The goal was to make it the “most perfectly equipped house in the world,” as colorful and combative developer W.E.D. Stokes proclaimed.
The 340 suites had hot and cold running water, message tubes so staff and guests could communicate, and primitive AC in the form of frozen brine pumped through flues hidden inside walls, states Steven Gaines‘ The Sky’s the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan.
The lobby contained a fountain with live seals. The basement held the world’s largest swimming pool. A sweeping interior staircase led to an enormous glass skylight. A curator was on hand to help shape the hotel’s art collection.
But the Beaux-Arts beauty (nicknamed the Upper West Side’s “wedding cake” because of its mansard roof and decorative touches) had an amenity no other luxury apartment house in New York could boast of.
It was a rooftop farm—complete with ducks, geese, six goats, a bear, a pig named Nanki-Poo, and roughly 500 chickens, from which bellhops collected fresh eggs every day and delivered them to tenants.
And while a roof farm would definitely be a plus for today’s well-heeled locavore co-op dweller, the Board of Health back then wasn’t too pleased.
In 1907, officials threatened to raid the farm. It’s unclear what happened to most of the animals.
But Nanki-Poo and the geese, pets that belonged to Stokes’ young son, were safely rounded up before the inspector arrived.
These critters were eventually moved to the Central Park Menagerie. The Ansonia’s roof farm, like other parts of the Ansonia’s long and storied past (its stint as the site of a notorious sex club, for example) passed into history.
Now, what happened to the live seals in the lobby fountain?
[Top photo: Ansonia, 1904; second photo: looking north from the Ansonia roof, 1911, NYPL; third image: New-York Tribune, 1908; fourth photo: Ansonia in 1970, MCNY; fifth image: 1910, NYPL]