Life at the Dakota
New York's Most Unusual Address
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A history of the Manhattan building and its famous tenants, from Lauren Bacall to John Lennon, by the New York Times–bestselling author of “Our Crowd”.
When Singer sewing machine tycoon Edward Clark built a luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the late 1800s, it was derisively dubbed “the Dakota” for being as far from the center of the downtown action as its namesake territory on the nation’s western frontier. Despite its remote location, the quirky German Renaissance–style castle, with its intricate façade, peculiar interior design, and gargoyle guardians peering down on Central Park, was an immediate hit, particularly among the city’s well-heeled intellectuals and artists.
Over the next century it would become home to an eclectic cast of celebrity residents—including Boris Karloff, Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, singer Roberta Flack (the Dakota’s first African-American resident), and John Lennon and Yoko Ono—who were charmed by its labyrinthine interior and secret passageways, its mysterious past, and its ghosts. Stephen Birmingham, author of the New York society classic “Our Crowd”, has written an engrossing history of the first hundred years of one of the most storied residential addresses in Manhattan and the legendary lives lived within its walls.
“You don’t have to live on Manhattan’s West Side to appreciate this gossipy history of New York’s oldest apartment building. . . . A lively story.” —Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Stephen Birmingham
“When it comes to the folkways of the rich, the powerful, and the privileged, Stephen Birmingham knows what he’s talking about.” —Los Angeles Times
Stephen Birmingham (1929–2015) was an American author of more than thirty books. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, he graduated from Williams College in 1953 and taught writing at the University of Cincinnati. Birmingham’s work focuses on the upper class in America. He’s written about the African American elite in Certain People and prominent Jewish society in Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York, The Grandees: The Story of America’s Sephardic Elite, and The Rest of Us: The Rise of America’s Eastern European Jews. His work also encompasses several novels including The Auerbach Will, The LeBaron Secret, Shades of Fortune, and The Rothman Scandal, and other non-fiction titles such as California Rich, The Grandes Dames, and Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address.