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Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address
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Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  3,528 ratings  ·  323 reviews
Life at the Dakota is a deliciously entertaining social history that 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. This story has the fabulous characters, sharp insights, and captivating anecdotes of Stephen Birmingham's earlier works, and the atmosp ...more
Paperback, 243 pages
Published May 1st 1996 by Syracuse University Press (first published August 12th 1979)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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Carla Remy
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is from 1979 (I looked into this because it talks about John Lennon like he's alive, though he was shot outside the Dakota in 1980). It is cool that a non fiction book of this vintage is available for Kindle. This tells a great history of Manhattan (gets boringish talking about all the people who lived there).
Jul 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
could only have been better if i was reading it while sitting in my apt in the Dakota....
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting history lesson, not just on the Dakota, but on New York.
Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address was a very interesting book of the history, not only of the historic and iconic Dakota, but a most interesting account of the history of New York City. This luxury apartment was built in the late 1800's by Edward Clark, owner of Singer sewing machines. If you love architecture and history, this is a wonderful book as it describes how this beautiful apartment house was built. It is also replete with gossip regarding its most famous residents, no ...more
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
The history of the building and descriptions of the interiors are fascinating to me, given that I am crazy about cozy, byzantine spaces. However, no pictures of anything much inside the building is disappointing.

The descriptions of the tenants and their behavior though, are really off-putting. It seems likely that the author either intended this to be a book primarily for the tenants of the building or was given such free access to the tenants and the building to write his book on the condition
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
This book provides a good history of the apartment building the Dakota that stands in Gothic glory across the street from West side Central Park on 72nd street.

I love reading the histories of these famous buildings and this book did not disappoint.

We see how the builder Edward C. Clark had vision when everyone else saw the area north of 53rd Street as a barren wilderness (hence the name Dakota, after the Dakota Territories) because there was nothing up there but country.

Clark met up with a poor
Life at the Dakota: New York's Most Unusual Address

This was a fun read. . . for the first half to 2/3rds. . .then something odd happened with the politics of running the place and how it changed.

Really it's a model of how housing throughout the US has adapted some odd solutions - HOAs, property management companies, and cooperatives. Some work, and some don't, depending on the individuals living within.

My favorite nugget of knowledge was discovering what a rascal Isaac Singer (Singer Sewing Mach
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't help it, I love to read about real estate and zany rich people. This one from 1979 is wonderfully entertaining. I was even captivated by the minutiae of the Dakotans going co-op. The ending was a tiny bit depressing, what with the way the building was deteriorating. I gasped in horror at the mention of people tearing down their walnut paneling and painting over their fireplaces, although it is difficult to lament the changing of the times when it comes to social attitudes. I'm sure the D ...more
Kasa Cotugno
There is something mythic about the Dakota, the iconic apartment on the corner of what is now W72nd and Central Park West, used as the setting for Rosemary's Baby. When built, it was so far north from "everything," New Yorkers told its builder it might as well be in the territories. Hence its name, and some of the detailing on its facade. The parts I enjoyed most were about East vs West sides, the era of the 1880's, its construction details, and residents of its earlier days. But I began to fade ...more
Interesting but outdated. Book was written in 1979. But it was recently featured on Amazon so I purchased it without realizing how old it was. Would have liked more current info.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a daily sale book for a dollar, but it intrigued me. I am so glad I picked it up! This was an entertaining history of New York City life from the late 1800’s through 1979, the time the book was published. The author did quite a bit of research as well as interviews with residents and staff, resulting in a fascinating look at this New York icon and its residents. The builder was Edward Clark, partner of Isaac Singer, of the Singer sewing machine fame. It began as a luxury apartment build ...more
Sallie S. Burk
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So much more than the history of a building. An amazing social history of west side Manhattan.

History as entertaining as any fiction could be. The slight disorganization is entirely forgiveable because Steven Birmingham's writing is brilliant. He leads us on an exploration of New York culture over a hundred year span. The book is a detailed history of the architecture and development of the building, but also an intimate look at the residents over time.

The book is about the Dakota, the apartment building where John Lennon was killed in 1980. The book was originally published in 1979 and the version I read had no update, although there is a newer version published in 2015 that I would guess has an update. I didnt realize that it was written before Lennon's death until I was reading it as if he was still alive and then looked at the publishing date. This book is at its best when it is talking about the inhabitants of the building. It kind of los ...more
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Fascinating book about the Dakota. The author spends a lots of time describing the building and interiors, floor layouts, fixtures, etc., but the text would have been better served by photographs and illustrations of those items.
Whitney Nelson-Wharton
Fairly interesting, but after the historical parts, it read mostly like a poorly-written gossip column.
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first part of the book is about the history of New York City. The Dakota was built by Mr. Clark, who was in business with Mr. Singer, the inventor of the Singer Sewing Machine. The author wrote about the lives of these two men.

The Dakota was built in the wrong side of New York City, and across the street, from what was to become the huge Central Park in the city. It was an unusual styled building, and appeal to people, who weren't in the upper crust. The rents were much cheaper, than other
Mary Kay Bidlack
This was kind of interesting in the beginning when it told of the beginning of the Dakota and what New York City was like at that time, but after a while it got rather tedious and boring. I really didn't want to know that much, I guess. I began to question some of the facts. When I read that Columbia University approached Dwight Eisenhower to become the university's president by mistake when they really meant the invitation to go to Dwight's brother Milton, I knew I couldn't trust what Birmingha ...more
Dayna Keiser
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fun factual account of the building and its inhabitants.
Margaret Higgins
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
gossipy story of one of nyc most famous addresses. typical birmingham. published in 1979. curious about the last 37 years.
Susan J. Anderson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 17, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I downloaded this book from Kindle because of my interest in learning about the iconic Dakota building. The chapters dealing with the planning and construction of The Dakota were fascinating. I had no idea that Issac Singer of the Singer Sewing Company was a founding partner.

I also learned that the naming of The Dakota was a result of people believing that the building was so far out of downtown New York that it might as well be in the Dakota Territory. While no expense was spared in constructi
May 05, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction. I picked this up on BookBub because I have a couple of novels set at the Dakota and I thought it might be interesting to learn a little about the famous NYC apartment building. It does have an interesting history and it certainly has housed some fascinating folks over the years, but this is not a particularly well written book. Published in 1979, it adheres to a straight up reporting style, with moments of gossipy storytelling. I wanted more of that.

That said,
Susan Bennett
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was written in 1979, one year before John Lennon's murder, so the book is written as if he is still alive. Not because of this, but due to the fact that I wanted to know more of how the Dakota is faring today, I wish that the book had been written later. Otherwise, it is engrossing to those who like narrative history. The first time I saw the Dakota was the outside shot in Rosemary's Baby and it has always captured my imagination since then. I loved the details about the physical const ...more
Anne Monteith
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 Stars

Somewhat dated but still an interesting non-fiction about one of the oldest apartment buildings in NYC. Though it never achieved the panache that addresses on the West side has, from its inception the Dakota has had a loyal following.

Despite losing money from the first day of operation (which would have horrified the original owner of he had lived to see it), the complex has managed to remain one of the most popular residences is the city.

It was interesting reading how the tenants and a
Linda Lipko
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
It took four years to build from `1880-1884, it was, and still is a monument to New York City's image of love and care of older structures. It continues to be the home of many famous people. Most people heard of this building because John Lennon, and Yoko Ono lived there, and John was shot at the front of the building.

It was interesting to learn of the building, but I thought the book tended to drag for too many pages.
Danielle DeVane Wells
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first half of this book was excellent! It gave a pretty good detailed history of New York City in the 1800s and 1900s, as well as how the Dakota building came to be, the men involved and the history of that building moving forward. The second half of the book was incredibly detailed information about tenants, mysterious and difficult situations and pieces of letters and Diaries from the tenants. The second part it wasn't my favorite... But that's just me. I would absolutely recommend the fir ...more
Diana M. Rodriguez
I've been completely fascinated by the Dakota since I first watched the movie Rosemary's Baby many years ago. I have a collection of books on the Dakota, and this one didn't disappoint. It was written in 1979, which I loved, so you get a real sense of life in the Dakota before the internet age.

To be fair, the books starts to wane toward the end, but I still loved every minute of it, the details, the vignettes, and the descriptions are fantastic. This book is a truly important snapshot in time o
Linda Crowder
Dry and biased

I found the history of the building fascinating and when the author stuck to history, I enjoyed the book. However, the book is riddled with snide remarks, indicating residents he apparently didn’t like, and vaguely anti-Semitic comments when discussing Jewish residents.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not a lot of fun to read. Lots of New York city history, when I really wanted to know more about the people who lived there and what they liked/didn't like about living there. When I stopped reading, I had gotten through descriptions of NYC history up to then, why the location was unusual (then), and the development of Central Park, why the man who funded the building was disliked by the other elite, etc. etc. If you're writing a thesis, great, that probably all needs to be covered, but it felt ...more
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read

A lot of history, a little bit of finance, and enlivened by gossip. It was fun to read about the people involved with the Dakota. I was disappointed that it ended just before John Lennon’s assassination, but other than that it was worth the time to read.
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