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Publication Date: 2014-05-22

Design Insights

8 Ways to Identify a Prewar Apartment

Built in the 1880s though the 1930s, a prewar apartment in New York City comes at a premium. Finding a prewar apartment in pristine condition is rare, because they either command stratospheric prices or have been subdivided into smaller one or two bedroom units. What characteristics do these celebrated buildings share? Here, we breakdown their allure.


1. Facade. A facade comprised of three-story walls of smooth, thick limestone slabs, topped by ten or more stories of simple brick in earth tones.

2. Storage. Loads of custom built-ins (prewar apartments were designed to attract buyers reluctant to share a roof with other families).

3. Tall Ceilings. Gracious ceilings (ten feet and up).

4. Wood Floors. These herringbone floors are an example of the woodwork in a prewar apartment.

5. Architectural Detailing. Dramatic framed archways are one hallmark.

6. Handcrafted moldings. Decorative elements like handcrafted moldings are a signature of prewar apartments.

7. Marble fireplaces.

8. Windows. Abundant light with several windows in every room.

A new comprehensive coffee table tome out this month, Manhattan Classic by Geoffrey Lynch, opens the doors to the luxury buildings on Park Avenue and Central Park West and the more modest apartments throughout the city designed by the great prewar architects.


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