2107 Broadway (between 73/74th Streets)
Opened: Opened 1904
Architects: Paul E. M. Duboy and Michael Graves
The Ansonia Hotel was constructed by William Earle Dodge Stokes between 1899 and 1904 as one of the city's largest and grandest apartment hotels. Stokes was heir to the Phelps-Dodge copper fortune and a major stockholder in the Ansonia Clock Company.
The 18-story Beaux-Arts building contains 2,500 rooms that were originally clustered in 300 suites. The original design also included an additional 10-story ornamental tower above the main building structure that was never built. All residential floors feature high ceilings, wide corridors and extremely thick masonary walls that, while constructed to make the building fireproof, also serve to make suites largely soundproof. The building incorporated the standard (for the time) tea rooms, restaurant, Turkish bath and grand ballroom. The lobby fountain originally hosted live seals and a special elevator carried cows to the roof where they lived while supplying residents with fresh milk. The building was the first hotel in the city to feature air conditioning.
The soundproof walls attracted numerous musicians over the years including conductor Arturo Toscanini, composer Igor Stravinsky and singers Enrico Caruso, Teresa Stratas, Geraldine Farrar, Feodor Chaliapin, Lauritz Melchior, Ezio Pinza, and Lily Pons. Other notable residents included Mischa Elman, Yehudi Menuhin, Florenz Ziegfeld, Sol Hurok, Theodore Dreiser, Cornell Woolrich, and Elmer Rice, Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, and Angelina Jolie.
By the 1950s, most of the apartments had been subdivided into studios and one-bedroom apartments. The state of the building reflected the general decline of the city, leading to serious consideration of demolition in the late 1960s. One of the sequence of predatory owners removed and sold much of the copper ornamentation, including the rooftop lanterns. The basement bathhouse became home to the Continental Baths (a gay sex club) and Plato's Retreat (a club for heterosexual "swinger" couples). The first floor became the home of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, a musical theatre training conservatory. When I attended AMDA from in the early 1990s, I lived for a semester in one of the few student apartments the school maintained in the building.
In 1992 the building was converted to condominiums with 430 suites gradually being returned to their original layout as rent controlled apartment tenants died or moved out. A succession of retailers have inhabited the street-level storefronts: the basement space was a Tower Records store, later becoming a Food Emporium grocery store and a Gristedes grocery store, neither of which could compete with the Fairway across the street.
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