The Dakota and Bacall

In my ideal world, I would live at the Dakota.

800px-The_Dakota_1890b Wikipedia
Archival image from Wikipedia, circa 1890.

Built in 1884, the seven story Victorian European style building graces New York’s upper West Side with bohemian glamour.

Originally there were 65 spacious apartments over seven floors, featuring between 4 and 20 rooms each. Above, under the rooftops were smaller rooms for servants. On the ground floor there was a large dining room where residents could either eat, or have meals sent up to their rooms via dumb waiters. Next door was a large stables (later garage) for the families who called it home.

From Wikipedia:
The general layout of the apartments is in the French style of the period, with all major rooms not only connected to each other, in enfilade, in the traditional way, but also accessible from a hall or corridor, an arrangement that allows a natural migration for guests from one room to another, especially on festive occasions, yet gives service staff discreet separate circulation patterns that offer service access to the main rooms. The principal rooms, such as parlors or the master bedroom, face the street, while the dining room, kitchen, and other auxiliary rooms are oriented toward the courtyard.

Many of the ceilings are 14 feet high (4.3m) and some of the drawing rooms were 49 feet long (15 m)!

My neighbours in the building are all creative people, including most famously John Lennon and Yoko Ono, but also Judy Garland, Boris Karloff, Lilian Gish, Rudolf Nureyev, Gilda Radna, Leonard Bernstein, Bono, Paul Simon, Rosemary Clooney and Lauren Bacall. Of course, everyone interesting who has ever lived there, would still be there regardless of time or events.

Lauren

Vale Lauren – a remarkable actress, one of the greats from the Golden Era of Hollywood. You will always be my favourite ’40s movie star.

Here’s a pic of Lauren in her Dakota apartment – photo from Vanity Fair. She’s just passed away, aged 89. She chose an excellent home.

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I first discovered the Dakota in the Polanski film “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968). The camera pans over Manhattan, Central Park and the Dakota rooftop during the opening credits and I always tune in for this wonderful view –


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Here’s a shot of it covered in snow (from Wikipedia).

Dakota under snow - Wikipedia

The interiors for the film were shot in a studio but for me, this is what I expect the Dakota to look like inside – lots of dark wood and space. Hopefully a little more furniture but sacrifices must be made for a wonderful abode.

rosemarys-baby

Of course, hopefully not the sort of sacrifices that Rosemary and her husband make in the film, but I understand their devotion.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the enthusiasm real estate agents have for selling their properties, I can offer you some actual interior shots from an assortment of apartments – these all come from Curbed, which has a lot of information on the Dakota.

Over the years the original apartments have been split up and subdivided, and large rooms converted into multiple smaller ones – aided no doubt by all the entrances off hallways and interconnecting doors – and additional bathrooms were inserted but beneath the differing tastes in interior decoration and updated floor plans, you can see the bones of this incredible and unique building.

Let’s go inside….
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I once saw an enormous book with plans for the building, including layouts for all of the floors – they’re much changed of course, but it would be wonderful to see how it was and how it’s been altered over the years. If I ever find it again, I’ll have to buy it.

Here’s the original seventh floor:

Dakota plan 475

And here’s one of the modern day apartments: you can see how some of the large rooms have been turned into multiple smaller ones.

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When I went to New York, I was surprised at how small the building is, as it looms large in my imagination. It’s incredible though and you can’t fault the location opposite Central Park. I’m unlikely to be amongst the fortunate to call it home – even supposing that I could afford it, you also have to be approved by the board, but one day, perhaps, I’ll have a peek inside.

If you’re interested in the history of this building, I recommend the book “Life at the Dakota” by Stephen Birmingham, an excellent read. There are lots of great exterior photos at this site too.

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One comment

  1. Fascinating article, Nicole. I saw the Dakota building from the outside (while staying in New York of course) many years ago, in the early 1990s. I wanted to pay my respects to John Lennon. So glad to see all those images of the interior!

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