Welcome to The Dakota, New York’s most exclusive building haunted by ghosts, murder, and a crazy co-op board

Dakota Building NYC
1 W. 72nd Street has a famously choosy co-op board and fascinating history. Flickr/wallyg

The late 19th Century Dakota building is one of Manhattan’s most mysterious and exclusive residences.

Stories of ghost sightings have loomed around the building — located at 72nd Street and Central Park West — for years.

But even more intimidating than its haunted rumours is the Gothic-style building’s picky co-op board, which has made a sport of rejecting rich and famous applicants.

Here are the 15 most fascinating facts about The Dakota, from past to present.

John Lennon was shot dead in front of The Dakota by a crazed fan.

On December 8, 1980 Lennon was assassinated by Mark David Chapman outside of The Dakota. He died at Roosevelt Hospital at the age of 40 after releasing his new album, “Double Fantasy.”

Yoko Ono still lives in The Dakota and says she saw Lennon’s ghost there.

Ono and late husband Lennon moved into The Dakota in 1973. Ono stayed in the building after Lennon’s death and, according to the New York Post’s Page Six, saw her husband’s ghost sitting at his white piano. She says he told her, “Don’t be afraid. I am still with you.”

When he was alive, Lennon told Ono that he saw a “crying lady ghost” in the building.

The Beatles musician told his wife he’d seen the ghost roaming the halls.

The building has no fire escapes.

Architect Henry J. Hardenbergh purposely avoided fire escapes by slathering mud from Central Park between the layers of brick flooring to fireproof and soundproof the building.

Tenants are “forbidden” to throw away original doors and fireplace mantels.

If tenants want to rid apartments of these items, there is a special storage area.

The Dakota, circa 1890. Wikimedia Commons

The original owner’s former apartment has sterling silver floors.

Singer Sewing Machine Company founder Edward Clark commissioned The Dakota as a $US1 million apartment building for 60 families, including his own. Unfortunately, Clark died in 1882, two years before the building was completed.

According to legend, it gets its name from its far-west location.

The building was situated so far West, people liked to joke that it might as well have been built in the Dakotas.

It’s been a magnet for the rich and famous since it opened in 1884.

The building was reportedly fully rented before it even opened, thanks to a glowing New York Times review. Piano family the Steinways were one of The Dakota’s first residents; although he died in 1883 Peter Tchaikovsky is said to have lived there (perhaps he lived in it before its completion); and
actress Lauren Bacall owned a nine-room apartment for 53 years that recently sold for $US23.5 million.

Other notable residents include author Harlan Coben, U2’s Bono, Rex Reed, Jack Palance, Lillian Gish, Boris Karloff, Rosemary Clooney, Connie Chung, and Maury Povich.

The building had zero vacancies for 45 years after it opened.

From 1884 to 1929, all 65 of The Dakota’s apartments — each with a reported four bathrooms, a parlor, and servant quarters — remained spoken for.

The dakota
Interior courtyards, a 24-hour white-glove doorman, and spacious apartments are only a few luxuries enjoyed by Dakota residents. Wikimedia Commons

The current application process is insane.

Hopefuls must submit years of financial statements and tax documents, go through a background check, and pay a fee of over $US1,000. After completing the rigorous application process, the co-op board can still deny applicants.

Back in 2011, the co-op board was accused of bias and sued by a former board member who lived in The Dakota for racial discrimination and defamation.

Celebrities don’t get special treatment.

Notable celebrities that have been rejected by The Dakota co-op board include Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas, Cher, Billy Joel, Madonna, Carly Simon, Alex Rodriguez, Judd Apatow, and Tea Leoni.

One particularly odd 10-room apartment has been for sale for eight years.

Apartment 26 has been on and off the market for the last eight years, dropping from a $US19.5 million asking price to a recent $US14.5 million.

It’s rumoured that $US30,000 is buried under the floor of Lennon and Ono’s apartment.

According to author Stephen Birmingham’s 1996 book, “Life at the Dakota,” the previous resident of John and Yoko’s apartment hid the money under the master bedroom floor. Whether or not that’s true will remain a question, as the board refuses to destroy the floor to solve the mystery.

The dakota
Original gas lamps hang by the 20-foot high front entrance with a porte cochère. Flickr/Joey Lax-Salinas

Its boilers could can heat every structure in a four-block radius.

The Dakota has an in-house power plant so its residents will never have to shiver.

Leonard Bernstein’s former apartment was the building’s most expensive sale.

Located on the second floor, the four bedroom, four bathroom apartment had a library, formal dining room, kitchen and breakfast area, wood fireplace, and views of Central park. It was listed at $US25.5 million and sold for $US21 million.

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