The Dakota Apartments

This post is about the Dakota Apartments, where John Lennon lived in NYC and where he was killed.  Looming over the 72nd Street intersection on Central Park West is the iconic Dakota building.  This building, which was built from 1880-84, has become known as one of the most prestigious residences in New York City.  The German Renaissance-style building was commissioned by Edward Singer, the head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.  We visit the Dakota Apartments and Strawberry Fields on our pay-what-you-like Central Park Walking tours as well as our anytime GPS-enabled audio tour.  

About the Building

Strawberry Fields

Free Tours by Foot

Where is the Dakota?

John and Yoko

Things to Do in Central Park

 

 



WHERE IS THE DAKOTA APARTMENT BUILDING?

Most people like to make a visit to The Dakota alongside their trip to Central Park, particularly if they are headed to Strawberry Fields.  The Dakota is fine with people taking a peek outside the entrance way on 72nd, but non-residents are not permitted beyond that point.  Stop by and get some great pictures- it is a beautiful building!

 

Map of the Dakota Apartments

 

Subway: There is a station right next to The Dakota: The B and C trains at the 72nd Street Station (map).

(For John Lennon fans, the New York Public Library created a great Lennon’s New York self-guided walking tour. You can see it here – John Lennon’s New York Walking Tour)

 


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WHAT’S IN A NAME?

dakota-1890

The Dakota, though incredibly opulent, was located quite far away from most of the city.  It seemed strange to many of Edward Clark’s friends that he would bother putting this beautiful building in the middle of nowhere.  (Tough to imagine West 72nd Street as the middle of nowhere, isn’t it?!)  Friends teased Clark that his building was so far north and west of the rest of the city that he may as well have built in the Dakota Territory (this was obviously before North and South Dakota were states!)  And so, Clark’s building had a name: The Dakota.

This building ushered in a new concept in living for New Yorkers: the luxury apartment building.  Before The Dakota, apartments were only for the poor.  The elite of the city lived in large, single-family townhouses.  Introducing this style of communal living to the wealthy was tricky, so The Dakota was incredibly lavish.  Residents had many of the amenities that they would enjoy if they were to permanently live in a luxury hotel.

There was a private dining room or, if people preferred, they could have meals delivered and served to them in their apartment (i.e. room service).  There was a full-time staff of butlers, maids, porters, and laundresses to wait on tenants, and they even had their coal and firewood delivered right to their door (along with a staff member to clear away the ashes from the last fire.)  Apartment living suddenly didn’t sound so bad to some of the city’s upper crust.

Dakota Trivia

  • The building is laid out in a square around a central courtyard.  The front entrance into the courtyard is quite large, as it needed to allow the resident’s carriages to pass through.
  • The building has 65 apartments, ranging in size from 4 rooms to 20 rooms and no two apartments in the building are alike.
  • The rooms in the apartments are interconnected, but also accessible from an exterior hallway.  This was to allow guests to mingle during a party while still allowing the staff a separate circulation pattern.
  • Some apartment drawing rooms are as long as 45 feet, with14-foot ceilings.
  • When the building was opened, it had electricity powered by an in-house plant and central heating (in 1884!)
  • There was originally a gymnasium and a playroom in the building
  • The top two floors were originally used for servants quarters
  • Many famous people have called The Dakota home, including Rudolf Nureyev, Lauren Bacall, Rosemary Clooney, Leonard Bernstein, Gilda Radner, John Madden (bought apartment from Gilda Radner), Roberta Flack and, of course, John Lennon.
  • The Dakota is a co-operative apartment (like many buildings in NYC) so residents have to be approved by the co-op board to buy an apartment.  The Dakota is almost as famous for who they have rejected as it is for who has actually lived there.  Rejected applicants include Antonio Banderas, Alex Rodriguez, Billy Joel and Madonna.
  • John Lennon actually owned multiple apartments in the building, not just one.
  • The exterior of The Dakota is used as “The Bramford” in the film Rosemary’s Baby.  The Dakota does not allow filming inside.
  • In the television series Frasier, Niles Crane lives in an exclusive building called “The Montana.”  This is meant to be a parody of The Dakota.
  • The Dakota was designed by the same architectural firm that designed The Plaza Hotel.  The Plaza was built quite a bit later, however, in 1907.

 


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DEATH OF JOHN LENNON 

The Dakota is arguably best known as the location of John Lennon’s murder on December 8, 1980.  He was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman in front of the 72nd Street entrance to the building.  Earlier that day, Lennon had signed an autograph for Chapman as he was leaving the building to go to a recording session with Yoko Ono.  When they arrived home around 10:50 pm that night, Chapman was still outside. He shot Lennon multiple times and then his gun was wrestled out of his hand by the doorman at The Dakota.  When the doorman asked him if he knew what he had just done he responded, “Yes.  I just shot John Lennon.”  He removed his coat and hat in preparation for the police’s arrival so that they could see that he didn’t have any concealed weapons, and then sat calmly on the sidewalk, holding a copy of Catcher in the Rye and waiting for the police.  He didn’t try to escape or resist arrest in any way.

John Lennon was rushed to St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital and was pronounced dead at 11:15 pm.  Several witnesses say that “All My Lovin,” a Beatles song, came on the hospital sound system just as Lennon was pronounced dead.  There was a huge outpouring of grief from around the world.  On December 14, 1980, a special ten minute silent prayer period was observed for Lennon, at the request of Yoko Ono.  Fans gathered together around the world, with over 225,000 gathering nearby in Central Park.  Chapman was sentenced to 20 years –life in prison.  He has been eligible for parole since 2000 and has been denied none times thus far. His next parole hearing is in August 2018.

 

Written by Katherine Weatherford

 

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