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

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  799 ratings  ·  126 reviews
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 invention: a cultural dynamo and haven for the counterculture, all in one astonishing building. Sherill Tippins, author of the acclaimed February House, deliv
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published December 3rd 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2013)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  799 ratings  ·  126 reviews

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Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 Le ...more
Aug 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
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
Elly Sands
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 wer ...more
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
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 lea
Kimmo Sinivuori
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 coll
Apr 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 th ...more
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at this historic NY hotel that was the birthplace of so many amazing works of art.
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nyc, finished-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, a ...more
Catherine Siemann
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cities
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 th
Mona Bradley
May 17, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book increased my respect for Patti Smith. I'll probably tackle her Just Kids book next. Really awesome stories, cultural context, and some economic/political commentary. What a tour of space and time at the Chelsea Hotel! ...more
Excellently written. Full of facts and mini stories.
Bill Wallace
Feb 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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, a ...more
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: promos-arcs
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 di ...more
May 15, 2015 rated it liked it
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. ...more
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.
Philip Cherny
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 ...more
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Incredibly verbose, with occasionally amazing sections and intersections. This should be an amazing story.
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 i
Melanie  H
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 occ
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 w ...more
John Bialas
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 playwri
Jul 18, 2017 marked it as abandoned-dnf  ·  review of another edition

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
Sarah Jackson
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Inside the Dream Palace" by Sherill Tippins is a comprehensive and fascinating examination of the history of the legendary New York landmark, the Chelsea Hotel. Tippins describes the development of the building, structural and interior decorating changes over the years, and more importantly the life and times of the various guests and residents from the building. It was certainly a Bohemian mecca for writers, artists, musicians and alike, and many fabulous works resulted from residencies in the ...more
Marcel Ozymantra
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only reason I'm not giving this book five stars is because it's too thin. Biographies of the residents, more photo's of the builing's inside, a plan, etc, should've been added. But then it would've easily been two or three times as thick. I can accept the limitations. With internet some of this ... negligence can be overcome.
A story of a building and the residents that gave it it's live shows the development of progressive and artistic new York from the tail of the nineteenth century until
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating..truly a masterful history of not just the legendary hotel but also of the Zeitgeist of American pop culture and the society at large. I felt like I was in a time machine,spiralling headily thru the 20th century and beyond, into this hideous parody of America that crushes souls in 2019. All the creative genius of the free world seems to have lived at, partied at, or been touched by one of the hundreds of happenings that were born in the Chelsea.. If a building can have a b ...more
Lulu Johnson
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very informative and highly researched. I do recommend reading other books for a more complete picture and feel for the Chelsea Hotel. The writing style is a little drier than I prefer but it was everything I needed for research for my podcast, Heinous Hotels. The index in the back helped me so much when I was looking up certain topics and people.

If you are looking for information on Club Kids and the Warhol Era I suggest trying Ed Hamilton's book, Legends of the Chelsea Hotel and looking at Ed
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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.

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120 likes · 37 comments
“Americans were endangering their mental and physical health through overwork,” and all in pursuit of the dollar. “Life is not for learning, nor is life for working,” he ranted, “but learning and working are for life.” 1 likes
“the hotel was no longer Gardner’s “once rather noble Chelsea,” despite its rather bizarrely timed designation as a national historic landmark that year.” 0 likes
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