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3.7 out of 5 stars
740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building
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166 of 179 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Don't be fooled by the exciting sounding "apartment porn" review by Forbes -- this is one tedious book. While there were some very interesting sections (on the building's architect Candela, a brief history of cooperative apartments in NYC, and John D. Rockefeller), they were few and far between. The majority of the text is dull and repetitive. The author was able to get dirt on a number of current and former residents of 740 Park, but he could not get his hands on a floor plan or any decent photos of these luxurious apartments? All in all, quite a disappointing read.
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78 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Well, the author definitely spent a lot of time researching this book. That is obvious. I really thought this would be another Bonfire of the Vanities type of book about the rick and famous and their habits, lifestyle etc. I am half way through the bookand I've had enough. There are about 5 paragraphs about each tenant that ever lived in 740 Park.This book is almost like a school textbook with a little history of this and that person except this book is about an apartment building. Not enough information on each tenant for me to develop an interest in the subject, just enough information on who lived in which apartment during which years.

The book started off well enough but after awhile, I lost complete interest in the history of each unit and who lived there, etc. I actually can not remember half the people who subleased, leased or bought the apartments after awhile.

Great attempt. The writer, as I mentioned, definitely did a through research on the history of this building and is obviously a gifted writer. However, a short and brief background information on each tenant failed to draw me in. I would recommend this book to anyone who is doing research in real estate in NY, but would not recommend this book for just reading for enjoyment.
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118 of 132 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I read a book like this one, that describes the history of a building or how the rich are very different from you and I, I want photos to help fill out the story. This book contains two mediocre pictures of two different rooms in the fabled structure on Madison where only the super rich can reside. I pass by this building every day and was naturally curious to see what all the shouting was about. To me, it looks like hundreds of other bland, brick structures that line Park and Fifth Avenue. Perhaps that's the first tip-off that the ultra-rich want to live quietly behind barricades of stone and marble. I wish there were pictures of the some of the residents and the interiors. Word descriptions can only go so far.
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72 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The author seems to be fond of hyperbole. While it is difficult to quantify social prestige in a republic, the notion that 740 Park is New York's most prestigious Cooperative is laughable at best. There are plenty of other buildings (998 & 960 Fifth, River House, at the risk of being indiscreet) that have a better claim to that title, and it makes one wonder if Mr. Gross turned his pen on the residents of 740 because they were more willing to talk than others.

It's true many of the tales have been told before and Mr. Gross' writing style will never equal the acerbic wit of Andrew Alpern or the folksy storytelling of Jerry Patterson and Stephen Birmingham in their chronicles of the apartment-dwelling rich and the book reads like an extended gossip column, which some may adore and others may loathe. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a gossipy read about the rich and shameless this book will not disappoint.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm on pg 184, and vow to get to the end, but I don't expect it to be easy. Like the other comments, I agree that pictures would have been wonderful to include, just so I could attempt to keep some of these people straight. This book gets so weighed down with names, and they've become a blur. Junior Rockefeller was interesting, but all the names of each and every lawyer and law firm and decorators and whatnot it just bogs it all down.
I'm doing Google searches on the main people, just so I can try to paint a better mental picture.

**edited - I didn't make it through the book. It's not worth my time.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I don't know what made me take a look at this let alone read it. It's not normally my type of book and the subject matter whilst interesting, isn't also my type of subject. However, I must say this was surprisingly interesting and kept me interested for some time. I did take off a star for length. It is almost 600 pages, but the well researched information in here is not too hard to get through.

The tenants in the past and now in the present (and their abundant wealth) plus the history of the building itself is fascinating and makes this a good read (especially if you can put aside one rainy afternoon curled up in bed). You'll learn a lot from this.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Like the other reviewers here, I too found some passages tedious and repetitive. Seemed like the author just didn't get his teeth into the book....kind of like he just "whetted" the appetite. Since I purchased this on this website, I was hoping to see lots of photos but that's not the case. That was disappointing. It was still an interesting read about people who have too much money and sometimes, too much time on their hands. Does anyone need a 76 room 3 story apartment where only 2 people live?
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
I lived in NY from 1989-1994, worked around the corner at Ralph Lauren and have always had a strong interest in architecture and New York history. I bought this book with enthusiasm.

I couldn't believe how much information is packed into it. There are over 500 pages! About page 20, I began to get lost. I simply couldn't read it. It is packed with so much minutae and tedious history of each and every tenant that it became absurd.

Here is what (my version) of his writing is. Imagine 500 pages of:

"Lucretia Davis was the widow of Malcom Dodge Davis, the same Dodges who came over on the Mayflower and began to buy up land outside of Dodgeville, MS. The old Mississippi Dodges met the Fish family when wintering in Jekyll Island and they began a friendship that cultimated in Betsy Fish's marriage to Dennis Davis and the birth of their daughter Emily Davis in 1911. In that year, the entire Davis clan, and the Fish family formed a corporation, known as Dodge Fish which eventually became the F. Dodge Fish Financial Bank. This bank began serving customers on July 21, 1921 but not before a terrible fire at 5 Wall Street which began on the night of July 20, 1921 and severely burned Mrs. Fish Davis so that she was forced to recuperate in Oyster Bay, NY where she met her next husband Dr. Leonard Foxhound Koop."

This book should not be read in bed or on a full stomach.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I hardly ever fault a book for being too detailed, as I usually love a lot of description and tidbits, but this was just way.too.much. I don't think we needed a meticulous, pedantic recounting of the family tree of every single person who ever set foot in 740 Park in its entire history. An entry about a person will go on for pages before you figure out that the person never actually lived in the building, just wanted to, or maybe attended a party there. Minor anecdotes about the residents are confirmed, and reconfirmed, and reconfirmed again by seven different sources saying the exact same thing. The same subject matter - economics, social mores of a particular time, anti-Semitism - is covered multiple times in multiple places in each chapter. There's plenty of juicy info in here, but it's surrounded by page after page of sawdust-dry minutiae about the elaborate family history of one of the residents. I think the book would have been far more effective had the author chosen to organize the chapters by apartment - reviewing the history of each unit from the building's inception to the present, so you could track the procession of residents through a unit as time progressed - rather than how it was subdivided, by era, but jumping back and forth from one year to the next. I could never get a good sense of who had lived in which apartment at what time, or how apartments got transferred and to whom. And this book desperately, desperately needed a strong-willed editor who could have put his/her foot down and made the author cut about 300 pages from the book. I also agree with the other reviewer comments about the lack of pictures - this subject was crying out for them, and more pictures would definitely have helped break up the monolithic text. There are great stories to tell in here, but you have to dig through so much irrelevant data that in the end, the read just isn't worth it. This is a clear case where an author fell in love with his subject, immersed himself in it, and in the end, got so attached to his research he couldn't see what to put in and what to leave out. The book would have been ten times better with half the content.
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31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
740 Park was developed by Jackie Onassis' maternal grandfather, and became her childhood home. It was conceived in 1929 as the most expensive, best apartment house in the world, but instead turned into a financial sinkhole for its first 50 years. Its exterior walls are 2.5 feet thick, and the floors 1.5 feet.

740 Park is a co-op - owners are both tenants and, collectively, the equivalent of the landlord in a rental building. The concept was invented to allow little groups of like-minded people to buy and control communal homes. Maintenance charges at 740 Park are not about $10,000/month, and applicants must have a liquid net worth of $100 million. Renovations can only be done in the summer months when many of the residents are away and would not be bothered.

The most exclusive apartment (about 20,000 square feet) at 740 Park is at the top of the building - bought from Mrs. Rockefeller's estate in 1971 for $225,000, and sold in 2000 for about $30 million.

The bulk of "740 Park" is taken up with the story of its construction during the Depression, and the lives of its occupants from that point forward - not a topic of great interest for me.
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