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The Dakota Apartments - New York

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 forever influenced building and design throughout the United States and construction of what would become "The Dakota" was no exception.

Plans submitted to build a "Family Hotel" west of Central Park included fireproof stairways and partitions of "brick or fireproof blocks." A side-effect of all this fireproofing was offered by Landmarks Preservation Commission Designation Report:

"With its massive load bearing walls, heavy interior partitions, and double thick floors of concrete, it is one of the quietest buildings in the City."

—National Register of Historic Places Inventory

Built in an exciting time of U.S. history, The Dakota brings together many of the Significant Events of the 1880's - the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty were being assembled in Lower Manhattan, but the building site of NYC's first luxury apartment house was to be built in the un-populated "Wild, Wild West" side of Upper Manhattan, which seemed as far away as the Dakota Territory.

Location: Between 72nd and 73rd streets, West Central Park, New York City

Constructed: October 25, 1880, and October 27, 1884

Developer: Edward S. Clark - President of Singer Sewing Machine Company

Architect: Henry J. Hardenbergh

Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival, French Renaissance, German Gothic and English Victorian

Edward Clark 1850
Edward Clark 1850

Edward Clark (December 19, 1811 – October 14, 1882) was a lawyer who made his fortune as a co-founder of the Singer Sewing Company, purchased land on Central Park West and 72nd Street where he had Henry Janeway Hardenbergh's architectural firm design and build The Dakota.

It was originally known as "Clark's folly" before he adopted the name Dakota.

Clark died of malarial fever at his country estate in Cooperstown in Otsego County, New York on October 14, 1882. He left an estate estimated between $25m ($662m today) and $50m ($1.32bn today) excluding his real estate portfolio.

Isaac Merrit Singer Isaac Merrit Singer portrait by Edward Harrison May 1869
Isaac Merrit Singer portrait by Edward Harrison May 1869

Isaac Merritt Singer (October 27, 1811 – July 23, 1875) was an American inventor, actor, and businessman. He made important improvements in the design of the sewing machine and was the founder of what became one of the first American multi-national businesses, the Singer Sewing Machine Company.

Singer died in 1875 in Paignton, Devon, UK, a millionaire and divided his $14 million fortune unequally among 20 of his children by his wives and various mistresses; for one son who supported his first wife in her divorce case, only getting $500.

Henry Hardenbergh as a mature architect
Henry Hardenbergh as a mature architect

Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (February 6, 1847 – March 13, 1918) Was an American architect born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, of a Dutch family, and attended the Hasbrouck Institute in Jersey City. He apprenticed in New York from 1865 to 1870 under Detlef Lienau (a German architect born in Holstein. He is credited with having introduced the French style to American building construction, notably the mansard roof and all its decorative flourishes).

After opening his own practice he got the contract to design the "Vancorlear" on West 55th Street, the first apartment hotel in New York City, in 1879.

The following year he was commissioned by Edward S. Clark, then head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, to build a housing development. As part of this work, he designed the pioneering Dakota Apartments.

Subsequently, Hardenbergh received commissions to build the Waldorf (1893) and the adjoining Astoria (1897) hotels for William Waldorf Astor and Mrs. Astor, respectively.

The two competing hotels were later joined together as the Waldorf-Astoria, which was demolished in 1929 for the construction of the Empire State Building.

The western facade of the Dakota, circa 1889
The western facade of the Dakota, circa 1889 Source: Office for Metropolitan History via Bloomberg

The Dakota, also known as the Dakota Apartments, is a cooperative apartment building located on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West in the Upper West Side of the borough of Manhattan and when construction finished in 1884 there were sixty-five apartments. Each apartment had between four and twenty rooms and every apartment was different to each other. All apartments had electricity and central heating which was very rare at the time.

Developers submitted plans for a fortress-like building:

  • The foundation walls—of Blue stone laid in cement mortar—would be 3-4 feet thick

  • The first story walls would be 2 feet (24-28 inches) thick

  • Walls of stories 2-4 would be 20-24 inches thick

  • Walls of the fifth and sixth stories would be 16-20 inches thick

  • Walls of the seventh story and above would be at least 1 foot thick (12-16 inches)

Other luxury amenities in the building were a playroom and gymnasium.

There was a private lawn for the tenants and they also had a garden, tennis courts, and private croquet lawns.

The Dakota, as seen from Central Park in 1894.Photo: Museum of the City of New York/Byron Collection/Getty Images
The Dakota, as seen from Central Park in 1894.Photo: Museum of the City of New York/Byron Collection/Getty Images

For the building's debut in 1884, the developer Clark and architect Hardenbergh made sure that the Dakota had all of the new and cutting-edge technology which included electricity and elevators. Its in-house power plant and boilers could keep every structure in a four-block radius warm using steam heat and lit using dynamos. This was then one of the very first buildings to have elevators.

The 4 water powered elevators, one in each corner of the building, were worked by women in black dresses with white lace trim well into the 20th century. By the late 1970's they were relics and among the last remaining water powered elevators in the city. Water would collect on the top of the elevators and drip down on the passengers, they broke down frequently and they were very slow. Floor nine to one 1 sometimes took 5 minutes but as a resident said "It gave you time to talk."

The Dakota was an immediate success with all its apartments rented on opening day.

J.S. Johnson; print © The New York Historical Society 1890
J.S. Johnson; print © The New York Historical Society 1890

Although the building's name allegedly reflected the fact that the building was so far removed from the city's established luxury residential areas that it might as well be in the Dakota territory however it is more likely because Clarke was so taken with Western names, so much so that championed renaming Eighth, Ninth, 10th and 11th avenues Wyoming, Montana, Arizona and Idaho place, respectively

When it was completed in 1884 the only other buildings nearby were the recently constructed American Museum of Natural History and a few rows of terraced houses.

It was New York’s first truly luxury apartment building.

Very large rooms and lots of them, very high ceilings, all the materials, finishes and details that could be found in a really grand one-family house, the latest in modern equipment in the kitchens and bathrooms, electric lights in all the rooms and the public spaces (generated on site by the Dakota’s own dynamos); also size and grandeur in the building itself. Clark said that only very few people could afford to build a palace to live in, but his tenants could afford to live in a palace that he would build. There was a rooftop promenade and play spaces for children on the roof as well (with views in all directions for miles around).

Floor plan of the 7th floor at The Dakota
Floor plan of the 7th floor at The Dakota

Initially the Clark/Hardenbergh team was planning a very grand residential hotel, where the tenants would make The Dakota their permanent residence, but where all the amenities of a hotel would be provided. Although it was titled a “family hotel” the included restaurant would be open to both residents and the general public. They decided fairly early to make the restaurant a private one exclusively for the residents and their guests, but to keep many of the other hotel like features.

Most apartments had 14 feet high ceilings, mahogany mouldings, wood burning fireplaces in every room with oak or mahogany mantels and inlaid marble, huge oak doors, original wood shutters, walls 3 feet thick, floors in oak, mahogany and cherry and those are details in standard Dakota apartments.

Allegedly one apartment had a small swimming pool installed by an actress in the early 1900's as there was some enthusiasm for milk baths then and she wanted the biggest milk bath in New York.

The Dakota, circa 1890.
The Dakota, circa 1890.

The Dakota survived perhaps because its ownership was held by an exceedingly wealthy family that was not dependent on the rental income.

Many other once-grand buildings fell on hard times and the succession of owners maintained the Dakota as a rental until it went co-op in 1961. The subsequent co-op board never let the building’s opulent standards slip.

Many notable residents have included:

Leonard Bernstein, composer and conductor

Connie Chung, newscaster

Rosemary Clooney, singer and actress

Bob Crewe, songwriter, record producer, and artist

José Ferrer, actor

Ruth Ford, actress

Charles Henri Ford, poet, artist, and publisher

Lillian Gish, actress

Boris Karloff, actor

John Lennon, musician and composer; murdered there in 1980

This is probably the first famous name you’ll think of when it comes to the Dakota on Central Park West. The former Beatle lived here from 1973 to 1980, when he unfortunately met his death outside the building at the hands of Mark David Chapman. Yoko Ono still maintains a residence at this famed co-op today. By 1979 John and Yoko owned 5 apartments in the building, 1 on the first floor, 2 on the seventh, 1 on the eighth and 1 on the ninth.

Sean Lennon, musician and composer

Roberta Flack, singer

John Madden, football coach and commentator

Joe Namath, football player New York Jets

Rudolf Nureyev, dancer

Rosie O'Donnell, actress

Albert Maysles, documentary filmmaker

Yoko Ono, artist, widow of John Lennon

Jack Palance, actor

Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet and Google

Gilda Radner, comedian

Jason Robards, actor

Robert Ryan, actor

Lauren Bacall, actress Bacall lived in the famed The Dakota building for 54 years.

**Reported in 2015

Lauren Bacall’s longtime home in the Dakota on Manhattan’s Upper West Side has found a buyer for an undisclosed price. The apartment was originally listed at $26 million last November, but its price was reduced to $23.5 million in April.

The late actress, who reportedly purchased the place for $48,000 in 1961, lived in the 4,000-square-foot apartment until her death last August.

The three-bedroom, three-bathroom residence, which was built in 1882, has 13-foot ceilings and original details such as plaster mouldings, shutter-framed windows, and hardwood flooring. Five of the home’s nine rooms face Central Park, including the master suite, which features large walk-in closets and a bay window. The apartment also has a formal dining room, a library, a great room, and several fireplaces.

Excerpt taken from New York 18th June 1979

Marie Brenner was in college when she ‘lucked’ into a $200 a month sublet at The Dakota “one afternoon while I was washing my windows” recalls Brenner “I looked down and saw Lauren Bacall walking across the Courtyard her hair was in curlers with a babushka tied around it” she looked up at me and said in a low throaty voice “when you're done with yours would you do mine?”

Judy Garland, actress

The nine-room spread was once reportedly home to Judy Garland, although no one has been able to officially confirm that fact and most recently it was owned by late socialite Jacqueline Bikoff. She commissioned her interior designer daughter Sasha Bikoff to redesign the place.

When it finally went into contract in April 2018 it was sold as a combination-unit with Roberta Flack’s pad for close to $17m. The buyers were Stacey Bendet, the CEO of fashion line Alice + Olivia, and her husband, Disney scion Eric Eisner.

2013 Ken Grant
2013 Ken Grant

Celebrities such as Cher, Madonna, Judd Apatow ,Billy Joel, Carly Simon, Melanie Griffith & Antonio Banderas, Gene Simmons (he was considered a security problem) and Alex Rodriguez have all been rejected by the building’s super selective board.

The co-op board has been particularly picky about who is accepted and the application process is now incredibly long and detailed.

Although historically home to many creative or artistic people, the building and its co-op board of directors were criticized in 2005 by former resident Albert Maysles. He attempted to sell his ownership to actors Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, who were rejected by the board.

The Dakota
The Dakota

Maysles expressed his "disappointment with the way the building seems to be changing" by telling The New York Times: "What's so shocking is that the building is losing its touch with interesting people. More and more, they're moving away from creative people and going toward people who just have the money.

As of today, the Dakota offers a total of 93 units, most of which are occupied. There are currently 8 active listings in the building, ranging from a one bedroom apartment listed at $1.25m right up to an 11 room, 5 bedroom apartment with views over Central Park for $25,000,000.

You’ll need much more than a famous name and a hefty budget to get into this iconic address but ogling the building’s lavish rooms and architecture from a safe (and non-judgemental) distance doesn’t cost a thing.



Monthly maintenance $13,719

Listed with: Douglas Elliman Real Estate

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Monthly maintenance $27,414 (Yes, Monthly!!)

Listed with: Modlin Group

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This has been fascinating to research. I wanted to write a piece about a famous celebrity home and found an article regarding Lauren Bacall and her apartment at The Dakota and I was hooked.

Hope you've enjoyed reading it.

All the best,


Fusion Interior Design

Photography credit has been given where known and I have researched as much as possible.

Information collated from multiple sources - New York, Architectural Digest, Wikipedia,,

We are currently awaiting a License from MPTV images for a Lauren Bacall Image


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