In 1822, wealthy New York scholar and poet Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), a resident of the Chelsea neighborhood, wrote the famous Christmas poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas," known widely as "Twas the Night Before Christmas." The poem first appeared in a Troy, New York newspaper in 1823 with "anonymous" listed as the author, and Moore acknowledged authorship in 1844 after the poem became a standard. Some scholars suggest he appropriated a poem authored by Major Henry Livingston, Jr. (1748-1828) and turned it into the most famous Christmas poem of all time.
Clement Clarke Moore Park, located at 10th Avenue and 22nd Street, was once the Clarke family estate. The house, located at what is now Eighth Avenue and West 23rd, was called "Chelsea," named for a old soldier's hospital in London. "Chelsea," as we know, became the name for the surrounding neighborhood. At the time he wrote "A Visit From St. Nicholas," Clement Moore was a Professor at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church. He had donated the family land for use as a seminary, and the still-thriving seminary stands today along Ninth Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets.
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Exploring this area of Chelsea offers a chance for some peace and quiet, a welcome respite from the frenzy of midtown during the holidays. With the emergence of the important gallery district to the west, the older townhouses along these streets have been restored and well-maintained. Be sure to ask to see the gardens at the General Theological Seminary, and stop to admire St. Peter's Church on W. 20th nearby. The German Evangelist Lutheran St. Paul's church on W. 22nd. is also worth noting.
Choices for informal dining include the Moonstruck Diner, the Empire Diner, and a couple of French-style cafés (all noted on the map - enlarge to see specifics).
This special themed Christmas Walk will continue to Irving Place for a celebration of O. Henry. See previous post for the introduction. Or continue the walk to Part II.
Timely event note: The 34th Annual Chelsea Community Church Candlelight Carol Service takes place Sunday, December 14 at 6 p.m. at the Chelsea Community Church, 346 West 20th Street (St. Peter's Church). The event is free. For more information, see the church's web page on the event here.