Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Doughnut Balustrade

It's a sad thing to walk by the Chelsea Hotel these days. The big neon sign is dark, the lobby is desolate, and there's a miserable paper sign taped to the door to let everyone know the place is "closed to the public."



The Doughnut Plant downstairs isn't closed, though. It's hopping with members of the public. They make artisanal treats and do not spell their name D-O-N-U-T like the old-schoolers do. They moved into the large space formerly occupied by Chelsea Guitars.



I took a peek inside and was surprised to find the counter wrapped in the flowered, wrought-iron balustrade that frames the balconies of the hotel--the one that poet James Schuyler rhapsodized about. I kept trying to figure out if this is a copy or a piece of the original. I asked the barista and received a blank look.



Gothamist reported awhile back that the Doughnut Plant owner "temporarily removed a section of railing" from the hotel "in order to have it cast and replicated." He also plucked the flowers to make light fixtures.

Meanwhile, upstairs, the historic rooms are gutted as Chelsea tenants are evicted, and most of us have no hope of ever leaning on one of those balustrades--unless we're buying artisanal doughnuts.

25 comments:

Alex in NYC said...

Everything about this makes me sick with sadness.

Blayze said...

Sigh, although I give credit to the owner (who's family has an extensive history in baking and keeps that tradition alive, considering he moved to NY before NY became an overpriced foodie hub) and for replicating the flower details of the cast iron versus some modern ikea junk.

I suppose it's still kind of sad.

Marco said...

And the doughnuts are overpriced and mediocre to boot!

esquared said...

[apropos to Chelsea hotel and the condofication of NYC...]

From that point onward I never worked a regular office job again, solely writing for a living, something that would have been impossible if New York hadn’t been a city of low rents and crappy expectations that didn’t require a trust fund or a six figure income for the privilege of watching everything fall apart before your eyes…At that age apartments were just places to stay, temporary launchpads or secluded cubbyholes, not outward constructs of your identity that required Hamlet-style agonizing for fear that at the root of your being, you might not be an “uptown person".

~ James Wolcott, Lucking Out

Anonymous said...

Time to leave NYC. I've been saying that for years.

abrod said...

Doughnut Plant donuts don't hold a damn candle to Krispy Kreme if you ask me.
At least they adopted some of the style of the hotel in that balustrade, unlike the whole Fedora sign deal

kim said...

A sad state to see all the historic remanants being demolished in place of something artificial and unauthentic.

Dave said...

It's a sign of the impending "end of days" when an "imitation of real" is preferred to "real". All this stuff around us - gritty, uncomfortable, alive - can only be endured by the style-makers once they have sterilized, colored and adjusted it to make it "better".

chris flash said...

I used to respect the owner of Doughnut Plant when he was working out of a small basement space, hand-crafting donuts according to his grandfather's recipe with some novel additions, then delivering a limited number of donuts to a small number of stores on his bike.

Obviously, it's not a bad thing that a local business owner is doing well and expanding his operation, but I wonder if he couldn't have been more selective about his new location.

Considering what the owner of the Chelsea has been doing there and knowing that he'd be taking the space that long-time neighborhood business Chelsea Guitars was forced out of after more than 20 years, the owner of Doughnut Plant could have made a choice that did not further embolden and enrich the parasite now destroying the historic Chelsea Hotel.

abrod said...

A question I often find myself asking is: what, exactly, constitutes "real" anymore?
I agree with Blayze; at least they chose to adopt the landmark style of the hotel's balustrade rather than come up with another bland, modern iStyle. I consider it a signal of respect for the landmark, not a ploy to disguise something new.
That counter with the balustrade design is real style. If you want fake style, I submit the Standard East (nee Cooper Square) Hotel - it's nothing more than a flat, unoriginal, half-assed, slapped-together approximation of some kind of Apple Store / bauhaus style.

esquared said...

it's the SATC-ification of NYC -- the hypperreality Baudrilliardification of NYC. The hyperreal or hyperfantasy is now the "real".

Marty Wombacher said...

I'll take the Donut Pub on 14th Street over this place any day of the week!

Space Pope said...

At least I got to lean on the balustrade (now I know what that is!)when it was still attached to Chelsea-proper. Almost fell off the thing from being drunk and high as a lord! Ah, Chelsea. That month I lived there will forever be emblazoned in my fond memories. As well as the scar in my small rib from the knife I got from a (miserably failed) mugging attempt nearby.

JaWz said...

I am a native Chelsea-ite of over 40 yrs. I care plenty about the history of the Chelsea Hotel, and about its ejected residents--but let's face it kids, it really is history now. I have no problem with the owner of the Doughnut Plant making an attempt to pay homage. To me that is far better than if none was paid. It would be overkill, and quite gross, if he had the 20-something staff trained to answer questions about the history of the spot, as if they were somehow a part of it. But a subtle nod to the ghosts, ok by me.

Food-wise, I'm a huge proponent of the Donut Pub on 14th and thought I would never find something I liked better. I even posted about my love for them here

But I got to tell ya, this Doughnut Plant, it is really yummy. Lately that's where I go when I want a special treat. The chocolate "Blackout" is a life-changer. The blackberry jelly puts all other jellies to shame. They are very pricey, but one definitely has the sensation there of eating a donut made of foodstuffs rather than spun sugar.

I see no reason to blame this fun, tasteful, tasty joint for events it had nothing to do with, or to vilify them for attempting to be mindful of what came before them. I am glad they have landed in my neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

@JaWz

Bingo! This post got to me too.

My grandmother has lived on 8th & 23rd for over half a century, and raised my father (who is now 65) in the same apartment. My father no longer lives in NYC, but we go to El Quijote every time he visits. If they kick El Quijote out, my entire family will be heartbroken.

But Chelsea Guitars? Really? I am quite sure that the vast majority of both the old-timers and the newcomers would prefer the Doughnut Plant. The doughnuts are quite pricey, to be sure, but the quality is more on the level of a nice pastry shop than Dunkin. Fixed income rent stabilized or public housing neighborhood residents can afford a fancy/expensive doughnut every now and then. Unless you play guitar, then Chelsea Guitars was just something to look at.

What the landlord is doing to the hotel itself and its tenants, on the other hand, is atrocious. But it seems like this balustrade fiasco is more homage than simulacrum. I really don't consider this is a Fedora situation.

marjorie said...

I'm super-bummed about the Chelsea Hotel; I had an anxiety dream about it the other night. But I'm glad someone else made the point that the Doughnut Plant guy is the scion of a LES baking family. He's not a parvenu. And he's clearly an obsessive driven "artisanal" food person, not a "ooh, what's hip? BITTERS are hip, I'll do BITTERS!" kind of "artisanal" food person. Admire the former, loathe the latter. I haven't been to the new location, and I cringe at the thought of Magnolia types thronging there...and I agree that the donuts themselves are a mixed bag (the chocolate donuts are eh, but I really do think the creme brûlée doughnut is a special special thing). My first apt was in Chelsea, and I was on my old block last night and could barely recognize it. The pristine blandness is hugely sad. BUT I do think there are far worthier villains than Doughnut Plant. (And people, don't mock the "doughnut" spelling -- it wasn't "donut" until midcentury, when SOULLESS CHAIN Dunkin Donuts popularized that spelling! Before that it was all doughnut, all the time, here and everywhere!)

Jeremiah Moss said...

Marjorie, what was your dream? i often have anxiety dreams about the city and what's vanishing from it. i'd love to hear yours, too, and others.

i wonder if it's a new genre of dreaming. kind of like the typical New York dream where you find an extra room in your apartment you never knew was there. LOVE that one.

Brendan said...

Other people have the extra room dream?

One time I found a whole extra floor and a back yard.

Space Pope said...

When I lived in NYC proper (just before the Giuliani-patrol booted me out) I had a dream that my tiny joint on 3rd and C had a hidden stairway that went to a sectioned-off part of a roof with a chicken and ribs joint and palm trees. I just sat and ate and drank while taxi-drivers below were firing automatic weapons at hotdog carts.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
@JaWz

Bingo! This post got to me too.

My grandmother has lived on 8th & 23rd for over half a century, and raised my father (who is now 65) in the same apartment.

Hey Anonymous, this "also-Anonymous" probably knew your grandmother if she lives in 300—my home for 15 fabulous years—but I know of only one person who grew up there since it's all studios and one-bedrooms. I miss the old Chelsea—it's mutated into a freaking nightmare.

marjorie said...

Jeremiah -- I'm embarrassed to post the specifics of my anxiety dream. Too naked a view of my psyche! But it involved the Chelsea Hotel being all bombed out, and me having to wend my way through the remains to find something, and if I didn't make it, HORRIBLENESS WOULD ENSUE.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Marjorie, thanks for sharing that. it's interesting to see how NYC landmarks feature in people's dream life. i hope you found what you were looking for!

Lisa said...

The extra room dream!! I no longer live in New York, but I still dream about my last apartment there on the LES quite regularly. As when I lived there, it often has extra rooms, or those hidden stairways.

(I also have extra room dreams about my Philly apartment now, which is a loft.)

The last time I was on the LES I felt as though I was having a dream, where I knew where things were supposed to be and what was supposed to be there, but everything looked weird and wrong. It makes me sad.

esquared said...

here's another faux-tentication or autherentification of NYC --

www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/fashion/red-egg-a-new-dance-spot-in-chinatown-boite.html

[the max for comments per post is three, right? i'll stop now]

Jeremiah Moss said...

esquared, your comments are always welcome and helpful. no need to hold back.