Secret Lives of the Super Rich
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The Dakota: New York’s Most Exclusive Building

The Dakota, which was completed in 1884, set the standard for luxury apartments today. Among the ways it’s designed for gracious living:

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Building features

The Dakota set the standard for luxury apartments today. Among the ways it’s designed for gracious living:

  • Ceilings of hand-carved oak and flooring inlaid with marble, mahogany, oak and cherry—and in the case of one apartment—floors inlaid with sterling sliver. (That apartment was for Edward Clark, who founded the Singer sewing machine company and commissioned the building.)
  • In-house power plant with boilers powerful enough to heat the blocks from the north side of 70th Street to south side of 74th Street between 8th and Columbus avenues—it served as “a miniature Consolidated Edison,” for a number of years, according to “Life at the Dakota.”
  • A lower-level dining hall that could deliver food on dumbwaiters to the apartment kitchens.
  • Each brick flooring layer sandwiches mud from the landscaping of then-new Central Park to serve dual functions of soundproofing and fireproofing. Architect Henry Hardenburgh wanted to avoid fire escapes.
  • External walls are 2- to 3.5-feet thick on first floor, narrowing as the building's floors go higher. The thick walls also helped regulate temperature in pre-air conditioning times.
  • Each carved marble fireplace mantel is unique.
  • Residents are forbiddento throw away any original doors or fireplace mantels that they remove, and a storage area is provided for these items.

Despite the building’s quality construction and materials, and its beautiful detailing, the initial rent wasn’t prohibitively pricey. So for many years it was an affordable place for tenants in the arts. Rents remained reasonable well into the 20th century, and after World War II, the Dakota became rent controlled. Even then, says “Life at the Dakota,” rents could be negotiated down. Not surprisingly, the Dakota had zero vacancies from 1884 to 1929.