05 July 2011

The Doors of Chelsea

I love a red door.

In 1750, Captain Thomas Clarke bought a farm in Manhattan, which he named for the Old Soldiers Home at Chelsea in England. The property was inherited in 1813 by his grandson, Clement Clarke Moore, best remembered as the author of Twas the Night Before Christmas. Moore would go on to parcel his estate into lots, which he then sold to affluent New Yorkers to build “houses of good quality.” They in turn had to promise Moore that they would plant trees. He also donated an apple orchard to the Episcopal diocese who built the General Theological Seminary, which is still going strong. Today the neighborhood of Chelsea is my home and a place where one can still see remnants of its past, especially in the historic district—the area bounded by 8th and 10th Avenues and 20th and 23rd Streets. 

While different styles can be found among the houses—Federal, Gothic Revival, Greek Revival, and Italianate—one can also see rows of matching brick townhouses, which give a unified appearance to a block. Yet the doors in the area act as a distinct character for each home. This black door, for example, has a beaded pattern that creates its arches while the white door has pronounced, almost deco curves.

Many are painted in traditional colours like green (popular with the Federalists) but in other cases the owners have branched out into colours like purple, which add a modern touch.

And while some chose to paint their front doors blue, it's also been picked for below stairs doors as well (after all, If you're going to live below shouldn't you have a vibrant colour for your door?)

These are just a handful of the doors that I came across while walking a couple of blocks. There are many more to admire in Chelsea, which also has some nice rooftops as well.

Photos by Michele.

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