The northernmost of Central
Park West's great twin-towered apartment houses, the 28-story
El Dorado was completed in 1931 and was designed by Emery Roth,
in collaboration with Margon & Holder. Roth also designed
the twin-towered San Remo (see The City
Review article) and the triple-towered Beresford (see The City Review article), both further
south on the avenue
"The El Dorado marked
a distinct stylistic shift in Roth's work toward a less plastic
modeling of the mass and toward a Modernist sense of detail as
applied to an essentially Classical composition," note authors
Robert A. M. Stern, Gregory Gilmartin and Thomas Mellins in their
monumental book, "New York 1930 Architecture and Urbanism
Between The Two World Wars," Rizzoli, 1987.
"Because of its Modernist
articulation, which could be most clearly seen in the futuristic
belfry-like finials concluding each of its two towers, the Eldorado
[sic], even more than the San Remo, offered convincing
evidence that Classical compositional principles could rise to
the demands of a new building type and a new expressive sensibility,"
"The futuristic sculptural
detailing of the El Dorado, as well as its geometric ornament
and patterns and its contrasting materials and textures, make
it one of the finest Art Deco structures in the city. The towers
are terminated by ornamented setbacks with abstract geometric
spires that have been compared to Flash Gordon finials,"
observed Steven Ruttenbaum in his definitive study of Emery Roth:
"Mansions in the Clouds, the Skyscraper Palazzi of Emery
Roth," Balsam Press Inc., 1986.
Ruttenbaum's book illustrates
an earlier design by Roth for the El Dorado that is neo-Classical
and has a mini-tower tucked between the two large towers. That
abandoned design was quite graceful and unfortunately was not
With 1,300 rooms, the El
Dorado is roughly the same size as the other twin-towered buildings,
but its 186 apartments are generally smaller than those in the
others. Its base employs cast stone rather than limestone, reflecting
the fact that this project was intended for a slightly less affluent
clientele than its twin-towered neighbors to the south.
The El Dorado's base is
nicely modulated vertically by four sets of darker mullions while
the two towers are modulated by three sets of darker mullions.
The overall effect is quite rhythmic. Despite the presence of
a few rounded balconies and nice geometric patterning and detailing
at the base of major setbacks, the building has great Úlan
and the rather awkward finials have a machine-like intricacy appropriate
to an age that was experimenting with streamlined machinery on
the eve of the age of rockets.
In 1995, the building added
a duplex gym in its basement and sub-basement with an elevator
for the handicapped, a community room and a basketball mini-court.
The building replaced a
hotel, designed by Neville & Bagge, of the same name on the
site that was built in 1902 and had a garage with a "charging
room for electric automobiles," noted Christopher Gray in
a September 14, 1997 article in The New York Times.
A December 31, 2001 article
by Gray in The Times, however, noted that the original
building on the site was known as the El Dorado and was a 8-story
apartment house that was acquired in 1929 by Louis Klosk, "a
Bronx-based developer" whose architects, Margon & Holder,
filed plans for a 16-story building but subsequently revised it
to a 29-story structure with twin towers as "Multiple-Dwelling
Law of 1929 allowed such towers where lot sizes were large."
According to Mr. Gray, "on
his own, Roth developed a nearly Romanesque design with red tiles
on the roof areas, similar to his Oliver Cromwell apartment house
at 12 West 72nd Street." Mr. Gray also wrote that the Margon
& Holder filed plans for the tower indicated gold leaf for
the finials. The building went into foreclosure in 1931 and was
reorganized by the Central Park Plaza Corporation. Mr. Gray wrote
that "among its earliest tenants were Rex Cole, who made
millions marketing General electric refrigerators, sold from his
trademark stores built to resemble giant refrigerators."
Another early tenant, he continued, was "Royal Copeland,
"who served as mayor of Ann Arbor, Mich., from 1901-1902,
then senator from New York from 1924-1938. A third early tenant
was Dr. Stephen S. Wise, the prominent Reform rabbi and leader
of the Free Synagogue, later the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue,
who was a leading Zionist and a founder of the American Jewish
Congress. Another was Barney Pressman, who founded the Barneys
clothing store in 1923. In more recent years, the Eldorado has
become associated with entertainment figures, like Faye Dunaway,
Garrison Keilor, Tuesday Weld and Michael J. Fox, who have had
In his excellent book, "New
York Streetscapes, Tales of Manhattan's Significant Buildings
and Landmarks," (Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2003), Mr. Gray has
a chapter on the El Dorado in which he observed that "the
earliest published version showed fairly simple streamlining on
the base and towers but squared-off tops."
The building was converted
to a cooperative in 1982 and became an official city individual
landmark in 1985.
In 2000, the building launched
a $4 million fašade restoration program.
In 2007, Moby, the singer,
put his penthouse in the south tower on the market with a price
of about $7.5 million. (12/30/07)
On June 15, 2010, Joey posted the following article about Moby's apartment at curbed.com:
View to the south from Moby's penthouse
"Moby, the Lower East Side's favorite vegan raver/tea
mogul/real estate investor, had a whale of a time unloading his amazing but
inconvenient pre-war penthouse in Central Park West's twin-towered El Dorado building.
Listed for $7.5 million back in 2007, the four-floor, multi-terraced
"castle in the sky" (with a turret all to itself!) on the 31st floor
of the south tower can only be accessed by taking an elevator up to the 29th
floor and walking up two flights of stairs. Plus, there's the spiral staircase
within the apartment itself. Whew, what a workout! Interest was somewhat soft, so Moby started shilling for the
place hard, recording video walk-throughs and offering his friends a $75,000
referral fee if they found a buyer. Eventually the place sold for $6.7 million
after a previous party was denied by the El Dorano's co-op board. Fast forward
two years, and the penthouse's post-Moby owner, listed on the old deed as T.M.
Dempsey, has grown tired of the place. Or maybe it's his calf muscles that are
calling it quits. And he's taking a big loss on the place, it seems. A Curbed tipster notices that the formerly Mobylicious
penthouse was quietly listed for sale in January for just $5.995 million. That
asking price has since come down to $4.995 million (Moby paid $4.5 million for
the penthouse in 2005), and the 2BR/2.5BA spread with incredible views is now
in contract. According to the listing, the turret room is currently set up as a
media room, but can be turned into another bedroom. And to prove that the
stairs situation is not all that bad, broker Ann Lenane includes a video clip
(is it just our screen, or is the video picture cut in half?) of her scaling El
Dorado Mountain. Feel the burn!"