Eldorado Apartment, Central Park West. Photo by Untapped contributor Luke Kingma on Instagram
There was a time, not too long ago, when the ubiquity of the smartphone and Instagram wasn’t part of our daily lives. The urge to document every moment and broadcast it to the world allowed urban explorers to truly take in the spectacle of a moment, lock it in memory, and move on. No need for likes, hashtagging, and retweets.
That moment came for me one summer evening when a group of us were invited to a birthday party of someone who lived in the top two floors of the iconic Eldorado apartment on Central Park West, next to the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. It was probably 2008, we were young, and pretty reckless. We were all in an indie rock band in Brooklyn at the time. Cliche, yes, but with plenty of opportunities to get in trouble.
The Eldorado was designed as speculative real estate by Margon & Holder and Emory Roth. The latter had also done the groundbreaking San Remo apartments, the first of the twin tower apartments on Central Park West. While the sculptural details on the pinnacles of the San Remo were modeled on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, the Eldorado was unapologetically Art Deco, with original plans for gold leaf at the top. The New York Times writes that its “Art Deco character defined Central Park West as New York’s most modern avenue.”
From the inside of the penthouse apartment, two of us slid out of a window onto a terrace. There are apartments in the narrow pinnacle towers, which are four floors. Nobody was home, but you could see into the quarters. There was this awesome circular room with a bed inside, which I like to imagine was accessed via a spiral staircase, like in this rough cut real estate video that shows the units in the other tower. The first few levels were easy to scale, one portion had an exterior metal staircase, on another portion we hoisted each other up. There’s one last level where the spire is, with just enough space for one or two to hold onto the spire itself.
There, we took a look around. Compared to the sky-high skyscrapers built today, it’s not that high. Approximately 32 floors up. But when you’re outside and you’ve got a 360 degree view of the midtown Manhattan skyscrapers and the Central Park reservoir, even the view over the Hudson to New Jersey is breathtaking.
A few minutes of taking this in, and we climbed back down. Another friend wanted to go, so I went up a second and last time. In this day and age, if you didn’t take a photo, it pretty much didn’t happen. But for urban explorers, it’s that rush you’ll never forget–the one you get when you’re on your way somewhere you’re not supposed to be and then the payoff when you get there. Then you come back down, reinsert yourself into the cocktail party, and keep the memory in your back pocket for the days you forget why you’re still in this city.
Get in touch with the author @untappedmich. For more stories of urban explorers that scale world’s tallest buildings, read Moses Gates’ book Hidden Cities where he recounts scaling the Chrysler Building, Notre Dame in Paris and more.