Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York's Legendary Chelsea Hotel

Rate this book
The next best thing to having a room key to the Chelsea Hotel during each of its famous—and infamous—decades

The Chelsea Hotel, since its founding by a visionary French architect in 1884, has been an icon of American a cultural dynamo and haven for the counterculture, all in one astonishing building. Sherill Tippins, author of the acclaimed February House , delivers a masterful and endlessly entertaining history of the Chelsea and of the successive generations of artists who have cohabited and created there, among them John Sloan, Edgar Lee Masters, Thomas Wolfe, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Sam Shepard, Sid Vicious, and Dee Dee Ramone. Now as legendary as the artists it has housed and the countless creative collaborations it has sparked, the Chelsea has always stood as a mystery as Why and how did this hotel become the largest and longest-lived artists’ community in the known world? Inside the Dream Palace is the intimate and definitive story.

Today the Chelsea stands poised in limbo between two Will this symbol of New York's artistic invention be converted to a profit-driven business catering to the top one percent? Or will the Chelsea be given a rebirth through painstaking effort by the community that loves it? Set against these two competing possibilities, Inside the Dream Palace could not be more fascinating or timely.

480 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Sherill Tippins

14 books16 followers
SHERILL TIPPINS is the author of February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten and Gypsy Rose Lee Under One Roof in Wartime America. She lives in New York City.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
196 (21%)
4 stars
366 (39%)
3 stars
277 (29%)
2 stars
73 (7%)
1 star
21 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 147 reviews
Profile Image for Mandy.
3,152 reviews266 followers
November 9, 2013
This is definitely one of my reading highlights of 2013. A long book, I couldn’t quite manage it in one sitting, but how I would have liked to! It is an endlessly fascinating and thoroughly and painstakingly well researched biography of the iconic Hotel Chelsea in New York, and follows the successive generations of artists, writers, socialites and eccentrics who made it their home or base or refuge since its founding in 1884. From Thomas Wolfe to Dylan Thomas to Bob Dylan, from Andy Warhol to Leonard Cohen, from tragedy to triumph, from a few days to lifetimes, the legendary hotel has countless stories to tell, and Sherril Tippins knows them all. And, even better, knows how to tell them. By being a haven for so many disparate people, those in the mainstream and on the margins, the story of the hotel encompasses also the story of New York itself, and Tippins describes its highs and lows with verve and a compelling style that never flags, but at the same time never overwhelms.
A wealth of photographs illuminates the text, as does the book’s Facebook page.
All in all, I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a joy to read, and is both entertaining and enlightening.
At the time of writing this review, the hotel’s future is uncertain. It still has some tenants, but has been bought by a property magnate who has not disclosed his plans for the building.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,311 reviews389 followers
April 26, 2021
The Chealsa Hotel has quite the fascinating history with a lot of famous artist living there and created some big and iconic works of art while being there. I knew nothing about it. Nothing that I had acknowledged existing before reading this book. Its very well researched and well written. But I can't say it was the most exciting thing for me to read about, not quite my cup of tea. I'm glad I've read it but it's nothing I will look further into.
Profile Image for Kimmo Sinivuori.
92 reviews14 followers
May 23, 2014
In her book "Inside the Dream Palace" Sherill Tippins applies the tested formula to take a cultural icon, in this case the Chelsea Hotel, as the point around which to write a counter cultural history of the USA. In some cases this formula work very well but in some cases it doesn't. Tippins in successful to an extent and there are some good passages that bring out interesting information that is new at least to me.

For example, the stories about the early artists, like Arthur B. Davies whose collection of paintings sparked the idea to establish the NY Museum of Modern Art, who lived in Chelsea are a pleasure. I also enjoyed very much reading about the shamanistic underground film maker Harry Smith. As a matter of fact, I think Tippins should have written the biography of Smith instead, so well she tell his story.

However, the passage about Jack Kerouac is almost embarrassing as Tippins tries desperately to build a case where the failure of Kerouac to accurately portrait his night with Gore Vidal in the Chelsea as a grand betrayal of Kerouac as an artist. Also, l struggled to find what is the link between the creation of Allen Ginsberg's masterpiece the Howl, the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance and Ferlinghetti's battle to keep the Howl in the shops and the Chelsea Hotel?

Often it also seems that Tippins really doesn't have anything new to say like in the case of Arthur Miller's tenure in the Chelsea Hotel or the punk rockers and the Max’s crowd. Nothing new comes out from the tragic tale of Sid and Nancy either.

What I would have liked to read would have been what the staff thought about all the weird characters that stayed in the Chelsea. Was it a pain or was it a pleasure. How did they interact? Where they scared? Did they want to work here? Were there some interesting characters in the payroll?

Also, it would have been nice if Tippins would have put the Chelsea into context with other similar hotels that were favored by artists like the Beat Hotel in Paris where Burroughs and Gysin lodged or the Welcome Hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer where Cocteau stayed. Were these hotels similar in the way they treated artists? Was the ownership likeminded and did they have any contact?

I would have liked to read more about the lesser characters who inhabited the Chelsea. How did they see the big stars? Last but not least, I think books like this would benefit from much more and better quality illustrations and photographs.

All in all, I liked the book, it was well written and a pleasure to read but it really left me with a feeling that someone could/should write a definitive history of the Chelsea. I think the cultural importance of the place is so great that it deserves it.
Profile Image for Allan.
478 reviews68 followers
August 15, 2014
I'm always interested in reading social history books on NYC, and have had my eye on this title for a while, so when it was released on audiobook, I decided to buy it.

I primarily know about the Chelsea from its infamy as the hotel where Nancy Spugden was found murdered, allegedly by Sid Vicious, and laterally through Patti Smith's memoir, and the novel 'Netherland' by Joseph O'Neill. Both the Spugden murder and Smith's time at the hotel are covered, along with the stories of a plethora of other famous faces, from literary figures like Kerouac, Ginsberg, Behan and Miller to artists like Harry Smith and Warhol, to musicians like Janis Joplin and Dee Dee Ramone, along with those of countless lesser publicly known figures and activists.

While there's no doubting that Tippins has researched the book meticulously, it wasn't completely what I expected, in that while it did tell the history of the hotel, it frequently veered off to tell the history of the people who had stayed there instead. It was interesting, however, to read about the bohemian nature of the management over the years, and of the hotel's eventual decline, as well as its sale to developers in 2011-I'll be interested to see what eventually becomes of the place.

I may seek out another of the numerous books on the Chelsea based on this title, and while I enjoyed this history, it's one that I'd only recommend to those with a specific interest in NYC or counter culture in the 20th century.
544 reviews10 followers
December 31, 2013
This book was so well written and researched that I have to give it at least 4 stars. It didn't quite get 5 stars because it gets bogged down in places with too much information. I was surprised to learn about the initial reason and philosophy regarding the building and design of Hotel Chelsea in 1885. It is too involved to write about here but one of the descriptions in the book is accurate when saying "Art was built into it's bones". It explains why over the years such a variety of artists were drawn to live and create there but oh my how it evolved into a drug scene. The blight of the drugs makes Woodstock seem like a tea party. The author did a visceral job of allowing the reader to feel the seediness and self indulgence while still keeping the true creative spirit alive. One can only hope that the new owners will value the history of that spirit and not whitewash over it and turn it into just another homogeneous hotel.
Profile Image for Sharon Barrow Wilfong.
1,117 reviews3,943 followers
April 19, 2019
I had read so much about the different people who had lived in the Chelsea Hotel, watched the videos of Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls, as much as I could without falling into a boredom induced coma, other videos about Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon, Patti Smith... I decided to read a history of the hotel itself.

There is no doubt Sherill Tippins is a good writer. The history from ancient to present flows like oil. We learn of the architects who constructed the hotel in the late 19th century. We learn about the hands who bought and sold the hotel. But mostly we learn about the various famous, and infamous, people who inhabited and co-habited the rooms.

The hotel seemed to be a hub for creative people from the latter decades of the 19th century to the last decades of the 20th. It is still open but closed to all but a few long time residents as new owners have decided to renovate.

The style is Queen Anne, Victorian Gothic, but I also think a dash of Art Deco exists at least in the interior. Just based on the photos I saw.

Authors like Mark Twain, Thomas Wolf, Dylan Thomas, and Arthur Miller stayed. The Beatniks Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Harry Smith and their ilk lived there for a while. In the sixties, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Leonard Cohen were residents. Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgewick made the place famous with their voyeuristic films that last for hours. And hours.

The beginning of the seventies see Robert Mapplethorpe and then girlfriend, Patti Smith, living together, at least until Mapplethorpe decided to "come out" and kick-start his photograph career the old fashioned way by acquiring a rich boyfriend.

The end of the seventies come crashing down for the hotel with death of Nancy Spungeon when she and Sex Pistol's bass player Sid Vicious were staying there. I appreciated the fair way Tippins described that whole chaotic, messy tragedy. How did Vicious murder his girlfriend when he had taken enough Tuinal to put less hardy souls into a coma? And why weren't the others who admitted to entering their hotel room that night, and apparently stole quite a bit of money from Sid, even questioned?

Much of what Tippins says is interesting especially if you like to read about the lives of the above-mentioned people.

However, I did tire of the constant barrage of salacious gossipy details, who was sleeping with whom, especially all the gay sex. It's like the author was trying to titillate the reader. That is not why I wanted to read a history of the hotel.

Although maybe she could hardly avoid it. The hotel sounded more like it was a hospital for drug-crazed socio-paths.

Yet Abby Hoffman, another resident, as well as Arthur Miller and others, felt they had the authority to proclaim judgement on the rest of America and deem them guilty of materialism, capitalism, and the Vietnam War. It became a religion for them. One they worshiped like a group of rabid animals who felt any means necessary justified acts of violence and inciting riots.

I wonder how a group of moral reprobates, living in their own alcohol and drug-riddled enclave, had the temerity to decide what America's problem was and what the solution was. A solution they felt needed to be forced on the people "for their own good".

Sherill Tippins is very much in their camp and cannot help sharing her own political views as to how conservative presidents caused every ill in the U.S. She ignores a lot to make that point.

You will learn more about the people that lived in the hotel than the hotel itself, but, what is a building? If the walls could talk, I'm sure they would have even more shocking things to say than Tippins. As far as it goes, I think Tippins does a fair job giving the walls of Hotel Chelsea a voice.
Profile Image for Old Man Aries.
573 reviews29 followers
June 19, 2014
Io spero che molti tra coloro che leggono queste righe sappiano cos’è il Chelsea Hotel.
A beneficio di chi non lo sapesse, riassumo (molto) dicendo che si tratta di un albergo sulla 23ma strada a New York che, fin dalla nascita, fu in qualche modo destinato a un’esistenza particolare, fino a diventare il centro vitale della popolazione artistica e alternativa della Grande Mela.
La lista di nomi di persone che hanno soggiornato anche per decenni al Chelsea è lunghissima e va da Arthur Milller a Dee Dee Ramone, da Patti Smith a Leonard Cohen, da Andy Warhol a Harry Smith ad Arthur C. Clarke (fu al Chelsea che venne scritto 2001 Odissea nello spazio, per capirci).
Il Chelsea fu a lungo fulcro e crogiolo delle menti più creative, folli e problematiche che New York potesse accogliere o sfornare.
Al Chelsea nessuno si faceva domanda sui gusti sessuali altrui, la diffusione di droghe era paragonabile a quella dell’acqua e il direttore poteva decidere di posticipare l’appartamento dell’affitto a oltranza, se pensava che un artista avesse bisogno di concentrarsi sulla propria opera o di investire i suoi pochi soldi in attrezzature.
Gli stessi locali dell’albergo divennero spesso e volentieri opere d’arte o luoghi dove tali opere venivano create e/o esposte.
Questo in breve.

In vista del terzo viaggio a New York, quindi, ho colto l’occasione per comprare e leggere questo saggio di Sherill Tippins che prometteva di condurre il lettore per mano nella storia di questo strano hotel.
Partiamo dagli aspetti positivi: la Tippins ha fatto molte ricerche e ha recuperato una mole di informazioni di prima e seconda mano impressionante, informazioni che non è restia a condividere.
Pure troppo, oserei dire.
Già, perché per il desiderio di raccontare tutto si finisce, se non si è veramente molto bravi, a elencare una marea di fatti tale che il lettore finisce sommerso, senza riuscire spesso a metterli in relazione di causa/effetto o di importanza nell’insieme più ampio.
La Tippins ha ritenuto necessario, parlando dei singoli ospiti, raccontare non solo della loro permanenza all’albergo, ma anche della loro vita precedente, di quella successiva, delle intenzioni artistiche, a volte anche della vita di alcuni familiari; peccato che, così, abbia tolto esattamente ciò che sperava di trasmettere: l’anima del posto.
Ci si trova a scoprire tante informazioni, tanti eventi, tante scelte, ma non si riesce mai né a empatizzare coi vari protagonisti della storia, né a comprendere il motivo per cui il Chelsea, col tempo, divenne tanto particolare.
Ci sono i motivi “pratici”, certo, ma gli aspetti più interessanti, quelli umani, quelli emotivi si perdono via.
Il risultato è un racconto dettagliato, preciso, informativo (pure troppo), ma sostanzialmente asettico, di un luogo che tutto è stato tranne che asettico.
Si potrebbe pensare che la scelta sia stata fatta, in qualche modo, per dovere di cronaca, ma ho il forte dubbio che non sia così: la Tippins sembra sforzarsi più volte di comunicare l’aspetto emotivo e sentimentale del Chelsea, solo che non ci riesce.
Per di più qualche volta si nota la sua tendenza a cambiare in aumento o in diminuzione l’importanza di certi eventi a seconda che l’artista di cui sta raccontando rientri più o meno nelle sue grazie: il modo in cui, ad esempio, sminuisca spudoratamente molti comportamenti più che opinabili di Arthur Miller è quanto meno imbarazzante.
Quel che manca poi, a mio avviso, è lo sguardo delle altre persone.
Chi al Chelsea lavorava, chi in quel luogo ha vissuto non solo come artista ma anche come “protagonista sullo sfondo”, chi potrebbe ben spiegare certi retroscena dal punto di vista umano: una mancanza difficilmente perdonabile a fronte di un lavoro di ricerca tanto minuzioso, indubbiamente frutto di una scelta più che di un errore involontario.
Discorso a parte, stranamente, vale per il capitolo finale, l’epilogo.
Qui la Tippins, abbandonati i registri dei capitoli precedenti, sembra lasciarsi un po’ più andare e le emozioni della fine dell’epoca del Chelsea riescono ad arrivare al lettore.
Troppo poco e troppo tardi, purtroppo.

Non è un libro da bocciare del tutto, questo no. Si tratta di una miniera di informazioni ben ricercate. Il problema è che si tratta solo di questo, ecco.
Profile Image for Karen.
310 reviews
February 26, 2015
It took me a long time to get through this book - it was rather a slog. I thought Tippins's writing was good, overall, but she tended to overuse phrases and words (if she described one more person as "penniless" I was going to throw the book across the room) and at times I felt that the book was getting pretty far from the Chelsea. I could see what she wanted to do - to follow the hotel from decade to decade and show how events outside the hotel were influencing what was going on inside - but this wasn't always successful. Too, although the book is obviously meticulously researched (there are pages and pages of notes), I wished for more first-person interviews and less reliance on already-published work (if you've already read Patti Smith's book Just Kids you can pretty much skip the pages on Smith, since they're apparently drawn almost exclusively from that book.)

Probably the best parts of the book were those that followed certain residents through the years - people you might not hear much about today but who were a key part of their time, like Harry Smith. I also enjoyed the chapters on the early years of the hotel, perhaps because they covered material I wasn't as familiar with, like the connection between Faurier's ideals and the hotel's original purpose as a cooperative.

For a much less scholarly but more atmospheric book about the Chelsea, I'd recommend Florence Turner's At The Chelsea.

Profile Image for Katrina.
971 reviews
June 15, 2014
This is a lengthy history of the Chelsea Hotel, the legendary home to many leading figures in American Bohemian and counter-culture artistic movement. I found the writing became bogged down in details and strayed too far from the subject matter to give it more than 2 stars.
Profile Image for BookishStitcher.
1,105 reviews46 followers
July 26, 2019
A fascinating look at this historic NY hotel that was the birthplace of so many amazing works of art.
Profile Image for Julie.
1,506 reviews39 followers
March 26, 2019
It's an odd structure for a book but it kind of works. Tippins starts off with the story of the actual building of the hotel, which is interesting. I had no idea originally is was a sort of socialist co-op. Once the building is built, she then tells the story of the hotel by following along the different famous groups of people who lived there. At times, I would forget I was reading a book about the Chelsea Hotel, so far off did the tangents go. I did learn a lot about various obscure - to me, at least - artists. The Chelsea was the loose thread tying all these disparate stories of artists/actors/musicians together. Not an amazing book, but if you want to learn more about the bohemian/artistic NYC communities of the last hundred or so years, it's worth checking out.
Profile Image for Bill Wallace.
961 reviews29 followers
August 29, 2015
A fine microcosmic history with macrocosmic ripples. The Chelsea Hotel itself was an incubator of sorts for progressive, transgressive, and radical art for over 100 years. Ms. Tippins book traces the lives and art of the hotel's inhabitants and follows their paths out into the wider world in a very satisfying way that provides a different lens on some familiar mid-century history. I liked the early chapters somewhat better because I was less familiar with the stories of Howells, Dylan Thomas, and John Sloan and I was surprised more often than in the chapters that cover the 1950s, 60s and 70s, though the perspective gave the stories freshness. My sense that one of the geniuses -- in the sense of spirit or muse -- of the 20th Century was Harry Smith, whose story runs through the last half of this excellent book. I had the sense that Tippins could have written a book twice this length and I hope that maybe someday there will be a sequel or a supplement. First-rate history.
Profile Image for Catherine Siemann.
1,123 reviews20 followers
March 14, 2015
As a longtime (though now former) resident of Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, I'm fascinated with this legendary building -- What the real estate developers have done with it in the last two years is the problem with contemporary NYC in a nutshell.

The Bohemian residents of the Chelsea, especially those from mid-century through the punk rock era, have had their stories often told -- I was fascinated to learn more about the building's origins and the philosophy behind it, and to trace various threads throughout the century and a half of its existence. Morever, Tippins uses the building as an occasion to look at larger social and cultural trends reflected by the Chelsea's residents. Sometimes I felt like Tippins was a bit dismissive or oversimplistic in a reference or a description, but the book is well worth the read.
Profile Image for Mona Bradley.
175 reviews5 followers
May 22, 2014
So many decades of history; so many names to try and remember.

One niggle is the book's last real chapter ends in the late 70s/early 80s and that does a disservice to the meat that is the removal of Stanley Bard as manager.

Also while the book is seemingly arranged in a linear fashion, it at times seems like there were small time shifts in chapters but it might have been me.
Profile Image for Carla.
Author 18 books49 followers
August 18, 2021
This delivers on its title, and it's a lively read. Everyone who was anyone, more or less, shows up....from Edgar Lee Masters of Spoon River fame to Virgil Thompson to Bob Dylan to Patti Smtih, and of course, Sid and Nancy. The author loves her subject, and it shows.
Profile Image for Lulu Johnson.
281 reviews
October 11, 2020
This book is not what it is advertised to be. I thought I was getting a book filled with stories from the Chelsea Hotel, stories about all the interesting characters who have stayed and lived there. While there are famous names mentioned, Andy Warhol, Sid Vicious, Patti Smith, many others, it's not a book about their stories so much. It's much more of an art history book than anything. I felt like Tippins must be an art history major, or it's at least a passion of hers. You don't really get many juicy stories and the few that exist aren't explored. You get a paragraph of an interesting story, summed up quickly, followed by pages of discussion of the prevailing art at the time and who was doing what avant-garde thing to mix it all up. If you want art history, this is the book for you. If you're hoping for a history of interesting people doing interesting things, look elsewhere.
Profile Image for Leah.
13 reviews3 followers
December 5, 2013
Inside the Dream Palace is a worthy read for anyone who loves New York, or the history of American culture. It’s doubtful that any building in the entire country has housed as many influential artists as the Chelsea, and their stories are what make the residence much more than an intriguing architectural marvel. Mark Twain, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, the Ramones; the list of notable tenants goes on and on. The walls of the Chelsea have seen it all, from Jackson Pollock vomiting profusely on the dining room carpet to the drug-fueled murder of Nancy Spungen.

Read the rest of my review on LitReactor
Profile Image for Danika.
Author 1 book9 followers
June 23, 2015
surely some people of color lived at the Chelsea. there's little evidence to suggest they were anything but bellhops in Tippins' book. also, the lion's share of the female figures in the book (Patti Smith being the exception) are portrayed as tragic victims. this portrait of the Chelsea is rendered mostly in shades of white and features a lot of dicks. dear publishers and writers, i'd like to see some other kinds of paintings.
Profile Image for Amy.
373 reviews
August 10, 2016
Dissertation research.
I enjoyed this read, it is a good introduction to the Chelsea Hotel and its history. The book flows like a creative piece but is backed up with lots and lots of research (seriously the bibliography is huge).
However I only give it three stars because it isn't critical enough for what I need. It serves as a nice base and serves as a lead for further, more critical research.
Profile Image for Philip Cherny.
40 reviews34 followers
August 9, 2017
I came to this book with somewhat low expectations, being accustomed to regular disappointment in titles that sounded much more interesting when I heard them publicized in podcasts, added to my observation that the hype of this release outside the New York Times review apparently fizzled out relatively quickly. Fortunately I enjoyed this read much more than I expected to (or probably should have), and now catch myself recommending it to virtually all of my friends. I found myself so entertained by the narrative that the critical scholar in me kept looking for faults in the book, suspicious of its actual edification value. While it’s true that Tippins hasn’t produced a scholarly masterpiece, she has impressively managed to construct a historical narrative that reads less as a work of nonfiction and more as a novel every bit as entertaining as a work of fiction. I’m astounded by the sheer level of detail she captures, which must have required an immense amount of research and collating of material. Her narrative unfolds with such intimate details of peoples’ lives that I often finding myself wondering to what extent the details were fabricated (nonetheless, an amazing historian’s imagination to craft the prose in such a manner). It helps you feel as if you are there witnessing the generations of legendary bohemian artists and seminal culture producers.

This book reads as a novel, albeit with an unconventional narrative that focuses on a particular place (pardon me for stating the obvious.) By this I mean the Chelsea Hotel serves both as the backdrop for characters’ lives, thus a ground for several fragmentary stories to develop, and also as the chief character in the story—a story whose narrative remains unresolved as history inevitably continues towards the always open future, but also a microcosm and symbol for the greater macrocosmic history of the country…or its counter-cultures at any rate. Tippins emphasizes this latter aspect of the narrative with her descriptions of generational zeitgeists and recurring metaphorical motifs, most notably Charles Fourier’s utopian pipe dreams and Harry Smith’s never-ending work on his experimental film, Mahagonny, based on Brecht and Weil’s satirical dystopic opera, The Rise and Fall of Mahagonny. This historical and narrative focus on a particular place ideally sharpens the reader’s sense of history and place, giving one a greater appreciation for the depth and layers that lurk behind any local establishment fortunate to endure long enough to boast a legacy.

To retain a sense of cohesiveness within each era of the hotel’s history, each chapter of the book more or less focuses on a few central characters at a time. Should I voice one complaint, I noticed at times the author seems to supplant her narrative with mere “name-dropping” (for lack of better term) by jumping quickly from figure to figure, sometimes merely listing them, without filling in the significant details of their lives. The sin of name-dropping of course goes further in that the sheer pleasure comes from the shallow merit of reputation in a name dropped rather than in any value of substance. I must confess I am guilty of taking pleasure in these names dropped, having studied art history extensively, but I could see how an outsider might find this tiresome. I could also defend Tippins’ name-drops by arguing they add to the narrative by filling it in with other details, personalities and minor characters that populate the hotel. E.g. though Tippins never focused exclusively on his life story, amusing anecdotes of George Kleinsinger populating his suite with tropical flora and fauna, essentially converting it into a rainforest, and how other characters kept figuring into his strange apartment served as yet another fun detail that gives the hotel a unique flavor.

I enjoyed how extensively Tippins’s book fills in historical gaps or overlaps and ties together all the threads of all I’ve learned in art history lectures, etc. It some instances, it sheds new light on narratives I’m already fairly familiar with—e.g. mostly only familiar with Hollywood-ized versions of Edie Sedgwick’s biography from the film Factory Girl, and Jackson Pollock’s life from the film Pollock, or Valerie Solanas shooting Warhol from a Wikipedia article.) I found myself excited by some of the artists’ creative ideas, even the more silly ones, and by the hopeful zeal of those not too jaded to push for the improvement of society. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident then in the utopian dreams of Charles Fourier which the book begins with. Lastly, I found myself discovering completely new finds, writing down the names of interesting seeming historical figures that I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I’ve never even heard of (among them: Virgil Thompson, Marc Blitzstein, George Kleinsinger, Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Richard Leacock, Gus Hall, Jorge Frick, Harry E Smith, Shirley Clarke, William Dean Howells, Edgar Lee Masters, John Sloan, Isabella Gardner, Vali Myers, Abbie Hoffman, Stella Waitzkin, Whitney Bell, and Juliette Hamelecourt). Not everyone would get as much a kick out of this book as I did, but I’m sure most people would get at least some enjoyment out of it even if they are not steeped in the history.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
41 reviews
January 21, 2014
The book really delves into the lives of the many famous residents if the Chelsea Hotel over the years. An interesting & fascinating must read for all history, arts buffs.
Profile Image for John.
609 reviews3 followers
February 15, 2020
Incredibly verbose, with occasionally amazing sections and intersections. This should be an amazing story.
Profile Image for Dylan.
Author 6 books12 followers
September 6, 2016
Notes & Quotes:
What was a bohemian headquarters like this doing lodged in the world's most capitalist city?

There were other fears too: that the forced intimacy of Parisian-style apartment living might lead the residents to looser moral standards, or, even worse, that the apartment-dwellers might be mistaken for the lower-class types in the rooming houses downtown.

It was difficult to attract hard-working individuals to rural phalanxes and recommended that collectives locate themselves in cities instead, with access to tools, ideas, and markets and the opportunity to take their place "at the front of the general march of improvement"

By joining together to form a residential group or club, New Yorkers could buy their own land directly and commission the construction of their own shared building, eliminating the middleman and redirecting the savings toward larger, higher-quality apartments. Restricting membership to others of their social standing would protect New Yorker's reputations even when they chose to live in less expensive neighborhoods. Once in residence, they would save even more money by splitting the expenses of maintenance and fuel, which would allow them to spend less time earning a living and more time with family and in other pursuits.

Hubert's intention had been to address the "poor man's" comfort and needs, as Greeley had hoped--but as Fourier had predicted of his own utopian experiments, "merely by working with the poor class, we will attract the middle class, which will want to purchase shares and install itself in the place of poor families"--and so it happened with this first home club. When less-well-off New Yorkers hesitated, suspicious of a deal that seemed too good to be true, families with more money rushed to invest. Reluctantly, the architect gave in to middle-class demand, but he later wrote of his deep frustration over this failure to solve one of the most crucial problems of the city's working poor.

A corrupt society naturally corrupts the souls of those who live within it, Fourier had written.

In the early stages, Fourier had written, 7/8s of the members chosen for an association should be farmers and artisans, those who possessed the knowledge and experience needed to get a rural phalanx going. For this cooperative, on an island under massive construction, the closest equivalents were clearly the builders, contractors, and real estate developers then involved in the creative process of "growing" the city.

Once enough members with the knowledge and ability to take care of a phalanx's material needs were assembled, Fourier had suggested, most of the remaining portion of its population should consist of scholars and artists, who could serve the community's psychological and spiritual needs. The fifteen studios on the Chelsea's top floor, each filled with light from north-facing windows ten feet square, ensured significant participation by artists, and a number of the city's most promising young painters became association members or tenants.
Writers joined to take advantage of the Chelsea's soundproof walls and inspiring views.

In mid-1880s New York, Jay Gould was boasting that if necessary he could "hire one half of the working class to kill the other half" and anarchist Johann Most was distributing bomb making manuals to unruly residents of the Lower East Side.

Referring to Bellamy's Looking Backward becoming a bestseller, Howells was astonished to see how easily such a dose of undiluted socialism could be gulped down by some of the most vigilant opponents of that theory when it was presented in the sugar-coated form of a dream.

Howells nominated Crane for membership in the NY Author's Club, while Crane invited Howells to rowdy dinners at the Lantern Club, housed in a rooftop shanty near the Brooklyn Bridge where rebel writers held "high intellectual revels" challenging one another's literary theories and reading their stories aloud.

A urban phalanstery would have to open its doors to the poor if it was to succeed.

the 1913 armory show gave evidence of the energy and intellectual force that a population of artists could release in a mature, supportive culture, referring here to the avant-garde Europeans, that the Americans will still have to catch up to.

Referring to 1929 stock market crash, Writers and artists wrote Edmund Wilson: couldn't help being exhilarated at the sudden unexpected collapse of that stupid gigantic fraud. It gave us a new sense of freedom...a new sense of power to find oursevles still carrying on while the bankers for a change were taking a beating.

Federal Art Project and Federal Theatre Project: Old utopian ideas resurfaced in these first-ever official acknowledgements that American artists were legitimate workers who had a value to society and were deserving of payments of $38.25 per week for their paintings and posters, performances and plays. As word spread of these initiatives, open to all unemployed artists on Home Relief, regardless of stylistic approach or degree of success, painters, sculptors, dancers, and composers "were shouting with the excitement of children at a zoo". Sloan, fro whom making a sale was still like pushing a boulder up a hill could rely on the steady paycheck to maintain his studio as well as buy food. Hundreds of younger artists, including Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, Mark Rothko, and Ad Reinhardt, now had the time and security to explore new ideas, while those in the performing arts threw themselves into such experimental works as Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock and an African-American production of Macbeth directed by a 19yrold actor named Orson Welles. "I can't begin to tell you how rich everybody was" one artist recalled.

Sloan taught the next generation of younger artists that the first rule was to learn to live frugally. A willingness to tolerate cold-water lofts and to recycle paintbrushes freed artists from having to endure just about everything petty and soul killing. It afforded them the supreme privilege of staying true to their own visions, thus making them "the only people in the world who really live."

At times, Wolfe's rants made Masters reflect on his own long life, on how he, like every writer, had started out wanting to be the best, and to that end had developed a certain fanaticism focusing on his craft exclusively until he had eliminated everything extraneous--including people. At that point, a writer is no longer in control of his writing life; his writing has taken control of him.

The two veteran outsiders spent the rest of the trip amusing themselves by baiting Harvard-educated "commies" aboard ship who refused to disown their prewar dream of a utopian-socialist new world order even in the face of Stalin's purges and a totalitarian Soviet Union.

The shift in postwar alliances combined with two decades of left-wing infighting had destroyed American artists' and intellectuals ability to create social change.

Kerouac's new editor, Malcolm Cowley, asked him to delete scenes of homosexual couplings in his still-unpublished On the Road, and the young author complied, for the sake of publication, cutting half the text he had refused to touch for Robert Giroux. The cuts transformed his dark portrait of postwar American into a more romantic vision that would inspire a generation, though less truthfully and, arguably, much less effectively than the original version might have.

Nouveaux Realistes
Yves Klein

A small group of Fourier-influenced artist agitators (especially in the idea of of work as a joyful form of self-expression not rooted in exploitation) had created the Situationist International movement, using performance art techniques to construct situations aimed at altering observors' awareness so that real social transformation became possible.

Arthur Miller: "I watched the new age, the 60s, stagger into the Chelsea with its young bloodshot eyes and made a few attempts to join the dance around the Maypole, but I could not help myself: to me it all felt self-regarding, self-indulgent, and not at all free."

All thoughts emit energy in the form of atmospheric vibrations, theosophists Leadbeater and Besant wrote. When strong enough, these vibrations create invisible, floating forms, called "thought-forms", that can latch on to receptive individuals and influence their thoughts. The clearer and stronger the thought, the more durable and far-reaching the thought-form. When perserved in music--or in abstract images, like those of the theosophist artists Kandinsky and Mondrain--thought-forms can influence minds for generations.

Harry Smith and his wacky magic based films that jazz musicians liked to play over. He could be found most days in the NY public libary's third floor reading room, studying Kabbalah, Buddhism, the tarot, and other religious and occult systems whose metaphorical images might prove powerful in upending the status quo.

Mekas' group of avant-garde filmmakers called themselves the New American Cinema

Smith's occult research had taught him that thought-forms produced by certain highly focused collaborations can and often do break free from their creators and continue on their own.

Dylan of Sara: One thing I always loved was that she was never one of those people who thinks that someone else is the answer to her happiness. Me or anybody else.

Chelsea Girls
Christmas on Earth

Landing on the moon? As de Kooning remarked of the landing, "We haven't landed on earth yet"

Profile Image for Melanie  H.
812 reviews46 followers
June 1, 2020
Coronavirus (update: Coronavirus + Rebellion 2020) book review #16 – 3.75 stars

Let’s be honest, I wasn’t expecting this book to provide any level of comfort, other than as an escape from reality, during these extra trying times. But I was wrong.

Tippins offers up a reminder that American society has been shit for most people for most of our history with a bare sprinkling of hope and ecstasy courtesy of the art, music, literature, and the connection with people who get us.

There were multiple occasions where quotes from Chelsea residents could have been written today, in this very moment.

“America went off the track somewhere,” Wolfe [Thomas] would write later that winter in his lonely room. “Instead of … developing along the line in which the country started out, it got shunted off in another direction – and now we look around and see we’ve gone places we didn’t mean to go. Suddenly we realize that America has turned into something ugly – and vicious – and corroded at the heart of its power with easy wealth and graft and special privilege.” (written in 1929)

If a historical place could be one, the Chelsea Hotel would be the penultimate name-dropper. These are the hallowed halls where the muse wallows among the crannies and the grime, and I’m here for it.

I’m lucky enough to have stayed at the Chelsea in 2011. What you don’t get in amenities is more than made up for by the legends that stalk you.

This book was a bit long, and at times I felt myself swimming in it, but really, I've got nothing but time in 2020. Nothing but time to think and reflect.
Profile Image for Cinzia.
47 reviews4 followers
May 18, 2017
Diciamo che se questo libro avesse avuto un'altra confezione – e per confezione intendo tutto: copertina, cura editoriale, traduzione – avrebbe potuto anche diventare un gioiellino. Intendiamoci, il libro di per sé non è un capolavoro, spesso si riduce a una serie di fatti tenuti insieme da collanti spicci, ma sono pur sempre fatti legati a qualcosa di unico nel suo genere, con un'aura mitica. Si tratta della descrizione della parabola di quello che potremmo definire un esperimento sociale sui generis, la creazione di una "comune" ante litteram nel cuore dell'America, nata alla fine dell'Ottocento su basi fourieriste e incarnatasi poi nel Novecento nel corpo vivo dei suoi artisti. Una sorta di "controstoria" delle aspirazioni di un paese, votate per loro natura al fallimento ma non per questo meno affascinanti. Così come affascinanti sono le vicende del contenitore che vi ha fatto da sfondo, il Chelsea Hotel per l'appunto.
Fin qui il libro. La vera tragedia purtroppo è la traduzione, veramente pessima e approssimativa che rende la lettura in più punti faticosa. A ciò si aggiungono una copertina inspiegabile e brutta e la mancanza di qualsiasi indicazione per il lettore italiano di informazioni su una serie di personaggi forse ben noti in America ma sconosciuti ai più in Italia. Un vero peccato.
812 reviews21 followers
February 11, 2023
More 2.5 stars. I don't know why I didn't like this book and I don't know how I would change it. I read this book after seeing a piece on the Chelsea on CBS Sunday Morning.

Sherill Tippins' book does a great job of explaining the honorable origins - basically a utopian urban commune - and how it always attracted artists. She also tracks its decline, with the 80 original apartments being cut up and junkies, pushers, pimps, and prostitutes moving in, up until it was sold at the time of her book in 2013. What was unsettling for me were the forays into political and visual art movements at the time. Yes, Abbie Hoffman and Robert Mapplethorpe lived at the Chelsea, but Andy Warhol did not although some of his models did. And I suppose if you're talking about famous writers, musicians, painters, politicians, and business people living in the hotel you have to talk about what is going on in the world, but it didn't work cleanly for me.

I understand from the CBS Sunday Morning piece that, while there are still individuals who live full time in the hotel, it is also now a restored hotel for travelers. I would like to stay there one day.
197 reviews2 followers
November 28, 2016
This book is an interesting documentary of sorts of the life of the building - from start to 2014. The story of the building and the many people who were in and out of the building. The story of the artists, the writers, the musicians, the drugs and the sad endings for so many. As one person mentioned it show the cowardice of Arthur Miller - something I did not know. The story of Brad - the manager of the hotel and how giving he was and how that probably contributed to the decline as the hotel was stripped of art, nothing repaired, and his bling eye to many issues.
So many people went through there - and many ended up dead due to the drugs. This was an interesting book - and not an easy read and so I read it slowly while reading other books. It was very interesting to read the activities of the characters - amazing looks into the lives of those only I heard about, and the sadness of how their lives could have been so different.
Would love to go there and see inside - apparently not possible but would love to listen to the tales of the walls.
Profile Image for John Bialas.
28 reviews3 followers
August 21, 2019
I waited until this week to start reading "Inside the Dream Palace," perhaps proving only to myself that years of procrastination can pay off because the ARC is a digital treasure I finally uncovered.

This award-winning history of the Chelsea, published in 2013, is much more than the place itself. It's about people, and as a longtime student of American history, I was most interested in reading about William Dean Howells.

I've never read a word written by the novelist, literary critic and playwright, but I read every word "Dream Palace" author Sherill Tippins wrote about Howells championing Stephen Crane after reading "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets," a work of realism I found far more captivating than Crane's masterpiece, "The Red Badge of Courage."

Books are fully of surprises, and I never expected to see Howells appear in "Dream Palace" and I enjoyed reading about his connection to Crane. I never knew about that,

Props to Tippins for the depth, richness and elegance of language she brings to "Dream Palace" and thanks to Mariner Books and NetGalley for the ARC.
Profile Image for Yaaresse.
2,028 reviews16 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned-dnf'
September 7, 2017

The book seems interesting enough. So far it is mostly about how the author got interested in the building's history and background about the architect and his utopian/bohemian ideas. I was just starting to get into the profiles of early residents when I decided to throw in the towel. I suspect I'd end up giving it three stars if I could finish it.

Unfortunately, my library makes the book available only via the Axis360 app. I loathe this app. It makes both accessing details for and reading any book an unmitigated pain in the ass. This book's file seems particularly buggy, with each attempt to page forward requiring two or three attempts and randomly jumping to the end of chapters for no apparent reason. Deleting and re-downloading didn't help one whit. I'm not willing to put up with the piggish, clumsy thing anymore. Maybe I'll revisit the book if the library acquires a Kindle version.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 147 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.