Chelsea is the epicenter of the Manhattan arts scene, but connoisseurs of all kinds will find plenty to admire and enjoy in the stretch of Manhattan real estate between 14th Street and 34th Street west of Sixth Avenue. Chelsea is home not just to numerous world-renowned art galleries, but also to the luxe boutiques of Alexander McQueen and others; some of the finest fine dining in Manhattan (and some affordable, appealing scruffy ethnic restaurants, too); and some of the most distinctive architecture — from 19th century structures to new construction condominiums — Manhattan has to offer. Chelsea is also the heart of both Manhattan’s high-end club scene and the city’s LGBT community. Add it all up and you’ve got an ultra-hip study in New York contrasts — a distinctly modern Manhattan neighborhood that displays its 19th century roots with pride.
Much of the architecture in Chelsea dates back to the area’s first residential and industrial construction boom, back in the early 19th century. Many of the pre-war buildings in Chelsea have been renovated and re-imagined as luxury condominiums, and some of these new/old Chelsea condominiums have landmarked industrial spaces serving as their bases. Other classic Chelsea buildings have been repurposed in different ways — the foodie mecca (and TV studio/commercial space) Chelsea Market, for instance, is housed in a former Nabisco factory. And the lovely, hugely popular High Line Park is perhaps Chelsea’s most famous reinvention — a leafy thread of green on a repurposed 20th-century elevated train bed, the High Line runs the length of Chelsea, above the neighborhood’s avenues of shops and next to — and in some instances right through — the many new Chelsea condominiums near the High Line. In this ever-modernizing, uniquelly classical neighborhood, Federalist and Art Deco stalwarts coexist comfortably with Frank Gehry’s and Jean Nouvel’s ultra-modern, chameleon-like new condominiums. It’s a contrast that could only make sense in Chelsea, a neighborhood where old sits comfortably beside new.