A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from December 12, 2004
The "Dakota" apartment house, at West 72nd Street and Central Park West, is probably most famous today as the last residence of Beatle John Lennon.

The building was finished in 1884. It was said to be so far up north that it might as well have been in the Dakota Territory. Newspapers used the name from at least 1882.

See Life at the Dakota: New York's most unusual address (New York: Random House, 1979) by Stephen Birmingham.

When it was first built by the architect of the Plaza Hotel and the Western Union Building, this early luxury apartment building was far from the center of town. Legend has it that its name is an ironic reference to its distance from the urban core--it was so far north that it was said to be in the Dakota Territory! For this reason, it was expected to be a financial failure and hence was it dubbed "Clark's Folly."

An attorney for the Singer family who later became president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Edward Clark envisioned a city expanding north along the west side of the island. He invested five million dollars in the area, buying former farmland from the investment banker Jacob Schiff. Clark wisely took a three-tiered approach to this risky investment, developing first-class row houses along 73rd Street, and working-class tenements on Columbus Avenue. The jewel in his real estate crown was the luxury apartment building facing the new Central Park.

Intended to house members of the upper class, the Dakota was one of New York's first convincing expressions of a new concept of urban dwelling. Combining monumentality with domesticity, the idea of many affluent tenants under a common roof was based on Parisian models first introduced to New York by Richard Morris Hunt in his 1869 Stuyvesant Flats. Clark hoped that somewhat wary potential tenants would recognize the advantages of the multiple-dwelling building: the financial savings, the reduction in domestic staff facilitated by a full-service building, the greater degree of security and the benefits of shared amenities. The eclectic facade of this 200-foot square, nine-story building is enlivened by a picturesque mixture of German Gothic, French Renaissance and English Victorian details. Its load-bearing brick and sandstone walls are reinforced with steel and animated with balconies, corner pavilions and decorative terra-cotta panels and moldings. The structure is capped by a steeply pitched slate and copper roof decorated with ornate railings, stepped dormers, finials and pediments. Its plan resembles a doughnut, with apartments arranged around a large central courtyard that has a single guarded entrance. The courtyard ensures the tenants' privacy and provides access to ample light and air.

20 October 1882, Atlanta Constitution, pg. 1, col. 5:
Edward Clark, president of the Singer Sewing Machine company, who just died leaving $20,000,000, was said to be the largest property owner west of Central park in New York. In '78 he built the "Vancorlear" apartment house on Seventh Avenue. In '80 he built the "Wyoming" just opposite, which cost $300,000. About the same time he paid $200,000 for the land on which the Dakota apartment house is now being built, and he had about a week before he died accepted plans for four other apartment houses to costs a half a million each.

24 December 1882, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, pg. 1:
The new Dakota flat house, for instance, has apartments for eighty families, with rooms enough in each for ten people.

24 August 1883, New York Times, pg. 4:
It is refreshing to see the contractors and builders at the Dakota apartment-house holding out against the tyrannical proceedings of the Building Trades Union.

13 April 1884, New York Times, pg. 8:
Outside of the magnificent Dakota apartment house and other valuable improvements made by the Clarke estate, west side improvements south of Seventy-ninth-street are comparatively unimportant, while the east side district south of Seventy-ninth-street and west of Fourth-avenue offers comparatively few vacant lots.

22 October 1884, New York Times, pg. 5:


From the Daily Graphic, Wednesday, Sept. 10.

Probably not one stranger out of fifty who ride over the elevated roads or on either of the rivers does not ask the name of the stately building which stands west of Central Park, between Seventy-second and Seventy-third streets. If there is such a person the chances are that he is blind or nearsighted. The name of the building is the Dakota Apartment House, and it is the largest, most substantial, and most conveniently arranged apartment house of the sort in this country. It stands on the crest of the West Side Plateau, on the highest portion of land in the city, and overlooks the entire island and the surrounding country. From the east one has a bird's-eye view of Central Park. The reservoir castle and the picturesque lake, the museums, and the mall are all shown at a glance. From this point also can be seen Long Island Sound in the distance, and the hills of Brooklyn.
Posted by Barry Popik
Buildings/Housing/Parks • Sunday, December 12, 2004 • Permalink

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