The Dakota – and indeed NYC apartment life – is beautifully illuminated by Andrew Alpern’s new “History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building.” The noted architectural historian presents the most comprehensive history of The Dakota imaginable! Mr. Alpern documents the building, its builder (and family!), the architect, the neighborhood, the architectural and historical context, and even the Dakota’s residents. Fascinating reading that illuminates not only The Dakota, but also the world of apartment living in New York City.
I’m deeply honored by Mr. Alpern’s use of my photography (from the Dakota Apartments gallery) in this volume.
This Frank Gehry-designed building fascinates me from every angle. Originally named Beekman Tower (it’s on the block bounded by Spruce, Gold, Nassau and Beekman Streets), it was rechristened New York By Gehry to capitalize on the starchitect‘s name.
At this writing, New York By Gehry is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere – though One57, a new building on 57th Street, will soon overtake it in height. But New York is full of tall buildings: It’s the unique shape and stainless steel skin that make 8 Spruce Street (the official address) stand out. The rippled facade changes its appearance according to the angle of the sun (and by night, the moon).
New York By Gehry multitasks: Beneath the 900 luxury rental apartments there’s a five-story brick-faced public school, retail space, plus parking and offices for Beekman Downtown Hospital. The hospital, next door, owned the land under New York By Gehry.
Note that the apartments are rentals – not cooperative or condominium units. Also unusual, the building is part-owned by the city: the Department of Education owns the school.
New York By Gehry got very good reviews, generally. But you can’t please everyone. Time Out New York calls it one of the city’s ten ugliest buildings:
“Frank Gehry’s rippling, residential behemoth reminds us of one of those hulking movie spacecraft that lands by planting itself into the earth and deploying robot arachnoid pods that harvest humans for nefarious extraterrestrial purposes. It sort of makes you think about the Wall Streeter who can afford to live here harvesting taxpayer-bailout money to cover for their screwups. Sorry, that was a terrible analogy. It doesn’t change the fact that both Wall Street and this building are hard to like.”
Frank Gehry’s other major contribution to New York City architecture is the IAC Building (2007) in Chelsea – West 18th Street at 11th Avenue.
New York By Gehry Vital Statistics
Location: 8 Spruce Street (blockthrough to Beekman Street), between Nassau and Gold Streets
The Ansonia Hotel was built as a luxury residential hotel in 1904; today it’s a condominium with a quirky history and a commanding presence on Broadway at 73rd Street (just north of the Amsterdam Avenue crossover).
The developer, William Earle Dodge Stokes, filled the Ansonia Hotel with architectural innovations: it was steel framed, the first air-conditioned hotel, and had a lobby fountain – with live seals. What’s more, there was a short-lived roof-top “farm” that provided fresh eggs and milk! The architect, Paul E. M. Duboy, also designed sculptures for the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument (90th Street/Riverside Drive).
Architecturally, the Ansonia is classed as Beaux Arts style, with huge terra cotta decorations, Parisian-style Mansard roof and corner turret-towers. The building has New York City landmark status and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Of historical note, the building was once home to Continental Baths (gay baths where Bette Midler and Barry Manilow performed) and later (in the same space), swingers’ club Plato’s Retreat. Babe Ruth, Arturo Toscanini, Igor Stravinksy, and Enrico Caruso were among the Ansonia’s celebrated residents. And, while it’s of absolutely no architectural content, don’t miss “Movies, books, scandals, and stars” in the Wikipedia entry!
The building was converted to condominium in 1992.
Ansonia Hotel Vital Statistics
Location: 2101 Broadway between W 73rd and W 74th Streets
Apthorp Apartments takes up the entire block from 78th to 79th Streets, Broadway to West End Avenue. It is divided into four sub-buildings around a central courtyard. Built in 1906-1908 by Viscount William Waldorf Astor, who later moved to a castle in England (“America is not a fit place for a gentleman to live”).
The building went condo in 2008 with apartments averaging $6.5 million. (A number of legal issues cropped up, but that’s another story.) The conversion modernized the building to include techy touches like Cat5E (computer network) and FiOS wiring.
Apthorp has New York City landmark status and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Apthorp Apartments Vital Statistics
Location: 2209 Broadway (whole block from Broadway to West End Avenue, W 78th to W 79th Streets)
The Pythian is historic, and eye candy – but “hidden” in its mid-block location. It’s definitely worth the detour if you’re in the neighborhood of Broadway at W 70th Street.
The Pythian (condominiums), originally Pythian Temple, was built for the Knights of Pythias on West 70th Street between Columbus Avenue and Broadway, in 1927.
Pythian Temple was designed by Thomas W. Lamb in the Egyptian Revival style with bright, colorful glazed terra cotta at street level; even grander decoration graced the building’s top floors.
As the Knights of Pythias declined in popularity, its building found other uses. Decca Records had a studio here in the ’40s and ’50s; the New York Institute of Technology bought the building for its main campus in 1958.
In 1983 the structure was converted to condominium apartments. In the process, the formerly windowless floors of the middle section (all but the topmost setback) were glazed over. (See the Times’slideshow to view the original facade.) Also see architect David Gura’s portfolio page for the project, with before/after and cutaway views.
The Pythian’s most famous (former) resident was Stefani Germanotta – aka Lady Gaga.
The Pythian Vital Statistics
Location: 135 W 70th Street between Broadway and Columbus Avenue
Year completed: 1927
Architect: Thomas W. Lamb (original); David Gura (1986 conversion)
Style: Egyptian Revival
New York City Landmark: 1990 (part of Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District)
Although the Dorilton apartments (co-op) doesn’t take up the entire block, it certainly seems that way, towering over the intersection of Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue and 71st Street. Designed by the firm of Janes & Leo in the Beaux Arts style, the structure was completed in 1902 and remains an impressive piece of New York architecture.
The Dorilton’s ornate facade is best seen from Broadway/Amsterdam Avenue, though the nine-story arched entrance is on 71st Street.
The Dorilton is a New York City landmark and listed in the National register of Historic Places. The building has attracted many architectural critiques – see the sample below.
The Evelyn Apartments, West 78th Street at Columbus Avenue, was designed by Emile Gruwe and built in 1886. Described in the “AIA Guide to New York City” as “A big, bold symphony in reds….”, there was a brief battle over preservation of the building’s terra cotta angels. No doubt about it: This is architecture that makes even New Yorkers pause.
On the Columbus Avenue side, a couple of nightclubs have had illustrious runs here: P & G Bar, and Evelyn Lounge. Across the street, a more famous landmark: The American Museum of Natural History.
Evelyn Apartments Vital Statistics
Location: 380 Columbus Avenue at W78th Street
Year completed: 1886
Architect: Emile Gruwe
Style: Renaissance Revival
New York City Landmark: 1990 (Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District)
New York’s Central Park and the architecture along Central Park West have a symbiotic relationship – each enhances the other.
There’s no question that a park view multiplies the value and enjoyment of an apartment – and the grand architecture also adds to the views from within the park. (Incidentally, Central Park paths are lighted because Central Park West tenants complained that the unlit park was an unattractive black void in their nighttime views, according to Greensward Foundation’s “The Central Park.”)
The Upper West Side/Central park West Historic District extends from 62nd Street to 96th Street at a depth of from one building at its narrowest to more than two blocks at its widest. Within this area are some cherished New York architectural landmarks: iconic luxury apartment buildings such as the Century, San Remo, Majestic, Eldorado, Dakota and Bereford; several noteworthy places of worship; the American Museum of Natural History; and, along side streets, scores of row houses in brick and brownstone.
Central Park West is almost entirely residential, filled with grand, luxury apartments. The Dakota is preeminent among those residences, and “The Dakota – A History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building” is the preeminent history of this Central Park West icon. Noted architectural historian Andrew Alpern documents the building, its builder (and family!), the architect, the neighborhood, the architectural and historical context, and even the Dakota’s residents. Fascinating reading that illuminates not only The Dakota, but also the world of apartment living in New York City. I’m honored that he chose photos from the Dakota Apartments gallery to help illustrate the volume.
These three neighboring Brooklyn apartment towers along Flatbush Avenue Extension aren’t actually called the Three Sisters, but maybe they should be. From north to south they are: Oro (Gold), Avalon Fort Greene, and Toren (Tower). Besides proximity, they are similar in height (40, 42 and 38 floors, respectively), have similar luxury amenities, and have glass corner designs (wraparound corner windows) for spectacular views.
For each of these towers, check out the developer’s website, of course, but also the City Realty articles. This real estate broker has its own architectural critic, Carter B. Horsley, who was a real estate/architecture reporter and critic for The New York Times and the New York Post.
Oro, designed by Ismael Leyva, Architects, is the eldest sister, completed in 2008. The 40-story building contains 303 condominium apartments, with asking prices reported in the range of $365,000 to $1.2 million for studio through 3BR units. Apartments have nine-foot ceilings (eight feet is the norm), floor-to-ceiling windows, granite countertops and other luxury features. The building’s amenities include a health club with indoor pool and basketball/racquetball court. Oro’s irregular shape allows five of the seven or eight apartments on each floor to have wraparound corner windows. The condo’s name has a double meaning: Oro (Gold) of course implies luxury; but it so happens that the address is 306 Gold Street.
Avalon Fort Greene – the middle sister – is a rental building offering 631 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments at monthly rents of $2,180-$5,000. Perkins Eastman Architects designed Avalon Fort Greene, which was completed in 2010. Like Oro, this 42-story residential tower has floor-to-ceiling windows and other luxury features.
Toren is the smallest sister – just 240 apartments and 38 floors. Designed by Carl Galioto of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it was completed in 2010. This is a condo development, also offering studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units at prices of up to $1.2 million. Toren’s unusual non-rectangular shape creates some odd-shaped living and bedrooms. Kitchens are open to the living/dining rooms – not even an “island” stands between sink, stove and sofa.