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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Life at the Dakota by Stephen Birmingham

Too bad this book isn't about the Dakotas of the West and Deadwood, South Dakota,  but it's the Old New York version of the Old West. The Dakota (Apartments) was named after the Old West because at the time news about the Wild West was a popular subject and The Dakota was built outside of New York City about 30 miles away from downtown New York City. It had a bad name because it was on the West Side where the working people lived. It was actually on the west side of Central Park with a view of the park across the street from the upper floors and roof. It was built by Edward S. Clark and Isaac  Merritt Singer, the inventor of Singer Sewing Machines. Both were millionaires and the Dakota was built for rich people.

Some of the residents are/were the Steinways (the Piano people), Boris Karloff, Lauren Bacall, John and Yoko Lennon, Robert Ryan, Roberta Flack, Candace Bergen, Leonard Bernstein, Earl Blackwell, Henry Blanchard, Mrs. Winifred Cecil Blanchard, The Browning Sisters, etc., etc., and etc., all millionaires or had the money to live there. Mister Birmingham tells the history from the time it was built to present day, the structure, the layout, the services, and ll the esoteric plumbing and electricity when it came into being, the elevators, the rooms available, size and decorations, and so on.

The first years it was all rentals until it was bought out and the new owner threatened to tear it down and put up a commercial building of some type. It was finally worked out to be a cooperative where the apartments had to be bought and managed by the co-op itself. A lot of the services were covered by the Clarks in a haphazard fashion, but now the owners must pay for everything and the prices went up.

Some of the tenants were not happy with the arrangements and some moved out, making the apartments available for others to purchase and some lived there free. Miser Birmingham does a fine job explaining all this in the book and I found it very interesting as it still stands today. He tells about the uptown and downtown rich people that you can be right there with him.

I give the book five stars for enjoyment and it is well written.  

6 comments:

  1. Your reading seems even more eclectic than mine - can't say I ever tackled anything quite like this one, but it sounds fun.

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    1. I enjoyed it, Neil. I like to read books like this along with the westerns, being about a certain class of people and their trials and tribulations. Birmingham was a good writer, too.

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  2. I didn't know anything about this. Sounds interesting though

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    1. A fine look at an upper crust apartment building in NYC. Funny and entertaining.

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  3. I think ths proves that good writing can make a book interesting no matter what the subject.

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  4. Yes, Patsy, he kept my attention.

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