The neighborhood began its slow transformation around the turn of the 20th century, beginning with the construction of The Dakota in 1885. Designed by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, designer of the Plaza Hotel, The Dakota was built in a North German Renaissance style, which can be seen in its deep, sloping roof. It’s often said that The Dakota derived its name from the fact that the Upper West Side was as sparsely populated and remote as the West’s Dakota Territory.
Now a designated historical landmark, the building would unfortunately lapse into infamy when its most famous resident, John Lennon, was gunned down in 1980 in the building’s entryway by a deranged fan .
A few years after the construction of The Dakota the Upper West Side would receive its very first skyscraper in the form of the 17-story Ansonia. Built by William Stokes, a tycoon with a dream, in 1904, the Ansonia was the most opulent building in all of New York City. Boasting a beaux-arts design and a Parisian-style roof, the building had over 300 suites, the world’s largest indoor swimming pool and a ballroom that could accommodate 1,300 dinner guests.
The building’s over-the-top grandeur quickly made it the preferred residence for some of the city’s nouveau riche like baseball players, boxers and even gangsters. Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey were two well-known residents, and it was in the Ansonia that several members of the Chicago White Sox colluded with gangster Arnold Rothstein to throw the 1919 World Series.
While visitors to NYC today can’t stay in either The Dakota or the Ansonia—unless they have a friend living in the buildings—it’s still a lot of fun to walk around the Upper West Side taking in the buildings’ grand architecture and history. Afterward return back to The MAve boutique hotel in the Flatiron District for a good night’s rest.