Landmarks Music History Podcasts

The Dark, Glamorous, Sexy and Joyously Musical History of the Ansonia

PODCAST The strange, scandalous and sex-filled story of The Ansonia, an Upper West Side architectural gem and a legendary musical landmark.

In the television show Only Murders in the Building, Martin Short, Steve Martin and Selena Gomez play podcasters attempting to solve a mystery in a building full of eccentric personalities.

Their fictional apartment building is called The Arconia, a name partially inspired by The Ansonia, a former residential hotel with a history truly stranger than fiction.

A view from the top of the Ansonia, 1911, New York Public Library

Built by the copper scion W.E.D Stokes, the lavish Ansonia remains one of the grandest buildings on the Upper West Side. But its hallways have seen some truly dramatic events including one of the greatest sports crimes in American history.

Today the Ansonia is still known as the home for great musicians and many of the most famous composers and opera stars have lived here.

But it’s the music legacy of the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse once in its basement, that may resonate with pop and rock music lovers as the launching pad for one of America’s great performers.

PLUS: The hedonistic disco delights of Plato’s Retreat.

NOTEThis show feature discussions of adult sex clubs and bathhouses. Although the show does not linger on the specifics, parental guidance is nonetheless suggested. 


The Ansonia 1904, Detroit Publishing Co., Library of Congress

W.E.D. Stokes — Notable New Yorkers of 1896-1899 (1899)
1920 advertisement, courtesy Clock History

Bette Midler at the Continental Baths:

A television commercial (!!!) for Plato’s Retreat

Eleanor Steber’s album recorded at the Continental Baths

The New York Herald article mentioned in the podcast where Stokes explains why women from Chicago have such large feet.


The Ansonia: A Pictorial History of Manhattan’s Beaux-Arts Masterpiece / The Cardinals
Built to Last: 100+ Year Old Hotels in New York / Stanley Turkel
Design Notebook: Rescuing the Ansonia from the Rescuers” by Paul Greenberger
Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series / Eliot Asinof
Here Lies the Heart / Mercedes de Acosta
Live At The Continental / Steve Ostrow
The Sky’s The Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan / Steven Gaines
That Wacky Little Waif, Bette Midler” by Rex Reed (New York Daily News)
A Troubled Transition for the Ansonia” by Shawn G. Kennedy
A View from a Broad / Bette Midler
Vision and Enterprise: Exploring the History of Phelps Dodge / Carlos A. Schwantes


After listening to this episode on the history of the Ansonia, check out these past episodes with similar themes and subjects

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2 replies on “The Dark, Glamorous, Sexy and Joyously Musical History of the Ansonia”

I remember hearing about some of these… like Plato’s Retreat. Wild! I haven’t listened to this podcast yet, but looking forward to it! I’d like to say THANK YOU for making the past 2 years so much better. They were tough. These podcasts are truly fun and so intriguing
Happy New Year!!!

Thanks for a particularly enjoyable episode. I remember the Ansonia well and fondly! During the 70s and a bit into the 80s (until it was sold, I guess), the 2nd floor housed studios of various sizes that could be rented by the hour for auditions, rehearsals, and classes. I avoided the basement where Plato’s Retreat was. But I spent many hours in the studios.

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