Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Dakota, built from 1880 to 1884, is an apartment building located on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West in New York City. It was designed by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who also designed the Plaza Hotel, for Edward Severin Clark, head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.
The building is said to have been named because at the time it was built, the Upper West Side of Manhattan was sparsely inhabited and considered as remote as the Dakota territory. High above the 72nd Street entrance, the figure of a Dakota Indian keeps watch.
The building's high gables and deep roofs with a profusion of dormers, terracotta spandrels and panels, niches, balconies and balustrades give it a North German Renaissance character, an echo of a Hanseatic townhall. Nevertheless its layout and floor plan betray a strong influence of French architectural trends in housing design that had become known in New York in the 1870s.
The Dakota is built around a central courtyard, accessible through the main entrance, a so-called porte cochère: an arched passage through the building, large enough such that horse-drawn carriages could pass through, letting their passengers disembark sheltered from the weather. The general layout of the apartments is also in the French style of the period, with all major rooms not only accessible by a hall or corridor, but also being connected to each other, an arrangement that allowed a natural migration from one room to another, especially on festive occasions. The principal rooms such as parlors or the master bedroom face the street, while the dining room, the kitchen, and other auxiliary rooms are oriented on the courtyard. Apartments are thus aired from two sides, which was a relative novelty in New York at the time. (In the Stuyvesant building, which was built in 1869, i.e. a mere ten years earlier, and which is considered New York's first apartment building in the French style, many apartments have windows to one side only.) Some of the drawing rooms were 49 ft. (about 15 m) long, and many of the ceilings are 14 feet high (more than 4 m); the floors are inlaid with mahogany, oak, and cherry.
Originally, the Dakota had 65 apartments with four to twenty rooms. These apartments are accessed by staircases and elevators placed in the corners of the courtyard. Separate service stairs and elevators serving the kitchens are located in mid-block. Built to cater for the well-to-do, the Dakota featured many amenities and a modern infrastructure that was exceptional for the time. The building has a large dining hall; meals could also be sent up to the apartments by dumb-waiters . Electricity was generated by an in-house power plant, and the building has central heating. Besides servants' quarters, there was a playroom and a gymnasium for the children of the tenants under the roof. (In later years, these spaces on the tenth floor were—out of economical reasons—converted into apartments, too.) The lot of the Dakota also comprised a garden and private croquet lawns and a tennis court. The stables for the tenant's horses and coaches were located at the far end of the site, lest animal odors annoy the delicate noses of the building's inhabitants.
The Dakota was a huge social success from the very start (all apartments were rented before the building opened), but a long-term drain on the fortune of Clark (who died before it was completed) and his heirs. For the high society of New York, it became fashionable to live in such a building, or to rent at least an apartment as a secondary city residence, and the Dakota's success prompted the construction of many other luxury apartment buildings in New York City.
Today, the building is best known as the home of former Beatle John Lennon in the late 1970s, and as the site of his murder on December 8, 1980. As of 2003, Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, still has an apartment in the building. The Strawberry Fields Memorial was laid out in memory of Lennon in Central Park right across Central Park West.
Director Roman Polanski filmed much of Rosemary's Baby in the Dakota, and the building plays an important role in Jack Finney's novel Time and Again. The protagonist in Cameron Crowe's 2001 movie Vanilla Sky is a Dakota resident.
Celebrity residents of the Dakota building have included:
- actress Lauren Bacall
- composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein
- newscaster Connie Chung
- actor José Ferrer
- actress Judy Garland
- actress Judy Holliday
- playwright William Inge
- actor Boris Karloff
- composer/singer John Lennon
- artist Yoko Ono
- singer Sean Lennon, son of John and Yoko
- talk-show host Maury Povich
- comedienne Gilda Radner
- critic Rex Reed
- football announcer John Madden
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