Inside history of New York’s Belnord building made famous from Selena Gomez’s Only Murders show

Everyone who watches the Hulu show Only Murders in the Building knows the Arconia – the building where Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, and Martin Short’s characters all live, and the center stage for all of their drama.

It turns out, the building used to film the outside shots of the Arconia in the series is called the Belnord in real life and it actually has its own wacky history.

While it may not really be the home to a murder mystery, the New York City apartment complex has made headlines for its own slew of controversies since it was built more than 110 years ago – including a crooked landlord who inspired a 16-year long rent strike from the tenants.

The Belnord, which takes up an entire block in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, sits on 86th street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. 

Everyone who watches the Hulu show Only Murders in the Building knows the Arconia - the building where Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, and Martin Short's characters all live, and the center stage for all of their drama

Everyone who watches the Hulu show Only Murders in the Building knows the Arconia – the building where Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, and Martin Short’s characters all live, and the center stage for all of their drama

It turns out, the building used to film the outside shots of the Arconia in the series is called the Belnord in real life and it actually has its own wacky history. It is seen in 2020

It turns out, the building used to film the outside shots of the Arconia in the series is called the Belnord in real life and it actually has its own wacky history. It is seen in 2020

And while it may not really be the home to a murder mystery, the New York City apartment complex (seen in 2008) has made headlines for its own slew of controversies - including a crooked landlord who inspired a 16-year long rent strike

And while it may not really be the home to a murder mystery, the New York City apartment complex (seen in 2008) has made headlines for its own slew of controversies – including a crooked landlord who inspired a 16-year long rent strike

The Belnord takes up an entire block in the Upper West Side of Manhattan

The Belnord takes up an entire block in the Upper West Side of Manhattan

Designed in 1908 by architectural firm Hiss and Weekes, the 13-story tall building, which has 175 apartment units in total, each 50-feet deep, received media attention from the day it opened its doors, since it was home to the biggest inner courtyard in the city.

It sits on 86th street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue

It sits on 86th street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue

According to the New York Times, the property has a half acre of open space with pristine gardens and a ‘tiered marble fountain’ in the center. 

The building – which has since become an official New York City Landmark – was decorated with Italian Renaissance styles including ‘pale, painted paneling and harmoniously tinted silks on the walls,’ the Times reported.

When it was first built in 1908, people were enthralled with its high-tech appliances – including ice machines in each apartment and a laundry area on the roof (with ‘a tub, ironing board and clothesline’) – which were luxuries in the early 1900s. 

For the first 50 years, the Belnord was the place to live. Celebrity tenants over the years included writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, King Creole actor Walter Matthau, acclaimed Broadway star Zero Mostel, and jazz artist Art D’Lugoff. 

Despite being considered glamorous when it first opened, by the 1970s, the apartment building had became rundown – with the Times reporting, ‘The ornate limestone-and-terra-cotta structure was crumbling, the roof was leaking, and the plumbing cracked. 

Designed in 1908, the 13-story tall building, which has 175 apartment units in total, received media attention from the first day it opened its doors - since it was home to the biggest inner courtyard in the city. The courtyard is pictured in 2008

Designed in 1908, the 13-story tall building, which has 175 apartment units in total, received media attention from the first day it opened its doors – since it was home to the biggest inner courtyard in the city. The courtyard is pictured in 2008

According to the New York Times, the property has a half acre of open space with pristine gardens and a 'tiered marble fountain' in the center

According to the New York Times, the property has a half acre of open space with pristine gardens and a 'tiered marble fountain' in the center

According to the New York Times, the property has a half acre of open space with pristine gardens and a ‘tiered marble fountain’ in the center. It is seen in 2008

For the first 50 years, the Belnord was the place to live. Celebrity tenants over the years included writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, King Creole actor Walter Matthau, acclaimed Broadway star Zero Mostel, and jazz artist Art D'Lugoff

For the first 50 years, the Belnord was the place to live. Celebrity tenants over the years included writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, King Creole actor Walter Matthau, acclaimed Broadway star Zero Mostel, and jazz artist Art D’Lugoff

Despite being considered luxury when it first opened, by the 1970s, the apartment building had became rundown - with the Times reporting, 'The limestone-and-terra-cotta structure was crumbling, the roof was leaking, and the plumbing cracked’

Despite being considered luxury when it first opened, by the 1970s, the apartment building had became rundown – with the Times reporting, ‘The limestone-and-terra-cotta structure was crumbling, the roof was leaking, and the plumbing cracked’

The building's owner at the time, Lillian Seril, refused to fix things or pay her fees, and in 1978, numerous people who lived at the Belnord became fed up and organized a rent strike. A floorplan for the Belnord is pictured

The building’s owner at the time, Lillian Seril, refused to fix things or pay her fees, and in 1978, numerous people who lived at the Belnord became fed up and organized a rent strike. A floorplan for the Belnord is pictured

‘Ceilings were collapsing. Stalactites had formed in the basement. The fountain had been broken for years, and the garden was a fenced-in jungle, off limits to residents.’

The building’s owner at the time, Lillian Seril, who was described by the outlet as ‘litigious and recalcitrant,’ refused to fix things when they broke and didn’t pay her fees.

In 1978, numerous people who lived at the Belnord became fed up and organized a rent strike against the landlord, which would go on to become the ‘longest rent strike in the city’s history.’ 

The strike went for 16 years and it wasn’t pretty, with one judge saying at the time, per the Times, ‘I’m convinced the tenants and the owner are going to litigate the building to death.’

Things finally came to a head in 1994, when Seril sold the building to Gary Barnett from Extell Development Company for $15 million.

The Times reported that as part of the deal, Seril was able to keep a rent-stabilized apartment unit for herself, and at the time of her death in 2004, it was reported that she was only paying $450 a month for the spacious apartment. 

According to the outlet, Extell went on to spend around $100 million fixing up the Belnord. 

Barnett soon started striking deals with its current tenants in an attempt to get them to move out, so that he could revamp their apartments, which were considered old and run down by that time, into modern living space and put them back on the market for thousands of dollars.

‘For a rabbi and his family who were paying $275 for a 4,000-square-foot apartment, Mr. Barnett bought a house in the New Jersey suburbs,’ the outlet reported.

It went on for 16 years until 1994, when Seril sold the building to Gary Barnett from Extell Development Company for $15 million. According to the outlet, Extell went on to spend around $100 million fixing up the Belnord, which is seen in 2020

It went on for 16 years until 1994, when Seril sold the building to Gary Barnett from Extell Development Company for $15 million. According to the outlet, Extell went on to spend around $100 million fixing up the Belnord, which is seen in 2020

But things started to go downhill once again in the 2000s when Barnett stopped making loan payments on the building's mortgage. The Belnord is pictured in 2008

But things started to go downhill once again in the 2000s when Barnett stopped making loan payments on the building’s mortgage. The Belnord is pictured in 2008

Then, in 2015, Barnett stepped away from the building (which is seen in 2008) when Extell sold the residential part to HFZ Capital Group for a whopping $575 million

Then, in 2015, Barnett stepped away from the building (which is seen in 2008) when Extell sold the residential part to HFZ Capital Group for a whopping $575 million

HFZ then brought in architect Robert A. M. Stern, who renovated 95 of its 175 units and turned them into 'high-end condominiums' with 'Italian kitchens sheathed in marble.' A unit in the Belnord is seen in 2018

HFZ then brought in architect Robert A. M. Stern, who renovated 95 of its 175 units and turned them into 'high-end condominiums' with 'Italian kitchens sheathed in marble.' A unit in the Belnord is seen in 2018

HFZ then brought in architect Robert A. M. Stern, who renovated 95 of its 175 units and turned them into ‘high-end condominiums’ with ‘Italian kitchens sheathed in marble.’ A unit in the Belnord is seen in 2018

‘Then there was the penthouse dweller who hankered for the desert: He flew her to Las Vegas to pick out a house with a pool, arranged for its purchase and paid her moving expenses. 

‘Other tenants opted to keep their low rents, but agreed to swap their vast, 11-room apartments for smaller ones.’

But things started to go downhill once again in the 2000s when Barnett stopped making loan payments on the building’s mortgage, with the Times explaining, ‘The calculus of the building’s debt and its rental revenue never quite added up.’

Then, in 2015, Barnett stepped away from the building when Extell sold the residential part to HFZ Capital Group for a whopping $575 million.

HFZ then brought in architect Robert A. M. Stern, who renovated 95 of its 175 units and turned them into ‘high-end condominiums’ with ‘Italian kitchens sheathed in marble.’

They were then able to list the condos for millions of dollars each – ranging from $3.6 million for the smallest to more than $11 million for the biggest – and ended up making a total profit of $1.35 billion. 

‘Pre-war meets contemporary splendor with an unrivaled 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor amenities, including a 24-hour attended lobby, expansive porte-cochère, and 22,000-square-foot courtyard and garden, evoking total privacy and tranquility,’ a description on a current listing for the building reads.

When Only Murders creator John Hoffman got approval to shoot the murder mystery at the building, he was elated. 'he building itself is a character,' he said. Gomez is seen filming outside of the building

When Only Murders creator John Hoffman got approval to shoot the murder mystery at the building, he was elated. ‘he building itself is a character,’ he said. Gomez is seen filming outside of the building

Hoffman told House Beautiful that the Belnord 'surpassed all of his wildest dreams,' adding that the building 'basically wrote itself into our show as its own central compelling character.' Martin is on set outside the building

Hoffman told House Beautiful that the Belnord ‘surpassed all of his wildest dreams,’ adding that the building ‘basically wrote itself into our show as its own central compelling character.’ Martin is on set outside the building

The show is all about a woman named Mabel (played by Gomez), who finds herself in an unlikely trio with neighbors Oliver and Charles (played by Short and Martin) after the three of them uncover clues after someone gets killed in their building

The show is all about a woman named Mabel (played by Gomez), who finds herself in an unlikely trio with neighbors Oliver and Charles (played by Short and Martin) after the three of them uncover clues after someone gets killed in their building

‘The light-filled, two-story Belnord Club further offers a wealth of options for relaxation and entertainment, including a state-of-the-art fitness center, an impressive double-height sports court, a luxurious Club Lounge with a fireplace, separate dining room, children’s playroom, and teen room.’

When Only Murders creator John Hoffman got approval to shoot the murder mystery at the building, he was elated.

‘I was obsessed,’ he told the Times. ‘I knew we could make something as elevated as that amazing building.  It’s a cliché to say that the building itself is a character, but I like the challenge of getting beyond that cliché a bit. 

‘What pulls us out of our apartments to meet people? How well do you know your neighbors? Do you only connect when it’s necessary? The ways in which we get pulled together when we live in these spaces is what’s really interesting.’

The show broke history like the building that inspired it, and received the highest amount of first-day streams of any Hulu comedy series when it premiered in August 2021. And now, its second season premiered today.

It’s all about a woman named Mabel (played by Gomez), who finds herself in an unlikely trio with neighbors Oliver and Charles (played by Short and Martin) after the three of them accidentally uncover something they shouldn’t after someone gets killed in their building. 

Hoffman also told House Beautiful that the Belnord ‘surpassed all of his wildest dreams,’ adding that the building ‘basically wrote itself into our show as its own central compelling character.’

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