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TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE ANSONIA
The Ansonia is located at 2109 Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets and is one of the most ornate, beautiful buildings on the Upper West Side. The attention to detail and architecture is absolutely stunning. I didn’t know much about the Ansonia before writing this but the history is intriguing to say the least! Can you imagine what Broadway was like in 1900? In 1992, the Ansonia was converted to a Condominium building featuring 430 apartments. By 2007, many rent controlled tenants had moved out and the smaller apartments were joined to make larger apartments again. Today there are studios, 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms and even larger homes available at the Ansonia. Currently there are 1 bedrooms starting at $900,000 and a spacious 7 bedroom home on the market for $12 Million. Here are more things you may not have known about the Ansonia.
1. The Ansonia began construction in 1899 and was completed in 1904. It was built as a hotel by William Earle Dodge Stokes who was heir to the Phelps-Dodge Copper fortune. He was also a shareholder in the Ansonia Clock Company. The Ansonia was named after Williams’s grandfather, Anson Greene Phelps.
2. The architect was Frenchman, Paul E. Duboy. He was commissioned to build the “grandest” hotel in Manhattan. Mr. Duboy was a sculptor who designed the “Sailors and Soldiers Monument” on 89th and Riverside Drive. Inspired by hotels in Paris, Duboy designed the 18 story Beaux-Arts style hotel with Parisian mansard roof. The round corner towers or turrets made this building a stand out.
3. William Stokes listed himself as the “architect in chief”. The Ansonia opened in April of 1904. It was the largest residential hotel of its day. The total construction cost was 3 Million. The building was approximately 550,000 sf and featured a grand ballroom, restaurants, tea rooms, barbershop, a bank, Turkish baths and a lobby fountain with live seals! It also had an indoor swimming pool. This was the ultimate in luxury for its time!
4. The Ansonia was the first air conditioned hotel in NYC. The interior hallways are said to be the widest in any NYC building. The luxurious apartments had multiple bedrooms, libraries, parlors and formal dining rooms that were round or oval. They also had bay windows, high ceilings and views of Broadway. There were also central kitchens on each floor where residents could enjoy their own private chefs and dine in their apartments.
5. Mr. Stokes was quite a character! His personal escapades made him infamous. He was often in the newspapers with stories of multiple marriages, infidelity, and supposedly being shot in the legs on West 80th while in the company of 2 of his mistresses. The NY Times supposedly called him “refreshing” and not a “slave to conventionalities” which leads me to the next fun fact…’
6. I love this one. It was certainly not your average roof deck…For years, William kept a farm on the roof of the Ansonia next to his apartment. The “Farm” had 500 chickens, ducks, goats and cattle. The building even featured its own cattle elevator. Fresh eggs were delivered by the bellhop each day to all the tenants. Unfortunately, the Dept. of Health was not so charmed with this roof top amenity and shut the farm down in 1907.
7. William Stokes died in 1926. Soon after his son took over, the building fell into disrepair. The Golden Age was shortened by the Great Depression and the building closed its hotel rooms. The grand apartments were subdivided into smaller units and it became a rental building. Sadly, the grand entrance on Broadway was closed and storefronts were installed. The façade’s copper was also stripped and melted down for bullets for WW II.
8. In the 1960’s there was a debate to demolish the Ansonia. It had become run down and in need of a major renovation. Luckily, New Yorkers came together as they often do and The Ansonia was saved! How tragic would that have been? The Ansonia was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
9. In the 70’s, new owner Jake Starr rented the basement of the Ansonia to the Continental Baths, a bath house reminiscent of Ancient Rome. It featured a disco and cabaret. Bette Midler began her career here accompanied by Barry Manilow on piano! Wow!
10. The Ansonia housed many celebrities. They include Babe Ruth, composer Igor Stravinsky, writer Theodore Dreiser, boxer Jack Dempsey, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman and more. There have also been hit movies filmed here including Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters”, “Single White Female”, Neil Simon’s “Sunshine Boys”, and the “Perfect Stranger”.
After researching the history of the Ansonia, I am going to feel differently passing by this ultra busy location imagining what it must have been like so many years ago….I walked through its grand lobby just the other day. It is an entire block and it exudes the charm of “old school” New York…The next time you are on the Upper West Side, take a moment to check out this truly magnificent landmark!
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