Legends of the Upper West Side: The Past, Present, and Future of the Dakota

Posted On Thu, July 17, 2014 By

Posted On Thu, July 17, 2014 By In Celebrities, Features, History, Upper West Side 

Hotel Chelsea had the Warhol “superstars”, 740 Park Avenue has been considered the most sought after address in the world for 70 years, the San Remo boasts a rotating roster of celebrity residents–a lot of New York City buildings have their claim to fame. But none have as storied a past or talked-about current status as the famed Dakota at 1 West 72nd Street.

Best known as the site where John Lennon was killed when returning home with wife Yoko Ono, as well as its role in Roman Polanski’s acclaimed horror film “Rosemary’s Baby,” the Dakota’s mythical stature goes much deeper than its spectacular, fortress-like façade and proximity to Central Park. Long a desirable address for artsy celebrities, the building still attracts a slew of A-listers, but the strict co-op board is known to reject even the biggest names.

The Dakota, cast iron fence details, 15 Central Park West, historic NYC architectural details

The Dakota was designed by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who was later commissioned for the Plaza Hotel and original Waldorf-Astoria. He created a nine-story, imposing structure that stood out among the other opulent Central Park West Buildings. Its striking Victorian and Gothic details included high gables, terracotta spandrels and balconies, intricate street-level cast iron work, and oriel windows. The spacious courtyard and interior layouts, of which no two are alike, also set the Dakota apart, as did the tennis courts and croquet field on the adjoining lot (which was developed after WWII as a separate apartment house).

The Dakota, 1 West 72nd Street, historic images of the Dakota, historic NYC photos

When the residence opened its doors in 1884, all apartments were rented that same day. The Dakota was considered the epitome of modern luxury for its inclusion of pioneering amenities like an in-house power plant, early use of elevators, and lower-level dining hall with dumbwaiters leading to apartment kitchens. The frills continued in the individual units with hand-carved oak ceilings, marble mantels that were uniquely designed for each apartment, 13-foot ceilings, and flooring inlaid with marble, mahogany, oak and cherry.

The Dakota, 15 Central Park West, historic images of the Dakota, historic NYC photos

The rich and contemporary offerings of the Dakota attracted high-end residents from the very beginning. Among the first were the famous piano-making Steinways, who were followed by composer Peter Tchaikovsky and poet/writer Charles Henri Ford. During Hollywood’s Golden Age, the likes of actors Boris Karloff, Lillian Gish, Judy Garland and Lauren Bacall called the building home.

The Dakota, Upper West Side real estate, celebrity Dakota residents, NYC celebrity residents

The Dakota’s star power has not faltered through the years, drawing in a wider range of prominent names such as those from the arts, business, and publishing worlds. These later-day residents have included Leonard Bernstein, Roberta Flack, Jason Robards, Jack Palance, Harlan Coben, Connie Chung, and Maury Povich. There have even been some notable celebrity turnovers, including a two-bedroom unit that football coach and commentator John Madden bought from the late “Saturday Night Live” star Gilda Radner. And when John Lennon and Yoko Ono first arrived at the Dakota, they sublet an apartment from “Dirty Dozen” actor Robert Ryan, which they later purchased. They then went on to snatch up four additional units.

Upper West Side real estate, NYC real estate, top Upper West Side co-op sales, NYC co-op sales

The celebrity clientele is not the Dakota’s only claim to fame on the Upper West Side. It also consistently nets some of the highest sale prices among other coveted neighborhood residences. According to CityRealty, “Since 2003, among the trophy co-op buildings located along Central Park West, the Dakota holds the second-highest per-unit average –$5,491,721 – with only the Beresford, a much larger 23-story building, coming in higher, with an average selling price of $6,158, 274 per unit.” And for the whole Central Park West area, the average apartment sale price is $1,621,853.

1 West 72nd Street, The Dakota Library, The Dakota, Upper West Side real estate1 West 72nd Street 44C, for sale for $14.5 million; Photo © Brown Harris Stevens

The 93-unit Dakota has seen unusually low turnover recently, with only four deals completed in each of the last two years. And A-list status will no longer guarantee you a home in the building. When actors Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas sought to purchase the three-bedroom apartment of documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, the co-op board turned them down. Other famous rejects include Madonna, Carly Simon, Billy Joel, Cher, Judd Apatow, Alex Rodriguez, and Tea Leoni.

The Dakota, 1 West 72nd Street penthouse, Dakota apartments, Upper West Side real estate1 West 72nd Street PHC, for sale for $7.2 million; Photo © Douglas Elliman

Think you have what it takes to become part of the elite social club known as the Dakota? There are currently three apartments at the Dakota up for sale: a 4BR/3.5BA unit listed at $14.5 million; a 3BR/2BA space also asking $14.5 million; and a 2BR/2BA unit on the market for $7.2 million.

[Via CityRealty]

Lead image © Allan Tannenbaum; Other images © Wiki Commons unless otherwise noted

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Neighborhoods : Upper West Side

  • RoyBoy

    Don’t forget Lauren Bacall’s Dakota digs, up for a cool $26M.

  • Lucky Neko

    Rumor has it that a contemporary grunge like rockstar as he calls himself pines for an apartment at the Dakota, but is just too cowardly to give an offer because he cannot face a co-op board rejection, much like what some of his friends got — a rejection when they applied to be Yoko Ono’s neighbor.

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