Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address
If you're eagerly awaiting the release of Fiona Davis' The Address from Books Everyone Will Be Talking About This Summer, set at the Dakota, the most famous address in Manhattan, Life at the Dakota is a "history of the first hundred years of one of the most storied residential addresses in Manhattan and the legendary lives lived within its walls, from Lauren Bacall to John Lennon. 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 who were charmed by its labyrinthine interior and secret passageways, its mysterious past, and its ghosts."
Life at the Dakota is a deliciously entertaining social history which describes the lives of the rich and trendy who have lived at the Dakota, a New York apartment house daringly erected in 1884, “too far up” and on the wrong side of town.
In Stephen Birmingham’s witty chronicle, the atmosphere of this elegant edifice is so powerful that the building itself becomes an unforgettable major character. From its start the Dakota has attracted a lively mix of people, from celebrities Leonard Bernstein, Roberta Flack, and John Lennon, to a ground-floor tenant who kept a stuffed horse in full armor in the living room, and yet another older tenant who was spotted wandering naked through the cellar by some workmen, mistaken for a ghost of the building.
While detailing the active and often contentious life within the building from the nineteenth century to the present, Mr. Birmingham also brings to life the New York social scene and that of other fashionable American cities. Just as the sixty-foot rooms, the elaborate moldings and rococo ceilings are lushly described, so is the changing atmosphere in Central Park, the smell and sound of the street below, the judgments about what was fashionable and what was not throughout the years. Here is a window into the marvelous world of The Dakota and through it, the changing view of New York.