe’s one-time home? Or share a bathroom with Dee Dee Ramone?
But eight years ago, the landmarked property was sold to a developer, and since then, it has changed hands several times. Ed and Debbie have lived through nearly a decade of “renovations” (it’s still unclear when and if the property will eventually become luxury condos), all the while watching their rent-stabilized neighbors dwindle as the construction and legal battles got to be too much. In true old-New York fashion, however, Ed and Debbie have no thoughts of giving up their Chelsea Hotel life. They recently showed us around their bohemian apartment, and even as they took us through the building, covered in dust and drop cloths, they speak fondly of their memories and their commitment to staying put. Ahead, get a closer look at why trading off space for history was the right choice for this couple and learn how they’ve made it work, what their wildest stories are from the hotel’s heyday, and what their most recent tenant lawsuit may mean.
You don’t want to miss this apartment tour!
Background image via Andrew Malone/Flickr
When it comes to the Chelsea Hotel, Ed Hamilton has seen it all. He and his wife moved to the iconic property in 1995, living among artists and musicians in a 220-square-foot, single-room-occupancy unit. The storied, artistic community nurtured inside the hotel came to an end a decade ago when the building sold for the first time and evictions followed. Since then, the property has traded hands a number of times with talks of boutique hotel development, luxury condos, or some combination of the two. Hamilton started tracking the saga at his blog Living With Legends and published a book, “Legends of the Chelsea Hotel,” in 2007.
After the book’s success, Hamilton wrote a short story collection titled “The Chintz Age: Stories of Love and Loss for a new New York.” Each piece offers a different take on New York’s “hyper gentrification,” as he calls it: a mother unable to afford her lofty East Village apartment, giving it up to a daughter she shares a strained relationship with; a book store owner who confronts his failed writing career as a landlord forces him out of now highly valuable commercial space.
Ultimately, many of the stories were inspired by the characters he met inside the Chelsea Hotel. And his tales offer a new perspective on a changing city, one that focuses on “the personal, day-to-day struggles about the people who are trying to hang onto their place in New York.” With 6sqft, he shares what it’s like writing in the under-construction Chelsea Hotel, what the Chintz Age title means, and the unchanged spots of the city he still treasures.