2109 Broadway (at West 73rd)
The Ansonia seemed destined for notoriety from its very inception. The grand building was dreamed up by William Earl Dodge Stokes, a real estate developer and heir to a copper fortune. Stokes made waves when, at 42, he married Rita Hernandez de Alba de Acosta, the pampered 15-year old daughter of a Spanish heiress and a Cuban poet. The marriage was far from blissful and broke up in 1899, the same year Stokes broke ground on the Ansonia. Stokes kept Weddie, their only child, in exchange for the largest divorce settlement to date.
Stokes as "architect-in-chief" commissioned Paul DuBoy, a sculptor, to build the grandest hotel in New York. The resulting 550,000 square feet structure was in the Beaux Arts style with a mansard roof and round corner turets. It featured a grand ballroom, restaurants, tea rooms, barbershop, a bank, Turkish baths and a lobby fountain with live seals, and included a rooftop farm to realize Stokes' utopian vision for a self-sufficient residential hotel.
After Stokes' death in 1926, the suites were subdivided into smaller rental units, and the Ansonia fell into disrepair. After several failed attempts to demolish the building in the 1960s, the Ansonia was landmarked in 1972. In 1992, the Ansonia came full circle to its former grandeur when it was restored and converted to condos, with many of the smaller apartments re-combined to provide luxury living.
The Ansonia has always been linked with colorful characters and scandal. One of its first residents, Al Adams, a notorious convicted racketeer, was found in his room with a gun shot wound that was ruled a suicide amidst speculation that Stokes had murdered him over gambling debts.
For you baseball fans, many New York Yankees have lived in the Ansonia, including Babe Ruth who would wander through the halls in his scarlet robe and practice his saxophone in his suite. A few years earlier, notorious White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil, another resident, held meetings in the Ansonia to try to recruit his teammates to throw the 1919 World Series.
Musicians and entertainers also flocked to the Ansonia. Broadway legend Florenz Ziegfeld and his wife (and his mistress in a separate suite) called it home, as did several of the Metropolitan Opera's general managers and great tenors.
In 1968, the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse and nightclub, was opened in the basement. Bette Midler's stage persona -- the Divine Miss M -- was created in the Baths where she performed with Barry Manilow. The Baths closed in 1974, and three years later a straight swinger's club, Plato's Retreat, took its place until 1980.