10 Elaborate Floor Plans from Pre-World War I New York City Apartments

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New York Public Library Digital Gallery

By the mid-1800s, most of New York City's upper and middle class still lived in private stand-alone homes while apartment life was a feature of the working and lower class. Inspired by multi-residence buildings that were all the rage in Paris, New York developers began introducing the idea of "French flats" to monied Manhattanites around 1870. The idea caught on, and by the turn of the 20th century, about half of the wealthy city residents had opted for apartment-style living.

Eager to attract even more upper class families—especially as laws allowed buildings to grow taller and subways made them more accessible—real estate developers in the first few decades of the 1900s released a series of pamphlets advertising attractive options. The floor plans below are all taken from 1908 and 1910 brochures. But just because they were giving up their mansions didn't mean these upper and middle class families were ready to forgo luxury. The apartments feature up to a dozen rooms each—although any New York readers will undoubtedly do a double-take at the prices for these swanky digs.

1. The Langham

This 46-apartment building stretched the entire Central Park West block from 73rd to 74th Streets. Facilities for washing, drying and ironing are available on the top floor and accommodations for servants were available in the basement. Rents started at $4500—per year.

2. The Dorilton

There were four apartments per floor in this building, which was located at the intersections of Broadway, Amsterdam Ave and 72nd Street. The entryway was reached via a long driveway and the interior was decorated in the opulent style of Louis XVI. Rents ranged from $1700 to $4000 ... again, yearly.

3. The Ansonia

Even though they had the city at their fingertips, residents of the 350 suites at the Ansonia hardly ever had to leave their stunning, French Renaissance-style abode. The hotel-slash-apartment complex also housed food markets, laundry, liquor and cigar stores, florists, a bank, dentists, and physicians.

4. The Apthorp

These first floor apartments at the Apthorp, occupying an entire block on the Upper West Side, were all duplexes situated around a manicured courtyard. The second floor bedrooms were shown on a missing page.

5. The Chatsworth

For families still ambivalent about apartment living, the Chatsworth offered a semi-freestanding mansion, called the "Annex," that was attached to the main building on just the first floor. Each floor of the Annex was its own 11-room apartment.

5. The Brentmore

Each one of the apartments inside the lavish Central Park-adjacent Brentmore had its own private elevator. As with the Anthorp, the bedrooms for the above residences were all on a second floor page that is missing from the pamphlet.

6. The Barnard

As a beacon of luxury living, the Barnard boasted an array of "modern" accoutrements: telephones in each apartment, mail chutes, clothing dryers, and separate bathrooms for your servants in the basement.

7. 44 West 77th Street

One of New York's earliest co-operative establishments, this unnamed apartment building claimed to appeal to families who were "socially inclined and looking for 'class.'"

8. The Colosseum

There were just 16 apartments in the 14-story Colosseum, which boasted proximity to Columbia University in its listing. Inside the unusually shaped building were rooms finished with mahogany wood and ivory enamel.

9. The Belnord

The main feature of this colossal, 176-apartment residence was the sprawling courtyard of over 22,000 square feet.

10. The Wyoming

Among the modern luxuries—like laundry facilities—that each apartment in the Wyoming came with was an "air vacuum dust-removing apparatus," which likely refers to a built-in predecessor to the handheld vacuum that cropped up for a short time in the very early 1900s.

All images courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

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