The Dakota Building, New York, USA

The Dakota, constructed from October 25, 1880 to October 27, 1884, is a co-op apartment building located on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City. The building is most widely known as the location of the murder of musician John Lennon.

The architectural firm of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh was commissioned to create the design for Edward Clark, head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The firm also designed the Plaza Hotel. 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. According to often repeated stories, the Dakota was so 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. However, the earliest recorded appearance of this account is in a 1933 newspaper story. It is more likely that the building was named “The Dakota” because of Clark’s fondness for the names of the new western states and territories. High above the 72nd Street entrance, the figure of a Dakota Indian keeps watch. The Dakota was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

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Features

The Dakota is square, built around a central courtyard. The arched main entrance is a porte cochère large enough for the horse-drawn carriages that once entered and allowed passengers to disembark sheltered from the weather. Many of these carriages were housed in a multi-story stable building built in two sections, 1891–94, at the southwest corner of 77th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, where elevators lifted them to the upper floors. The “Dakota Stables” building was in operation as a garage until February 2007, when it was slated to be transformed by the Related Companies into a condominium residence. Since then, the large condominium building “The Harrison” occupies its spot. As of 2011, there is no onsite commemoration of the stable building having ever existed.

The general layout of the apartments is in the French style of the period, with all major rooms not only connected to each other, en filade, in the traditional way, but also accessible from a hall or corridor, an arrangement that allows a natural migration for guests from one room to another, especially on festive occasions, yet gives service staff discreet separate circulation patterns that offer service access to the main rooms. The principal rooms, such as parlors or the master bedroom, face the street, while the dining room, kitchen, and other auxiliary rooms are oriented toward the courtyard. Apartments thus are aired from two sides, which was a relative novelty in Manhattan at the time. (In the Stuyvesant building, which was built in 1869, a mere ten years earlier, and which is considered Manhattan’s first apartment building in the French style, many apartments have windows to one side only.) Some of the drawing rooms are 49 ft (15 m) long, and many of the ceilings are 14 ft (4.3 m) high; the floors are inlaid with mahogany, oak, and cherry(although in the apartment of Clark, the building’s founder, famously, some floors were inlaid with sterling silver).

West_72nd_Street_The_Dakota_entrance_by_David_Shankbone

West 72nd Street The Dakota entrance by David Shankbone

Originally, the Dakota had sixty-five apartments with four to twenty rooms, no two being alike. These apartments are accessed by staircases and elevators placed in the four 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 also could be sent up to the apartments by dumbwaiters. Electricity was generated by an in-house power plant and the building has central heating. Beside servant quarters, there was a playroom and a gymnasium under the roof. In later years, these spaces on the tenth floor were converted into apartments for economic reasons. The Dakota property also contained a garden, privatecroquet lawns, and a tennis court behind the building between 72nd and 73rd Streets.

The Dakota was a huge social success from the very start (all apartments were let before the building opened), but it was a long-term drain on the fortune of Clark (who died before it was completed) and his heirs. For the high society of Manhattan, it became fashionable to live in the building, or at least to rent an apartment there as a secondary city residence, and The Dakota’s success prompted the construction of many other luxury apartment buildings in Manhattan.

Death of John Lennon

John Lennon was an English musician who gained worldwide fame as one of the founders of The Beatles, for his subsequent solo career, and for his political activism and pacifism. He was shot by Mark David Chapman at the entrance of the building where he lived, The Dakota, in New York City, on Monday, 8 December 1980; Lennon had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono.

Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where it was stated that nobody could have lived for more than a few minutes after sustaining such injuries. Shortly after local news stations reported Lennon’s death, crowds gathered at Roosevelt Hospital and in front of The Dakota. He was cremated on 10 December 1980, at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York; the ashes were given to Ono, who chose not to hold a funeral for him. The first report of his death to a national audience was announced by Howard Cosell, on ABC’s Monday Night Football.

John Lennon

Lennon’s murder—considered by some to be an assassination due to his high profile—triggered an outpouring of grief around the world on an unprecedented scale. Sales of his music—both with the Beatles and as a solo artist—soared in the months following the tragedy. Lennon’s remains were cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester. No funeral was held. Ono sent word to the chanting crowd outside the Dakota that their singing had kept her awake; she asked that they re-convene in Central Park the following Sunday for ten minutes of silent prayer. On 14 December 1980, millions of people around the world responded to Ono’s request to pause for ten minutes of silence to remember Lennon. Thirty thousand gathered in Liverpool, and the largest group—over 225,000—converged on New York’s Central Park, close to the scene of the shooting.At least two Beatle fans committed suicide after the murder, leading Ono to make a public appeal asking mourners not to give in to despair. Ono released a solo album, Season of Glass, in 1981. The cover of the album is a photograph of Lennon’s blood-spattered glasses. A 1997 re-release of the album included “Walking on Thin Ice”, the song the Lennons had mixed at the Record Plant less than an hour before he was murdered. Chapman pleaded guilty to Lennon’s murder in June 1981, against the advice of his lawyers, who wanted to file an insanity plea. He received a life sentence but under the terms of his guilty plea became eligible for parole in 2000, after serving 20 years. Chapman has been denied parole at hearings every two years since 2000 and remains an inmate at Attica State Prison.

Because of the Nixon administration’s FBI/CIA surveillance to spy and efforts to deport Lennon in the 1970s, there are those who believe the murder might have had political motivation.

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