New Yorker Creates Guitars out of the “Bones of the City”

Posted on February 24, 2012

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In New York’s West Village, a developer is transforming the iconic Chelsea Hotel.  But one man isn’t going to let the building’s historic materials go to waste.  Rick Kelly, owner of Carmine Street Guitars, builds instruments from what he calls “the bones of old New York City” — white pine boards salvaged from some of the city’s most richly storied buildings.  Kelly acquired beams from the Hotel Chelsea a few years ago when a friend tipped him off that the wood was being discarded.  Apparently one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Kelly says that, “if [his guitar materials] could talk, they would have stories to tell.”  Not only does Kelly see using these discarded materials as profitable, but he sees it as a way to preserve the city’s architectural history.

Kelly scored materials from another famous west side site, the former Bedford Street speakeasy Chumley’s, and used materials from this and the Chelsea Hotel to create a guitar for former Chelsea Hotel resident, Bob Dylan.   Rick Kelly moved his guitar shop to Carmine Street in 1990 and began making guitars from discarded wood out of necessity.  I started collecting old wood in college because it was free,” he says.  Kelly made his first guitar with wood from a New York building several years ago, after director Jim Jarmusch renovated his loft on the Bowery and gave the wood to Kelly. He turned the wood into two guitars for Jarmusch.

Kelly says he’s amazed each time he finds the skeletons of history in a famous building’s garbage.  “People just throw this stuff away. It blows my mind,” he said.


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