Ansonia Hotel

The Ansonia is a building on the Upper West Side of New York City, located at 2109 Broadway, between 73rd and 74th Streets. It was originally built as a hotel by William Earle Dodge Stokes, the Phelps-Dodge copper heir and share holder in the Ansonia Clock Company, and it was named for his grandfather, the industrialist, Anson Greene Phelps. In 1899, Stokes commissioned architect Paul E. Duboy (1857–1907) to build the grandest hotel in Manhattan.

Stokes would list himself as "architect-in-chief" for the project and hired Duboy, a sculptor who designed and made the ornamental sculptures on the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, to draw up the plans. A contractor sued Stokes in 1907, but he would defend himself, explaining that Duboy was in an insane asylum in Paris and should not have been making commitments in Stokes's name concerning the hotel.

In what might be the earliest harbinger of the current developments in urban farming, Stokes established a small farm on the roof of the hotel.

History

The Ansonia was a residential hotel. The residents lived in luxurious apartments with multiple bedrooms, parlors, libraries, and formal dining rooms that were often round or oval. Apartments featured sweeping views north and south along Broadway, high ceilings, elegant moldings, and bay windows. The Ansonia also had a few small units, one bedroom, parlor and bath; these lacked kitchens. There was a central kitchen and serving kitchens on every floor, so that the residents could enjoy the services of professional chefs while dining in their own apartments. Besides the usual array of tearooms, restaurants, and a grand ballroom, the Ansonia had Turkish baths and a lobby fountain with live seals.

Erected between 1899 and 1904, it was the first air-conditioned hotel in New York. The building has an eighteen-story steel-frame structure. The exterior is decorated in the Beaux-Art style with a Parisian style mansard roof. Striking architectural features are the round corner-towers or turrets. Unusual for a Manhattan building, the Ansonia features an open stairwell that sweeps up to a huge domed skylight. The interior corridors may be the widest in the city. For several years Stokes kept farm animals on the building's roof next to his personal apartment. Another unusual feature of the building is its cattle elevator, which enabled dairy cows to be stabled on the roof.

The building's original, elaborate copper cornices were removed during World War II and melted down for the war effort.

The Ansonia has had many celebrated residents, including baseball player Babe Ruth, writer Theodore Dreiser, conductor Arturo Toscanini, composer Igor Stravinksy, and Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, who chose the hotel to live in because of its thick walls.

By the mid-twentieth-century, the grand apartments had mostly been divided into studios and one-bedroom units, almost all of which retained their original architectural detail.

After a short debate in the 1960s, a proposal to demolish the building was fought off by its many musical and artistic residents.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

In 1992 the Ansonia was converted to a condominium apartment building with 430 apartments. By 2007, most of the rent-controlled tenants had moved out, and the small apartments were sold to buyers who purchased clusters of small apartments and threw them together to recreate the grand apartments of the building's glory days, with carefully restored Beaux-Arts details.

The TD Bank branch on the ground level plays a short video documentary near the main entrance to the bank, which covers the history of the Ansonia.

The Ansonia is home to the New York campus of the American Musical & Dramatic Academy.

Movies, books, scandals, and stars
  • The Ansonia housed an infamous gay bathhouse, the Continental Baths, in its basement during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1977, the club became Plato's Retreat, a heterosexual swing club. Bette Midler started her singing career at the Continental Baths, with Barry Manilow as her accompianist.
  • In his 1956 novella Seize The Day, Saul Bellow incorrectly attributes the Ansonia Hotel to Stanford White. Bellow's description is otherwise memorably evocative:
  • The Ansonia was also used as the apartment building where Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh lived in the 1992 film Single White Female. The apartment scenes were filmed in a studio but the stairwell scenes were filmed on location at the hotel.
  • In the Neil Simon film, The Sunshine Boys, the character Willie Clark, played by Walter Matthau, lives in the Ansonia.
  • In the film, Perfect Stranger, Halle Berry plays a news-reporter who lives in a "professionally decorated $4-million condo in the lavish Ansonia building on the Upper West Side."
  • In 1916, the Ansonia was the scene of a blackmail plot. Edward R. West, Vice President of the C. D. Gregg Tea and Coffee Company of Chicago, had checked into the hotel with a woman known to him as Alice Williams. Alice Williams was an alias of Helen Godman, also known as "Buda" Godman, who acted as the "lure" for a blackmail gang based in Chicago. West and Godman were together in their room at The Ansonia when two male members of the gang, impersonating Federal law enforcement agents, entered the room and "arrested" West for violation of the Mann Act. After transporting West and Godman back to Chicago, West was coerced into paying the two "agents" $15,000 in order to avoid prosecution, and avoid embarrassment or soiling the reputation of "Alice." West reported the incident after becoming suspicious that not everything was as it seemed. Several of the male blackmailers earned prison terms, but "Buda" Godman was released on bail. She disappeared for many years, but she was eventually caught and charged for trying to fence the Glemby Jewels taken in a 1932 robbery.
  • A key player in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, first baseman Chick Gandil, had an apartment at the Ansonia. According to Eliot Asinof, in his book Eight Men Out, Gandil held a meeting there with his White Sox teammates to recruit them for the scheme to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series.
  • The Ansonia was also featured in "Don't Say a Word" starring Michael Douglas along with "My Super Ex-Girlfriend starring Uma Thurman and Luke Wilson.
  • Willie Sutton the bank robber was arrested at Childs Restaurant in the Ansonia.
  • Famous former residents include opera stars Teresa Stratas, Eleanor Steber, Geraldine Farrar, Feodor Chaliapin, Ezio Pinza, Lily Pons, and Lauritz Melchior (who, some maintained, "practiced archery in the 110-foot corridors"); musicians Arturo Toscanini, Igor Stravinksy, Mischa Elman, and Yehudi Menuhin; impresarios Florenz Ziegfeld and Sol Hurok; authors Theodore Dreiser, Cornell Woolrich, and Elmer Rice; athletes Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth; mobster Arnold Rothstein; the film actors, Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, and Eric McCormack, and soap opera actress and writer, Clarice Blackburn.
  • The Ansonia was the basis for the fictional Balmoral building in Jed Rubenfeld's 2006 literary novel "The Interpretation of Murder".
  • The building was featured in the 2003 movie,"Uptown Girls", as the location of Mollie's apartment. (The outside, stair case, and lobby were in the movie).
Education

Children living in the Ansonia are eligible to attend schools run by the New York City Department of Education. The building is zoned to P.S. 87, the William Sherman School, but it is unzoned for middle school. Residents of the Ansonia may contact Region 10 to determine the middle-school assignments.

The highly rated "York Prep" is located 6 blocks away on 69th Street between Central Park West and Columbus. Grades 6-12. Tuition: 30,000+ per year.

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