The English word Chelsea originates from the Old English term for "landing place for chalk or limestone". When Captain Thomas Clarke bought a large piece of the old farm in 1750 he named it Chelsea, after his native part of London. His son Clement Moore , best known for having written in 1822 the magical poem that begins, "T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the house...." with his friends divided his lands into lots and sold them for fine residences.
Completed in 1845, the development was called London Terrace.
As the buildings declined, however, the land value rose. Developer Henry Mandel recognized this and gradually acquired control of the block. By 1929 he had it all.
The central structure of the new complex was built in 1930. A year later the four corner buildings were added. The complex contained 1665 apartments comprised of 4.000 residential rooms. Most were either studios or one-bedrooms, with only a few large apartments in the corner buildings and at the terraced levels. At that time it was the largest apartment building in the world. It was the largest residential apartment complex in the world when it was completed.
Clement Moore himself was remembered at the cornerstone-laying ceremony, with his 15-year-old great-great-grandson doing the honors with the trowel. As a play on the name of the complex, Mandel had the doormen dress as London Bobbies upon opening.
Mandel filled London Terrace with state-of-the-art amenities that included: Olympic sized swimming pool, an acre of gardens, a building-wide intercom system, on site shopping, a free page-boy service, a telephone message service, a penthouse community room, a roof top play area for children, a deck exclusively for children and another roof deck furnished like it was located on a ocean liner. The pool, roof deck, gardens and intercom system are still in use today. The apartments filled up quickly, and three years after completion (1 January 1934), it was 94% rented. Three years after in 1933 the building fell into default - it was Great Depression that hit so hard.
In 1948, the building was divided into two parts and sold to separate management companies. The towers went co-op in 1989 and the center buildings, known as London Terrace Gardens, remain as rental units to this day. You can rent today the alcove studio for $3,200 or three bedroom tow bath apartment for $9,500 per month. Chelsea Clinton lived there.