Of all the awe-inspiring, historically significant buildings that make the Upper West Side of Manhattan so aesthetically pleasing and popular to the masses, perhaps few are as architecturally exuberant or hold such colorful history as the Ansonia building and hotel.
Located at 2109 Broadway, the Ansonia’s ornate façade towers 18 stories above the trees at its feet, both beautiful and a little imposing. The structure is massive—the largest mixed apartment/hotel building in the city, boasting 1,400 rooms, over 300 suites and a grand total of 50,000 square feet, according to Stephen Gaines, author of The Sky’s the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan.
In addition to the scale and grandeur of the Ansonia building itself, the building is rich with the history of the people who have lived there and the secrets contained within its walls. But the past isn’t the only thing interesting about the building. Its present is pretty fascinating, too.
William Earl Dodge “W.E.D.” Stokes, heir to the huge Ansonia copper fortune, broke ground for the Ansonia building in 1899, but prior to that, he was a flamboyant figure in New York society—though not especially popular.
Historical sources differ somewhat as to Stokes’ character. The term “despicable” comes up with some frequency, and most sources agree that Stokes was a general pain in the neck, though others more charitably refer to him as “eccentric.” He was prone to random outbursts of profanity and fired people for entertainment. He sought out and married a 15-year-old girl he knew only from a photograph in a shop window, alienated his entire family through intrigue and litigation, and seemed to care for nothing but his grand vision for the Ansonia.