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740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest…
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740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building

by Michael Gross

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Good reading in the vein of "The Big Spenders", by Lucius Beebe. Not weighty, but interesting look into NY living of a type most people do not experience. ( )
  Whiskey3pa | Sep 23, 2013 |
740 Park was designed by Rosario Candela, already renowned in NYC for his luxury high rise apartment buildings, which were rapidly replacing the private homes that once lined Park and Fifth Avenues. The builder James Thomas Aloysius Lee, an adventurous property developer, conceived of 740 Park as a cooperative for like-minded wealthy men and their families. (Today, T. A. Lee is probably most famous as Jacqueline Kennedy's grandfather.) The co-op concept did not take hold for Lee, who was forced to rent the units in order to pay the mortgage. In fact, the building never made him a profit. Apartments did not begin to appreciate in value until the mid-'80's and '90's.

The first people to move in were not really the cream of the old NY social crop, however, but men who themselves had made a fortune, or whose fathers' had. Still, they revered the old ways and did not flaunt their wealth excessively. The huge building at 740 Park actually had two entrances, and two addresses. Many of the least ostentatious tenants preferred the 71 Seventy-First Street address. Park Avenue was thought to be "too Jewish." It was fascinating to watch the population of the building change as the years went by. When the UN was built, foreign countries rented space for their representatives and for entertaining. "Black Jack" Bouvier and his sourpuss wife, Janet, were given an apartment by her father, T.A. Lee, who paid the rent for years. Captains of industry were gradually replaced by vulture capitalists real estate moguls and venture capitalists. Philanthropists were replaced by hedge fund managers. A huge number of these high flyers crashed and burned. Many died young, leaving their rich widows behind. If nothing else, this book is a testament to life's uncertainties.

As with many non-fiction books, the author sometimes steps over the line separating fascinating from stultifying detail. There are a few too many paragraphs devoted to how tenant X is connected by family or employment to tenant Y, but I thought that a small flaw compared to the wonderful social history of wealth in 20th C New York. ( )
  michelesw | Oct 2, 2012 |
Took me about 5 weeks to read this book - not that it wasn't interesting, but it weighs a ton! Too heavy to cart to & from work so I only read it at night before going to sleep. This was a fascinating look at where the rich live, how they live, and how different they are from folks like me. I'd be interested in reading more about some of the people mentioned in the book, but probably won't. I don't read nearly enough non-fiction books and this one was well-written and kept my interest, unlike some NF I've tried in the past. ( )
  thebookbabe | Apr 23, 2009 |
I almost never fail to finish a book, but I read half of this one and just gave up hope. I was hopelessly bored. If you're extremely interested in the intricacies of the high-dollar real estate game, it may be worth it. It wasn't for me. ( )
  TheBentley | Oct 6, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767917448, Paperback)

For seventy-five years, it’s been Manhattan’s richest apartment building, and one of the most lusted-after addresses in the world. One apartment had 37 rooms, 14 bathrooms, 43 closets, 11 working fireplaces, a private elevator, and his-and-hers saunas; another at one time had a live-in service staff of 16. To this day, it is steeped in the purest luxury, the kind most of us could only imagine, until now.

The last great building to go up along New York’s Gold Coast, construction on 740 Park finished in 1930. Since then, 740 has been home to an ever-evolving cadre of our wealthiest and most powerful families, some of America’s (and the world’s) oldest money—the kind attached to names like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Bouvier, Chrysler, Niarchos, Houghton, and Harkness—and some whose names evoke the excesses of today’s monied elite: Kravis, Koch, Bronfman, Perelman, Steinberg, and Schwarzman. All along, the building has housed titans of industry, political power brokers, international royalty, fabulous scam-artists, and even the lowest scoundrels.

The book begins with the tumultuous story of the building’s construction. Conceived in the bubbling financial, artistic, and social cauldron of 1920’s Manhattan, 740 Park rose to its dizzying heights as the stock market plunged in 1929—the building was in dire financial straits before the first apartments were sold. The builders include the architectural genius Rosario Candela, the scheming businessman James T. Lee (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s grandfather), and a raft of financiers, many of whom were little more than white-collar crooks and grand-scale hustlers.

Once finished, 740 became a magnet for the richest, oldest families in the country: the Brewsters, descendents of the leader of the Plymouth Colony; the socially-registered Bordens, Hoppins, Scovilles, Thornes, and Schermerhorns; and top executives of the Chase Bank, American Express, and U.S. Rubber. Outside the walls of 740 Park, these were the people shaping America culturally and economically. Within those walls, they were indulging in all of the Seven Deadly Sins.

As the social climate evolved throughout the last century, so did 740 Park: after World War II, the building’s rulers eased their more restrictive policies and began allowing Jews (though not to this day African Americans) to reside within their hallowed walls. Nowadays, it is full to bursting with new money, people whose fortunes, though freshly-made, are large enough to buy their way in.

At its core this book is a social history of the American rich, and how the locus of power and influence has shifted haltingly from old bloodlines to new money. But it’s also much more than that: filled with meaty, startling, often tragic stories of the people who lived behind 740’s walls, the book gives us an unprecedented access to worlds of wealth, privilege, and extraordinary folly that are usually hidden behind a scrim of money and influence. This is, truly, how the other half—or at least the other one hundredth of one percent—lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:06 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

For 75 years, it's been Manhattan's richest apartment building, and one of the most lusted-after addresses in the world. One apartment had 37 rooms, 14 bathrooms, 43 closets, 11 working fireplaces, a private elevator, and his-and-hers saunas; another at one time had a live-in service staff of 16. To this day, it is steeped in the kind of luxury most of us could only imagine. The last great building to go up along New York's Gold Coast, construction on 740 Park finished in 1930. Once finished, 740 became a magnet for the richest, oldest families in the country. Nowadays, it is bursting with new money, people whose fortunes, though freshly-made, are large enough to buy their way in. At its core this book is a social history of the American rich, but it's also filled with meaty, startling, often tragic stories of the people who lived behind 740's walls.--From publisher description.… (more)

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