Author(s): Andrew Alpern
The Dakota is arguably the best-known residential address in the world. It is home to dozens of New York's most famous artists, performers and successful businessmen, and is even seen as a shrine by thousands of tourists annually, who visit it as the site of John Lennon's murder in 1980. The rare sale of an apartment there, usually at jaw-dropping prices, is a news-worthy event, as is the financial and architectural health of the building itself, a landmark in every sense of the word. The Dakota is also the first building built in New York as a true luxury apartment house, and, more than 130 years later, is still the gold standard against which all other apartment buildings are weighed. Noted architectural historian Andrew Alpern tells here, for the first time, the fascinating story of how the Dakota came to be, how Singer Sewing machine magnate Edward Clarke dared to build an apartment building on what was then the swamplands of the Upper West Side luxurious enough that he could coax the city's well-heeled to leave their mansions and townhouses for what was then seen as ultra-modern living.
Alpern has meticulously researched and redrawn plans of the entire building, published here for the first time, that show how Clarke created apartments luxurious enough that they made living under a shared roof as acceptable in Manhattan as it already was in Europe's grand capitals. In addition to rare historical photographs that show the Dakota under construction, transcribed newspaper reports of the time offer a contemporaneous view of the building. More-recent illustrated magazine articles are reprinted in their entirety to provide a virtual reference library on the Dakota and some of its most famous residents. This iconic building enjoys international renown and is now accessible to us all for the first time--at least in print if not in its ultra-private and well-guarded reality.
Andrew Alpern is an architectural historian, architect, and attorney who has known the Dakota since his childhood in the neighborhood. He is the preeminent expert on historic apartment houses in New York, with nine prior books, five of which tell stories of New York's architectural assets and the people behind them. Alpern has also written scores of articles about historical architecture and particular buildings. He has written dozens of book reviews, more than 85 of his Letters to the Editor have been published, and he is regularly quoted in print. His donations of two major collections to the Columbia University Libraries resulted in a block-buster exhibition of his 50-year archive of the work of writer/artist Edward Gorey and the first-ever scholarly catalogue of his collection of over 300 years of architectural drawing instruments, which have been made obsolete by computer drafting. Since 2002 Alpern has served as general counsel and chief compliance officer for an SEC-registered investment adviser firm. He has been a resident of Manhattan since 1938.