Their towers and turrets loom over the treetops on Central Park's west side, casting long shadows over joggers, sunbathers, and dog walkers in the park below. They're some of the most impressive, most historically significant apartment buildings in the city, designed by the architectural geniuses of their day and inhabited by luminaries in every field from music to industry. Many of the Upper West Side's historic co-op and condo buildings serve as landmarks for New Yorkers and visitors alike.
concept of cooperative living began in New York City in the late 1800s and took off by mid-1900s, when the huge mansions built and lived in by industrial titans like the Astors and Rockefellers gave way to luxury multi-family apartment living. To accommodate the city's wealthiest families, buildings were erected that were landmarks even in their day-architecturally spectacular, and outfitted with the best amenities money could buy.
may come as a surprise to most New Yorkers-for whom apartment living has always been a way of life-to find that apartments in the United States represent a relatively new housing concept," says Andrew Alpern, a noted expert on New York City history and author of
Thing is, most of those fashionable, socially-conscious families were based on the Upper East Side of Manhattan; the Upper West Side was, according to Peter Salwen, author and president-elect of the Society for New York City History (SNYCH) in Manhattan, something of a hinterland. The money was on the east side of Central Park; "In those days," says Salwen, "people of fashion really did not live on the West Side."
That began to change, however, after the opening of Central Park and the establishment of a handful of grand hotels and gracious apartment buildings along the upper reaches of the park. The park had been created to draw people to the West Side, says Salwen, "And everybody had been saying for years [that it] was going to be a great place to dwell, a great place to build a nice, large house with plenty of land around it."