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
Review article) and the triple-towered Beresford (see The City Review article), both
south on the avenue
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.
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
evidence that Classical compositional principles could rise to
the demands of a new building type and a new expressive sensibility,"
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.
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
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.
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
to an age that was experimenting with streamlined machinery on
the eve of the age of rockets.
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.
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.
December 31, 2001 article
by Gray in The Times, however, noted that the
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."
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
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."
building was converted
to a cooperative in 1982 and became an official city individual
landmark in 1985.
2000, the building launched
a $4 million fašade restoration program.
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)
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
inconvenient pre-war penthouse in Central Park West's twin-towered El Dorado
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
floor and walking up two flights of stairs. Plus, there's the spiral
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
referral fee if they found a buyer. Eventually the place sold for $6.7
after a previous party was denied by the El Dorano's co-op board. Fast
two years, and the penthouse's post-Moby owner, listed on the old deed
Dempsey, has grown tired of the place. Or maybe it's his calf muscles
calling it quits. And he's taking a big
loss on the place, it seems. A Curbed tipster notices that the
penthouse was quietly listed for sale in January for just $5.995
asking price has since come down to $4.995 million (Moby paid $4.5
the penthouse in 2005), and the 2BR/2.5BA spread with incredible views
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
stairs situation is not all that bad, broker Ann Lenane includes a
(is it just our screen, or is the video picture cut in half?) of her
Dorado Mountain. Feel the burn!"
July 16, 2010, The New York Times published a very long article by
William Glaberson on disputes involving the Cheney apartment on the
ninth floor of the El Dorado,
"the apartment was like some cobweb by Miss Havisham version of high-end
Manhattan living, with peeling paint, torn furniture and a permanent
stink of cigarettes."
May, 2005, according to the article, the housekeeper, June Gordon found
Mrs. Cheney, then 83, in her urine-drenched nightgown, unable to move and
"her arm was broken."
"It would be a
while before Mrs. Cheney would provide a consistent acccount of what
had happened that night, which she spent in the apartment with her
51-year-old daughter, Diane Wells. 'She tried to kill me,' the mother
would say, although her daughter was neer charged with anything as
serious as that," the article maintaining adding that "at least five
court cases chronicle a punishing family battle that has centered on
who is to have Apartment 9B - and the troubling things that have taken
place between its walls....Mrs. Cheney’s daughter, Ms. Wells, was her
first son, Jonathan, before a sex-change operation in the 1970s. The
morning that the housekeeper found Mrs. Cheney on the couch was just
two days after she had met with lawyers to reconsider her will. Ms.
Gordon soon had an ambulance crew wheeling its stretcher across the
hardwood floors that are a selling point in the El Dorado’s $4 million
co-ops. Ms. Wells did not respond to the ruckus
that morning. The clatter of the wheels on wood, the shouts and the
banging equipment did not bring her out of her room in the apartment
where she had grown up, where she had come home in her 30s and where
she was determined to stay. The Cheney family battle over
whether she can remain is now headed toward a courtroom finale at a
trial this fall in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court....Mrs. Cheney, a South
African who came to New York when she was 19, had a long history of
severe depression. She was chronically bothered by a back injury from a
fall from a horse on her family’s property when she was 14. In time,
she would become reclusive, seldom emerging from the El Dorado’s
awning-covered entryway, living on a trust fund that her father, a
mining engineer, had set up in Johannesburg with money earned in the
Joseph, a radiologist, had a bad heart since he was 11 and was destined
for an early death, in 1977....Diane Wells came home to Central Park
West in 1989, when she was 36, calling from somewhere she did not name
and saying she was out of money, Mrs. Cheney would testify....After Ms.
Wells moved back in, the mother and daughter, who did not work, each
had her own locked room facing a short hallway that led to a book-lined
foyer....Their mother had given James and Jennifer, both single and in
their 40s, hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy Manhattan
apartments, Diane Wells wrote. “Fear of what will happen to me,” she
wrote. “Worse because of no money to live, + see you getting old + it
upsets and scares me.” From the mid-1990s on, numerous million-dollar
insurance policies were purchased on Mrs. Cheney’s life, arranged for
by Ms. Wells but paid for by Mrs. Cheney with premiums of $45,000 and
up that strained even a trust-fund budget. They named Ms. Wells as the
sole beneficiary. James Cheney said in court filings that Diane
convinced their mother she would need the money to pay the apartment
maintenance and other costs of staying there after Mrs. Cheney died.
Ms. Wells have said the claims against her were lies invented by James
and fed to his mother because he wanted the apartment for himself. In
January 1999, Mrs. Cheney spoke by phone to Richard Laurie, a cousin in
South Africa and a former president of the Johannesburg stock exchange.
He looked after her $12 million trust. As he often did, like
some Cheney-family Greek chorus, the cousin wrote soon after,
summarizing the high points: a plan she had described to him to give
Diane half of the apartment and full ownership upon her death made no
sense and would cost her hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.
“'If you intend
to beggar yourself to satisfy Diane’s importunities,' he wrote, 'it’s
your funeral.' Mrs. Cheney wrote to the building management around that
time that Ms. Wells should be listed as co-owner of the apartment.
Phone calls from 9B to Mr. Laurie and others could be gloomy. Her mail
was being opened and Diane had spit at her, Mrs. Cheney was quoted as
saying in a phone call. 'She did hit me, you know.'
later discovered more than 25 cassette recordings, labeled by Ms.
Wells, his lawyers said. There had been a tape recorder hidden in an
empty bedroom that captured Mrs. Cheney’s calls, they said. 'She told
me she hears everything I say to anybody,' Mrs. Cheney said, according
to the lawyers. She was not making decisions anymore.'“Diane’s kind of
the boss now,' Mrs. Cheney is quoted as saying....In July 2002, Mr.
Laurie wrote again from Johannesburg: 'I was shocked to hear from you,
that Diane keeps shouting at you, ‘Why don’t you die?’
"....As in so
many New York apartments, family milestones were marked in 9B. Diane
Wells was arrested there on June 23, 2005, on a misdemeanor assault
charge. Under a court order, she moved out, and a year later, went on
trial. James Cheney had the place fixed up. Ms. Wells was convicted of
assault and sentenced to 60 days on Rikers Island. On April 26, 2007,
Joyce Cheney died of cancer in Apartment 9B....The next month, Ms.
Wells was arrested on a charge of solicitation of murder. On the day
her brother had refused her entry into the apartment, court filings
say, she asked the car-service driver several times whether he knew
anyone she could hire to kill her brother. She denied the charge. A
year later, the prosecutors dropped the charges, saying they could not
prove the case. This March, an appeals court overturned the assault
conviction, ruling that the judge at Ms. Wells’s assault trial had
instructed the jury improperly. Manhattan prosecutors said this month
that they intended to retry the case. The other trial, over
who owns the Cheney family apartment, is scheduled to begin Sept. 21
before Judge Kristin Booth Glen. It was filed in 2005 by James Cheney
and his mother to contest Diane Wells’s claims of being an owner of
Apartment 9B, arguing that she got it through coercion while,
essentially, imprisoning her mother there."