The Ansonia

The Ansonia

The Ansonia is a building in the Upper West Side of New York, New York in the United States, located at 2109 Broadway between 73rd and 74th Streets. It was originally built as a hotel by William Earle Dodge Stokes (1852-1926), the Phelps-Dodge copper heir and share holder in the Ansonia Clock Company, and was named after his grandfather industrialist Anson Greene Phelps. In 1899, Stokes commissioned architect Paul E. Duboy (1857-1907) to build the greatest and grandest hotel in Manhattan, New York.

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 (New York), to draw up the plans. [ [ Calling All Ansonia Buffs: Zabar Thesis Now Available Online - - July 25, 2007] ] A contractor sued Stokes in 1907 and he would defend himself saying that Duboy was in an insane asylum in Paris -- and should not have been signing plans for the hotel. [ [ A West Side Developer's Other Side = New York Times - August 28, 2005] ]


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 18-story steel frame structure. The exterior is decorated in the Beaux-Art style with a Parisian style Mansard roof. A striking architectural feature is the round corner towers or turrets. Unusually 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 some farm animals on the building's roof next to his personal apartment. The building has the unusual feature of possessing a cattle elevator which enabled milk cows to be stabled on the roof.

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

By mid-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.

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 detail. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Commerce Bank branch on the ground level plays a documentary covering the history of the Ansonia. The short video is played in the front of the entrance in the bank.

Movies, Books, Scandals and Stars

* The Ansonia housed a famous gay bathhouse, the Continental Baths, in its basement during the 1960s and 70s. In 1977 the club became Plato's Retreat, a heterosexual swing club. Bette Midler famously started her singing career at the Continental Baths. A video of Bette Midler singing at the Continental Baths with Barry Manilow at the piano can be found here. [ [ Manhattan Real Estate - nyc BLOG estate - New York City Real Estate: The Ansonia - 2109 Broadway ] ]
* The Ansonia is said to have been the inspiration for the Hotel Gloriana in the Saul Bellow novel "Seize The Day", although the Ansonia itself is mentioned as being visible from the Gloriana. Bellow describes the Gloriana in his 1956 book: "It looks like a baroque palace from Prague or Munich enlarged a hundred times, with towers, domes, huge swells of metal gone green from exposure, iron fretwork and festoons. Black television antennae are densely planted on its round summits. Under the changes of weather it may look like marble or sea water, black as slate in the fog, white as tufa in sunlight."
* 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 in 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." [ [ 'Perfect Stranger': Not Thrilled To Meet You - ] ]
* 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 one alias of Helen Godman, also known as "Buda" Godman, the lure of 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. [ [ 'Two Admit Blackmail'- New York Times ] ] 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 later 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 [McLaren, A. (2002). "Sexual blackmail: A modern history." Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press. p.90 ] and disappeared for many years, eventually being caught and charged for trying to fence the Glemby Jewels taken in a 1932 robbery [James, M. (1943). "Biography of a business, 1792-1942: Insurance Company of North America." Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p.299 ] .
* A key player in the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, first baseman Chick Gandil, had an apartment in 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 throw the 1919 World Series.
* Willie Sutton the bank robber, was arrested at Child's Restaurant in the Ansonia.
* The characters in the HBO drama "Don't say a Word" live in the Ansonia. [ [] ]
* Famous former residents include opera stars Teresa Stratas, Geraldine Farrar, Feodor Chaliapin, Lauritz Melchior (whom Selwen maintained "practiced archery in the 110-foot corridors"), Ezio Pinza, and Lily Pons; 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 and actress Angelina Jolie.


The most common story has to do with the elevators. People claim that they have seen an elevator door open to reveal two couples, the men wearing tail coats and top hats, the ladies dressed for the evening in Edwardian style. They are said to invite you to come with them to "the party." It is said that when the door closes the elevator goes up.Fact|date=September 2008

Some residents claim to have witnessed a party taking place on the seventeenth floor. This was built as a floor of servants' quarters, but it is now a residential floor with interestingly shaped apartments, frequently with porthole-style windows and fabulous views. The ghosts attending the party are said to be very friendly.Fact|date=September 2008


The Ansonia is assigned to schools in the New York City Department of Education. The building is zoned to [ P.S. 87 William Sherman] but is unzoned for middle school. Residents of the Ansonia may contact Region 10 to determine the middle school assignments.


External links

* [ Condominium home page]
* [ History and pictures]
* [ Images and history] at
* [ tom fletcher's new york architecture images and notes]
* [ Picture] at "New York Skyscrapers"
* [ The Upper West Side Book]
* [ Steven Gaines, "The Building of the Upper West Side", "New York Real Estate"]
* [ Mary K. Fons, "Inside the Ansonia, A New York Classic", "New York Real Estate"]
* [ The Building of the Upper West Side]
* [ Photo of Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey in Ruth's apartment at the Ansonia.]

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