Today the Dorilton, the 12-story Beaux-Arts icon at Broadway and 71st Street, is regarded as one of the Upper West Side’s architectural gems. But when it opened in 1902 that was anything but the case.
The Dorilton was designed to attract the well-heeled transplants the new subway system promised to bring uptown. It featured grand apartment houses, filtered water, electricity, electric automobile charges, soundproof apartments, long-distance telephone service and refrigerators in every apartment, according to Ephemeral New York.
But its striking architecture — curvy mansard roof and enormous arched entryway – also attracted architectural critics, who generally “loathed its florid, ostentatious details,” Ephemeral NY notes.
“[The Dorilton] was criticized as an ‘architectural aberration’ because of its grandiose scale and overly lavish ornament,” Gwendolyn Wright writes in Building the Dream.
As the neighborhood declined in the second half of the twentieth century, so did the building, with hunks of the cornices falling off.
But by 1974, when the building received landmark protection, the popular assessment of the building’s architecture had changed dramatically. No longer an aberration, the Landmarks Preservation Committee report described it as evoking “memories of Paris.” It was then renovated to it original splendor.