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Friday, October 7, 2022

The Wild and Twisted History of the Actual Building Where ‘Only Murders’ Was Filmed

The Arconia is the building that is at the centre of the drama in the Hulu series “Only Murders in the Building,” which is returning for its second season this week. Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez play the roles of an unlikely trio of residents who become amateur sleuths with a podcast. But the apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that is designed to seem like the Italian Renaissance is really named the Belnord, and it has been generating headlines for more than a century.

The Belnord has always been a topic of conversation due to its status as an extravagant structure and a haven for exaggeration. When it was completed being constructed in 1909, the architect bragged that it was the biggest apartment building in the nation, and maybe the globe, based on the fact that it covered a whole city block at the intersection of West 86th Street and Broadway. Newspapers, including this one, proclaimed the internal courtyard to be the largest in all of Manhattan. It had a garden and a lawn “for a score of children to frolic on,” as well as a magnificent, tiered marble fountain as its centrepiece.

They were awestruck by its spacious rental apartments, which numbered 175 and were each 50 feet deep. These apartments stretched from the street to the courtyard and featured interior decoration “in the style of Louis XVI.” This included pale painted panelling and “harmoniously tinted silks” on the walls. In addition, these apartments were outfitted with the most up-to-date modern conveniences. According to one piece of writing, since the freezers featured ice machines, there would never be an invasion by icemen at the Belnord. On the top floor of the building, there was a separate laundry room for each apartment. This low-tech amenity included a washing machine, an ironing board, and a clothesline for the use of the maid.

According to the findings of this study, its population would be more than 1,500, making it a full-fledged independent city. Over the years, the building has been home to a number of famous people, including: Lee Strasberg, the authoritarian father of Method acting, who was frequently visited by his timid protégée Marilyn Monroe; Walter Matthau, when he was an up-and-coming theatre actor with a young family; the actor Zero Mostel, who played Tevye in the original Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof”; and Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Nobel Prize-winning author, who liked to

One housing court judge claimed that the two parties in the Belnord conflict deserved each other, before washing his hands of the matter after a settlement he had mediated failed to go through. The struggle lasted for a total of sixteen years and was very controversial during that time period. He said, “I’m confident the tenants and the landlord are going to sue the building to death,” and he was correct in his assumption. The scenario has been compared to the siege that was placed on Beirut by a local official.

As he worked toward his goal of transforming the property into a high-end apartment complex with some units renting for as much as $45,000 a month, he entered into a variety of business arrangements with the prospective renters. Mr. Barnett acquired a property in the New Jersey suburbs for a rabbi and his family who were previously renting an apartment that was 4,000 square feet and costing $275 per month. Then there was the person who lived in a penthouse but longed to live in the desert. He paid for her plane ticket to Las Vegas so she could look for a property with a pool there, arranged for the house to be bought, and covered all of her relocation fees. Some residents chose to preserve their cheap rates, but in exchange they decided to downsize from their expansive 11-room flats into more manageable quarters.

Although some residents purchased their own homes at steep discounts, prices for the renovated units varied from around $3.6 million to more than $11 million. According to Jonathan Miller, an experienced property and market appraiser, the condominiums had a shaky beginning but are now selling at a rapid rate, which is keeping up with the high-end market in the city.

In the same vein as Mr. Stengel, Mr. Scanlon belonged to a demographic in Belnord that you might describe as being near to the literary and publishing industries. When they would run into one other in the courtyard, he would often make a joke to Mr. Stengel, who was at the time the editor of Time magazine, asking, “How does it feel to be on the cutting edge of the passé?”

In the majority of instances, the tenants were granted succession rights for their offspring. According to Mr. Krulewitch, the Belnord is a city that still, despite the influx of condo buyers, has a population that is more culturally diverse than the monolithic wealthy class that has taken over much of Manhattan. This is despite the fact that the wealthy class has taken over much of Manhattan.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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