Photo by David Shankbone via Flickr Creative Commons
Occupying the area west of 6th Ave from 14th to 34th Street, Chelsea has become one of New York City’s burgeoning food and art hubs. Not only is the neighborhood tied to many historic and cultural moments in our city’s history, it’s also filled with plenty of galleries, restaurants, parks, and sites.
If you ever find yourself strolling through, check out our guide of 22 must-visit spots in this trendy area, featuring a few hidden gems to the city’s most popular and fantastic creations.
Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue Cemetery
Over shadowed by the surrounding tall buildings is Third Cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. This green respite on 21st Street, fronted by wrought iron gates is the third in its name because the cemetery of the religious organization had to move four times since the founding of the religious organization, the oldest Jewish congregation in North America, in 1654.
The synagogue’s first location were rented quarters in Mill Street and its first cemetery was possibly located in a corner of the African Burial Ground, though no one is completely certain. Since then, the cemetery has moved from Chatham Square in 1682, to 11th Street in 1823, and finally to its present-day location just west of Sixth Avenue, in 1829.
There are 250 souls buried in the 21st Street location, but since New York City prohibited burial in Manhattan below 86th Street in 1851, the synagogue moved to Queens, leaving behind remnants of its three former locations, including this one in Chelsea.
Grand Lodge of New York
We’ve always been curious about the Freemasons, and even more so about the Grand Lodge of New York situated on a bustling 23rd Street in Chelsea. The Grand Lodge of New York (more formally the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons), while part of a secret society, boasts a large flag in the middle of Manhattan. The society insists that their big secret is that they have no secrets.
An inside tour we once took of the building offered clues into the society, where we learned that they use tons of symbols not to be secretive, but to communicate quickly and to inspire and educate their members.
The Masonic Hall was built in 1913 by architect Harry P. Knowles, a Master Mason himself, but the current lodge meeting rooms were restored by the interior restaurateur Felix Chavez from 1986 to 1996. We were shocked to learn that each strikingly ornate room is actually all painted plaster: from imitation stone to reliefs to frescoes, we were certainly tricked by Chavez’s manipulation of plaster to resemble high quality materials.
General Theological Seminary
Chelsea Enclave to the far right abutting the Eastern half of the close
Situated on a superblock bounded by 21st Street to the North, 20th Street to the South, 9th Avenue to the East and 10th Avenue to the West is the General Theological Seminary. It was established in 1817 as a training ground for future Episcopalian priests, and in 1827 construction began on the Seminary’s Chelsea campus.
This campus was enriched in the 1880s by a series of graceful Neo-Gothic structures designed by Charles Haight, which ring the perimeter of the institution’s serene inner quadrangle. This Oxford-style complex is one of the hidden treasures of the city. But there is more to the General Theological Seminary than that.
The Keller Library, formerly the St. Mark’s Library, has a first edition of the Authorized King James Version Bible and a Coverdale Bible (1535), the first complete Bible printed in English, on display. Not only that but Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas was written onsite at the Seminary.
This landmarked building is one of the oldest campuses in the city and open to the public for viewing during business hours.