It’s no surprise that creative artists and writers have flocked to the cultural hub that is New York City over the years. From Jack Kerouac to Emma Lazarus, we’ve tracked down where renowned writers created their greatest works and developed their ideas. You can even go and check out a few of these locations yourself and stand in the footsteps of some of America’s literary stars, then grab a drink where the Beat generation imbibed.
Hotel Chelsea in 1935, which was a popular stay for famous writers and artists after its 1905 opening. Image via New York Public Library Digital Collections
The number of writers and artists who resided at Hotel Chelsea at some point in their lives is incredible. Built in 1883 as a private apartment cooperative, the decline of the Chelsea theater district led to its reopening as a hotel in 1905. It then hosted several famous 20th century writers, becoming a bustling hub of creativity and innovative thought.
Perhaps most notably, Mark Twain stayed here (before it was a hotel) in 1898. Other writers who here include playwrights Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, Gore Vidal, Patti Smith, Thomas Wolfe and Charles Bukowski. In fact, some Beat Generation writers created entire works at Hotel Chelsea, and Arthur C. Clarke wrote all of 2001: A Space Odyssey during his stay.
With so many intelligent, eccentric personalities in one building, odd situations definitely arose. For instance, O. Henry supposedly registered under a different name to evade creditors, while Arthur Miller went there to hide from the media after his divorce with Marilyn Monroe. Irish poet Brendan Behan spent his declining moments the Chelsea, where he constantly disturbed guests with bizarre actions and loud vulgarity, before returning to Europe and dying a year later.
On another unfortunate note, writer Dylan Thomas died of alcohol overdose one night at the Chelsea, and Charles R. Jackson committed suicide in his room.
In his essay called “The Chelsea Effect,” Arthur Miller described the hotel’s lifestyle, saying, “This hotel does not belong to America. There are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and shame…it’s the high spot of the surreal.” The hotel continued in operation until 2011 as a “combination transient and residential hotel,” writes Andrew Alpern in The Dakota: A History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building, when it went under renovation.