Everything You Should Know About a Pre War Apartment Building

By: ROS Team

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When looking for an apartment in New York City, a building’s age may factor into your decision.  This is primarily because the age of the building can tell people a lot about the condition of the available units.

Listings that describe apartment buildings as “pre-war” may be appealing to prospective residents because of their elegance and charm.  But it’s important to consider other factors about these apartments, some of which may become problematic.

1- History of Pre-War Apartments
2- Pre War Apartment Features
3- Why are Pre War Apartments is Better
4- Where to Find
5- How to Find

Pre War Apartments

NYC apartment buildings are classified into three broad categories:

  •  Pre-war buildings:  those built before World War II;
  •  Post-war buildings: those built after World War II but before 1990; and
  •  New construction: those built after 1990.


Pre-War Apartments

Pre-war buildings are distinguishable from the other building types because they often have hand-finished plaster walls, solid wood construction, elaborate tiling, and poured concrete floors, which is why older buildings are more soundproof compared to new construction.  It’s also why they’re more likely to retain their value than the other building types.

Pre-war buildings were also built to stand the test of time, unlike most new construction buildings which are mainly concerned with using affordable building materials. But, since pre-war buildings are quite old, they require more extensive renovation and proper work permits when they’re modernized.

Pre War Apartment Features

In pre-war apartments, you are likely to find distinct rooms and separate kitchens. You’re also likely to find solid wood doors, hardwood floors, and high ceilings. Typically, living areas and closets are more spacious, and you may even find decorative details like recessed shelving and beamed ceilings in these units.

Pre-War Apartment Features

Pre-war buildings were mainly built around a courtyard or series of courtyards that provided natural light and served well for ventilation.  Lobbies are often elaborate and elegant with high beamed ceilings. Pre-war apartment buildings were also designed with central laundry facilities.

Why are Pre War Apartments Better?

Pre-war apartment buildings are rich in character. Their high ceilings, long hallways, and large foyers add a classic touch to modern living.  These buildings also allow less noise to enter apartment units than in new construction thanks to the way they’re built.

The details of most pre-war apartments are also unmatched. Most have solid wood doors, intricate decorative moldings, brass fixtures, working fireplaces, tin ceilings,  and hand-painted tiles.

The Downside of Pre War Apartments

For all the beauty they offer, pre-war apartments also have a downside. One major downside is the smaller size of the bathrooms and the kitchen. There may be a lower electrical current and no central air conditioning in these buildings since these features weren’t standard during the pre-war era.

The Downside of Pre-War Apartments

Where to Find Pre War Apartments

These apartment buildings are usually found in Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx, all of which are historically significant for New York City.  The Upper West Side and West Village neighborhoods of Manhattan are rich in history and pre-war apartment buildings.

How to Find Pre War Apartments

Real estate websites are the best sources for finding pre-war apartments. If you’re working with a real estate agent, be sure to tell him or her what you are looking for in a pre-war apartment, as some may have undergone renovations to include modern-day amenities.

Final Words

There are a limited number of pre war apartments in New York City, but when you find one it’s worth touring or even renting.  It will undoubtedly be an experience you won’t forget.