Landmarks Podcasts

At Home with Lauren Bacall: Living at the Dakota Apartments

EPISODE 321 The Hollywood icon and Broadway star Lauren Bacall lived at the Dakota Apartments on the Upper West Side for 53 years. Her story is intertwined the Dakota, a revolutionary apartment complex built in 1884. In this episode, we tell both their stories.

Bacall, born Betty Joan Perske, the daughter of Jewish Eastern European immigrants, worked her way from theater usher to cover model at a young age, then became a movie star before she was 20 years old. Her film pairings with husband Humphrey Bogart define the classic Hollywood era.

After Bogart died, she returned to New York City to reinvent her career, her sights aimed at the Broadway stage. And she chose the Dakota as her home.

Built by Singer Sewing Machine president Edward Clark, the Dakota was a pioneer of both apartment-style living and of living, generally speaking, on the Upper West Side.

This is the story of second and third acts — both for an woman of grit and independent spirit and for a landmark with a million stories to tell (and a million more to come).


The Dakota in the 1880s ….
….and in 1900. (Museum of the City of New York)
The Dakota in 1895 (Museum of the City of New York)
The Dakota 1912, courtesy Shorpy (click here for extra sized image)
Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall with young son Sam
Lauren Bacall 1979 in her apartment / Getty Images

After you’ve listened to this show on Lauren Bacall and the Dakota Apartments, check out these past episodes of the Bowery Boys: New York City History podcast with similar themes.

Another glamorous movie-star story with a not-so-happy ending:

The beginning of apartment living in New York City:

The trials and difficulties of maintaining a historic landmark:

… and is there a ghost at the Dakota Apartments?

Films referenced in this podcast:
To Have And Have Not, The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, Key Largo, How to Marry A Millionaire, Designing Woman, Harper, Rosemary’s Baby, Applause (1973 TV version), The Mirror Has Two Faces

The Dakota: A History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building by Andrew Alpern
By Myself and Then Some by Lauren Bacall
Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address by Stephen Birmingham

4 replies on “At Home with Lauren Bacall: Living at the Dakota Apartments”

Hello gentlemen, many thanks for another wonderful podcast. I’ve downloaded Mr Birmingham’s book already. Yes, I read yours before my wonderful holiday in the Big Apple in Autumn 2017, the leaves were exceptionally green that year! Only for a few days but our trips included the Dakota & Strawberry Fields. Never did I ever believe I’d actually step foot on Brooklyn Bridge while watching the wonderful, moving doc by Ken Burns. Among my NY playlist was Frank’s On Brooklyn Bridge I shed a tear or two looking at it. Of course I wanted to stay for at least a month more, as I didn’t get to the Tenement Museum, the top of the Chrysler, Ellis Island the High Line, oh the list goes on. I’ve only very recently retired after 34 years as receptionist in a local solicitors firm. What timing!!? I NOW have more than enough to emerse myself in your glorious podcasts. I DO hope you are continuing to keep well, all the best for the future take care to you & yours Pat of Ripon North Yorkshire UK

About 9 years ago I walked by the Dakota after dark. I was surprised to see 90 percent of the apartment windows were dark indicating no one was home. Also indicating that these apartments were owned by rich absentee foreigners.

I just finished listening to “At Home with Lauren Bacall: Living at the Dakota” and want to say thank you for another delightful, interesting, and informative podcast. I was excited while listening to hear about the upcoming virtual walking tour of the Ladies’ Mile and immediately went to the website to register for it. It is a fascinating topic and I am so happy to be able to walk the Ladies’ Mile virtually next Wednesday evening. I look forward to traveling from Minneapolis to take this and other in-person Bowery Boys Walks once that again becomes a possibility. Take care and keep good health!

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