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The Dakota, NYC’s First Luxury Apartment Building and Its Many Famous Residents

The landmark building dates back to the 1880s and is one of the ritziest co-ops in the city. Despite serving as home to countless celebrities over the years (including John Lennon, who was shot here), it’s so exclusive that even celebrities like Madonna and Antonio Banderas have been turned away by the building’s selective board.

The Dakota Building in New York City
Photo credit: Upstateherd, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located between Riverside and Central Park, the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City is known for its ample green space and popular attractions like the Natural History Museum and Lincoln Center.

But this chic uptown neighborhood is also home to one of NYC’s longtime landmarks: the Dakota Building. 

Often dubbed “the most famous apartment building in New York City,” the Victorian-era German Renaissance co-op apartment is located on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

What makes the Dakota building so famous?

Beyond its striking architecture, the Central Park-facing structure is Manhattan’s first luxury apartment building, dating back to the 1880s. Built to rival the mansions of the wealthy, the residences at the Dakota have long attracted the rich and famous.

Its many celebrity residents included world-class actors, artists and musicians, including John Lennon, who was shot and fatally wounded in the archway of The Dakota.

The famous landmark building has also been featured in several films, including Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Vanilla Sky (2011), The Killing of John Lennon (2006) and Chapter 27 (2007). 

The history of the Dakota Building

Built between 1880 and 1884, the Dakota Building was designed by world-renowned architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, known as the “master of a new building form — the skyscraper.”

Construction of the Dakota began on October 25, 1880. 

Hardenbergh — who has a long list of famous NYC buildings to his name, such as the Plaza Hotel, William Murray Houses, American Fine Arts Society, and the Textile Building to name a few — finalized the project almost exactly four years later on October 27, 1884. 

The Dakota building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in New York City.
The Dakota building in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in New York City. Ajay Suresh from New York, NY, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Reportedly, the building earned its name due to its remoteness in the then-uninhabited area of Manhattan, just as the Dakota Territory (now known as the states of North Dakota and South Dakota) was considered remote at the time.

Central Park and the The Dakota building in a photograph from the late 1880s. The photograph was published  the book King's Handbook of New York City, 2nd ed., 1893.
Central Park and the The Dakota building in a photograph from the late 1880s. The photograph was published  the book King’s Handbook of New York City, 2nd ed., 1893, p. 746. Image credit: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Once completed, the Dakota Building featured 65 suites (with 4 to 20 rooms each), 8 elevators and 9 floors.

With no two rooms alike, all suites included marble floors, rich mahogany woodwork and electric lighting, making it one of the most modern infrastructures of its time.

Some of the other luxurious features included ceilings hand-carved in oak, an in-house power plant, a lower-level dining hall that could deliver food on dumbwaiters to the apartment kitchens, and sophisticated soundproofing and fireproofing brick flooring. 

For Manhattan’s high society, the Dakota quickly became the building to live in, and all suites were sold before the building opened its doors.

Remaining one of the Big Apple’s most famous addresses to this day, the Dakota Building was designated a New York City Landmark in 1969.

Later in 1972, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and then designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

Who has lived in the Dakota?

Only Manhattan’s elite of the 1880s landed a suite in the Dakota, and today’s A-listers are still being carefully chosen.

According to the New York Times, the Dakota is still one of NYC’s most sought after co-ops — and one of the hardest to get into — and many stars have been turned down from owning apartments in the building.

Celebrities such as Madonna, Gene Simmons, Billy Joel, Cher, Carly Simon, Alex Rodriguez, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas have all been turned away by the building’s selective board.

But, many other famous folks did make the cut. In no particular order, here’s a look at some iconic celebrities who have lived at the Dakota:

John Lennon

John Lennon’s name will forever be tied to the Dakota building. Not only did the former Beatle live in the building from 1972 to 1980, he was also murdered at the south entrance of the Dakota.

Two of the Dakota's most famous residents, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, photographed by Jack Mitchell for the New York Times.
Two of the Dakota’s most famous residents, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, photographed by Jack Mitchell for the New York Times, November 2, 1980. Jack Mitchell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

John Lennon lived on the 7th floor of the Dakota, facing West 72nd Street and Central Park West. His bedroom window overlooked Central Park.

Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono still maintains residence at the famous building, as does the couple’s son Sean Lennon.

Judy Garland

Photograph of Judy Garland issued after completion of her 1939 films: The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms.
Photograph of Judy Garland issued after completion of her 1939 films: The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms. Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Iconic actress Judy Garland once owned a 3-bedroom apartment at the Dakota.

The luxe Upper West Side suite boasted 4,700 square feet, 2.5 baths, 7 wood fireplaces and was listed for $16.75 million in 2016, according to Architectural Digest

Roberta Flack

A longtime resident of the Dakota, Grammy Award-winning singer Roberta Flack sold her 2-bedroom co-op in the building in 2018.

Roberta Flack, resident of the Dakota
Photo credit: CMS-Creative Management Associates/John Levy (management), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The singer, most famously known for timeless hits like Killing Me Softly With His Song, Where Is The Love, or The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face, sold her Dakota apartment for $5.8 million, Curbed New York reports.

The buyers — Stacey Bendet, CEO of Alice + Olivia and her husband Eric Eisner of Disney –combined Flack’s former apartment with Judy Garland’s former suite.

Lauren Bacall

In 1961, legendary actress Lauren Bacall purchased a sprawling 9-room apartment at the Dakota and went on to live in the famous co-op for 53 years, Curbed reports.

Actress Lauren Bacall, who lived at the Dakota for 53 years.
Photo credit: David Poestin of Topix, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

After her death in 2014, the 3-bedroom, 3.5 bathroom suite sold for $23.5 million, according to Business Insider.  

Leonard Bernstein

Iconic composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein lived on the second floor of the Dakota.

According to Business Insider, his 4-bedroom, 4-bathroom suite had a library, formal dining room, wood fireplace, kitchen and breakfast areas, with sweeping views of Central Park.

composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, who lived at the Dakota.
Photo credit: Allan warren, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Clocking in as one of the building’s most expensive sales, the stunning suite sold for $21 million.

And that’s the composer’s second Upper East Side apartment to sell for crazy amount of money, with his 14-room apartment at 895 Park Avenue trading for $24 million just a couple of years ago.

Maury Povich

Popular sitcom series How I Met Your Mother once said that you can’t call yourself a New Yorker until you spot Maury Povich at least once.

And hanging around the Dakota building was one quick way to check that off your list. The TV personality, best known for hosting the tabloid talk show Maury (formerly The Maury Povich Show) has long been one of the most prominent celebrities to call the Dakota home, along with his wife — which landed the next spot on our list.

Maury Povich and Connie Chung, who both lived at the Dakota
Photo credit: mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Connie Chung

The famous journalist has been married to TV show host Maury Povich for almost four decades.

In all that time, the couple has purchased and sold quite a few homes, from Manhattan to Washington, DC.

But they’re most commonly associated with their residence at the Dakota, and have often been quoted as some of the building’s most famous residents.

Journalist Connie Chung, a famous resident of the Dakota
Photo credit: Philkon Phil Konstantin, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Harlan Coben

Famous mystery/thriller novelist Harlan Coben has penned about eight books incorporating the notorious Dakota building in his fictional case files.

It then comes as little surprise that he decided to invest some of his earnings from said books into a duplex apartment in the famed building.

Famous mystery/thriller novelist Harlan Coben calls the Dakota home.
Photo credit: Cswetonic, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

According to the Observer, Coben and his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben purchased a compact two-bedroom duplex on the ninth and 10th floors of the landmark building.

The author, whose many books are routinely turned into popular Netflix shows, paid $2.73 million for the duplex.

These celebrities are arguably some of the most famous folks that lived in the Dakota Building.

But there are many others who’ve called this landmark building home (though we haven’t been able to verify the information, so we decided to leave them out).

Other names tied to the Dakota building include Rosie O’Donnell, Rosemary Clooney, Jack Palance, Gilda Radner and Rex Reed, to name a few.

Answering some of the most common questions about the Dakota

One question we see quite often is Who owns the Dakota building? The answer is: no one, and everyone, as the co-op building’s apartments are individually owned by its many prominent residents.

How many apartments are in the Dakota building? The historic Dakota building consists of 93 units, according to StreetEasy, and is 9 stories tall. The apartments all benefit from the incredible location, offering both convenience and stunning Central Park views.

Can you visit the Dakota building? Technically, this is a private apartment building and you can’t go visit it unless one of the residents invites you in. BUT, you can definitely tour the outside of the building and gawk at its unique architecture. You can also go see the memorial across the street, that pays tribute to John Lennon.

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Written by Jenny Schafer

Jenny Schafer is the former senior editor of a high-profile celebrity blog she ran for 10+ years. A proud mom-of-three and resident of Vancouver, B.C., Jenny writes with a keen social consciousness and passion to keep things positive. She has been interviewed by various news sources such as CNN, Zimbio, Mom Spark and was a regular contributor for HerSay.

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