The mysterious and monolithic Dakota Building in New York City would be fascinating in its own right as a unique piece of architecture, but it's also one of New York's most famous buildings, one with a sadly tragic history: Music legend John Lennon, who lived there for several years, was gunned down on the building's front steps in 1980.
The Dakota was also the scene for the nightmarish 1968 horror classic 'Rosemary's Baby,' where Rosemary (Mia Farrow) discovers a sinister conspiracy among her neighbors and a long history of evil and murder within the building's brooding walls. More recently, it was used as the home of wealthy bachelor David Aames (Tom Cruise) in the mind-bending mystery 'Vanilla Sky.'
Location as Character: In 'Rosemary's Baby,' Rosemary and her aspiring actor hubby Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) move into the "Bramford," despite being told of its bloody history as the site of several gruesome child murders and the former home of a notorious Satanist. (Novelist Ira Levin clearly based his fictitious Gothic apartment building on the Dakota.) The Woodhouses are immediately befriended by elderly neighbors Minnie and Roman Castevet, busybodies who take Rosemary under their wing after she becomes pregnant. When they give her the exact same pendant that a recent suicide wore before plunging to her death, Rosemary becomes understandably concerned. The fortress-like building itself seems in on the dark conspiracy as Rosemary learns that the Satanic coven is still alive and well -- and has a connecting door right into her apartment!
Watch a clip from 'Rosemary's Baby' about "The Black Bramford"s dark history
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In 'Vanilla Sky,' millionaire David Aames (Cruise) is the latest in a long line of celebrity tenants who can afford the best, including a cushy apartment in the Dakota. (Both films shot exteriors of the actual Dakota, then filmed interiors on sound stages built to resemble the famous landmark.)
Watch the trailer from 'Vanilla Sky'
Historical Significance: George Henry Griebel and Karl Jacobson of the firm Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, who also designed the nearby Plaza Hotel, drew from an eclectic mix of German Gothic, French Renaissance and English Victorian styles. The exterior is predominantly Gothic, with high gables, deep roofs and dormers and balconies and balustrades galore. The multi-apartment concept, drawn from Parisian models, was a brand new idea for New York in 1884. Also a radical concept then: developing the Upper West Side, which was still mostly farmland.
The apartments are arranged around a large central courtyard; each is set up as its own horizontal townhouse. Originally, the Dakota had 65 apartments with four to twenty rooms; the building is now a co-op with 103 apartments.
By 1904, the building and the neighborhood had become incredibly fashionable and inspired similarly luxurious -- but far less baroque -- apartments. Over the years, it's been home to such illustrious tenants as Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Boris Karloff and Paul Simon. The Dakota was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
In 1980, the building became famous for yet another reason: Its most famous resident, John Lennon, was shockingly murdered on the building's doorsteps by a crazed fan. Yoko Ono still has several apartments there and marks the anniversary of his death every year at the Strawberry Fields memorial just across the street in Central Park.
Directions: On the subway, take the C line to the 72nd Street exit or a hail a cab to take you to 1 West 72nd Street, New York NY, 10023.
Visitor Info: Good news, if you've got money to burn: Several of the apartments are currently available! City Realty lists the following offerings: four-bedroom units from $18,500,000 and two-bedroom units starting at $6,950,000. Among the amenities are a full-time doorman, "impressive wainscoting," and "sensational Central Park views." To view an apartment, you can book an appointment by calling (212) 755-5544.