Change in Chelsea From Down-and-Out to Up-and-Coming

For years, Chelsea was a highly industrial fringe neighborhood, a commercial center on the west side of Manhattan filled with stables, railyards and rowhouses, but today it’s a popular place for restaurants, nightclubs, retail shopping and avant-garde art, fashion and furnishings.

The district's boundaries are roughly 14th Street to the south, 30th Street to the north, the western boundary of the Ladies' Mile Historic District between Sixth and Seventh Avenues to the east, and the Hudson River and West Street to the west. Adjacent to Chelsea on the north is Hell's Kitchen, renamed by brokers today as "Clinton," to the northeast is the Garment District, to the east are NoMad and the Flatiron District, to the southwest is the Meatpacking District and to the southeast is the West Village.

Named after a London Manorhouse

Historically, Chelsea’s name derives from the estate and Federal-style house of retired British Major Thomas Clarke, who obtained the property when he purchased the farm of Jacob Somerindyck in August 1750. The land was bounded by what would become 21st and 24th Streets, from the Hudson River to Eighth Avenue.

Clarke chose the name "Chelsea" after the manor of Chelsea, London, home to Sir Thomas More. Clarke passed the estate on to his daughter, Charity, who, with her husband Benjamin Moore, added land on the south of the estate extending it to 19th Street. The house was the birthplace of their son, Clement Clarke Moore, who in turn inherited the property. Moore is generally credited with writing the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" and penned the first Greek and Hebrew lexicons printed in the United States.

In 1827, Moore turned over some of his land to the Episcopal Diocese of New York for the General Theological Seminary, which built its brownstone Gothic, tree-shaded campus south of the manor house. Around this same time, Moore began developing Chelsea with the help of James N. Wells, dividing it up into lots along Ninth Avenue and selling the land to wealthy New Yorkers. Covenants in the deeds of sale specified what could be built on the land—stables, manufacturing and commercial uses were expressly forbidden. How the buildings were constructed was also spelled out.

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