For fans of the Beatles, a short detour up the upper west side of Central Park will give you the chance to see not only where John and Yoko lived (and where she still does) as well as experiencing the Strawberry Fields memorial.
The Dakota Apartments
Across Central Park West on the corner of 72nd Street stands the iconic Dakota Apartments. Built in the 1880s, it is one of New York’s most prestigious addresses. The architectural style can be described as northern German Renaissance, with high gables that tower above the inner courtyard. The front gatehouse is manned 24 hours a day and the thick iron gates and modern security systems provide those inside with a level of reassurance, given the famed portal’s dark history.
Notable residents have included: Lauren Bacall, Roberta Flack, Boris Karloff, Leonard Bernstein, John Madden, Gilder Radner, Rudolf Nuryev, Jack Palance and from 1973 until his death, the residence of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
On December 8, 1980, a lone Beatles fan, clutching a paperback edition of The Catcher In The Rye stood awaiting John Lennon’s return from a daily recording session downtown. Mark Chapman had greeted Lennon earlier in the day and asked him to autograph his copy of Double Fantasy as the star, with Yoko left for the session. At 10:49, their limo returned and John and Yoko stepped out, walking towards the arched entry. From behind them, five shots were fired, four of which felled the rock legend, hitting him in the back and shoulder. By 11:15pm, he was declared dead, but his legend was to live on.
In 1985, on Lennon’s 45th birthday, a special memorial was established just inside the 72nd Street entrance to the park. Named Strawberry Fields after the Beatles song (and respectively the Liverpool orphanage), it has since become a place of homage for Beatles fans and is an official ‘quiet place’ within Central Park – though someone should tell the talent-less hacks that sit about butchering Beatles and Lennon songs on beaten up old nylon string guitars, or the hoards of selfie-stick wielding tourists.
Strawberry Fields’ epicenter is a circular black and white mosaic with the word, “Imagine”, after Lennon’s most famous solo work. On any given day, it will bear roses, petals in the shape of a peace symbol, Liverpool FC regalia, Beatles memorabilia and candles. Some make it a little more magical and some almost mock the meaning behind it all. Take a moment at Strawberry Fields, visit the mosaic and then step down the path a little to somewhere a little more peaceful, where we can all imagine a world without selfie-sticks.
Ground zero for Beatles and John Lennon fans, the Dakota Apartments were where he lived until his assassination. Strawberry Fields is the memorial in his honor at the edge of Central Park.
The corner of 72nd and Central Park West
Either stroll Central Park to get to the 72nd Street entrance or catch a B or C train to 72nd Street.