The history of Chelsea and London Terrace is fascinating, whether you’re a born New Yorker or followed your dream to the city. With the help of James N. Wells, he divided other plots of land for high quality residences, and on the block of West 23rd and 24th streets the original London Terrace was built alongside the Chelsea Cottages in 1845.
These structures stood until purchased by Henry Mandel, who had a vision to create the largest apartment complex in the world. While the trend was for affordable housing, Mandel envisioned a white collar lifestyle here. The building featured luxurious amenities, a gymnasium, a sun deck for children, restaurants, workshops for carpentry and appliances, telephone messaging, and page boys. there was an adult roof deck styled in the fashion of the cruise liners drifting by along the Hudson below. There was work to be had in the building, and an excess of opportunities for one to unwind. Despite the economic hardship, London Terrace thrived and people took notice, especially when they shared their festivities with the neighborhood.
The economic downturn drove Henry Mandel into bankruptcy but when he returned to the project he scaled the apartment sizes to the new economy. Contrary to the rumors that he leaped from the roof to his death, the NY Times obituary shows that he died in the hospital in 1942 after a brief illness.
But the building he built, London Terrace, is still standing. Talented people of all walks of life; artists and writers, engineers and architects, radio hosts and hard-working mothers raising families continue to add to the legacy London Terrace.
London Terrace, and indeed the entire Chelsea neighborhood, owes its existence to Captain Thomas Clarke, and wife Molly, who bought the 94 acre Somerindyke Farm in 1750 and erected the Chelsea House. The site of the building was chosen for its commanding hilltop view of the Hudson, as these were fightin’ days. The mansion burned down during battle, Thomas following it into the dust of history not long afterwards.
Left alone, homeless and a mother of two, Molly persisted in keeping the Chelsea dream alive. She constructed a new mansion, despite being harassed by Continental soldiers who weren’t ready to take orders from a woman, let alone the widow of a Tory. It wasn’t until Gen. George Washington received her note “Why’d the quiet home of a widow and two young daughters be infested by your uniformed loutish varlets?” and visited Molly Clarke that a resolution was reached. Sound like anyone you know? Molly proved her American patriotism defending her estate against British during the coming war. She kept the Clarke legacy, and the Chelsea neighborhood alive. A Clarke ancestor laid the cornerstone of London Terrace in 1929 and the building would defy the era and flourish despite the looming Great Depression.