A look at Manhattan’s first apartment building

For much of the city’s history, any New York household that could afford it lived in their own single-family home. The idea of sharing a residence with other people? Very declasse.

But in 1870, a developer named Rutherford Stuyvesant tried something new with his Stuyvesant Flats at 142 East 18th Street, near Third Avenue.

Inspired by new multi-family buildings that were all the rage in Paris, Stuyvesant spent $100,000 on his five-story structure, hiring architect Richard Morris Hunt to design 16 apartments and four artists’ studios.

First dubbed a folly, these middle-class rentals near chic Union Square caught on quick. They ushered in demand for more apartment-style dwellings.

“Although lacking an elevator, the building had running (cold) water, a novelty at the time,” states Changing New York, which features a photo of Stuyvesant Flats by Berenice Abbott in 1936 (above).

“Full occupancy followed, and “Parisian Flats” came into vogue. In later years, steam heat and electricity were added, and the building remained fully occupied until its 1958 demolition for Gramercy Green (above right), a 14-story building with 240 apartments.”

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6 Responses to “A look at Manhattan’s first apartment building”

  1. petey Says:

    “Parisian Flats”

    i’ve heard ‘french flats’. same thing?

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I think so. I always heard French Flats too. Maybe “Parisian” sounded even more appealing back in 1870.

  3. Lalima Says:

    New york city is admirable building structures in the world. what is the first buliding in manhattan? . Is it “Trinity Church” on Broadway, down town?
    thanks

  4. Anne Phelan Says:

    Dear Ephemeral NY-
    I’m doing research for a play about Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux for an installation at Open Source Gallery in Brooklyn of an Olmsted-inspired park. I know that Vaux lived at 142 East 18th Street in the 1850s. Any idea what pre-dated the Parisian flats building?

  5. Dennis Says:

    Google for “roman insula”.

  6. How New York City invented the penthouse | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] At the turn of the 20th century, monied New Yorkers were increasingly occupying “French Flat” cooperative apartments. […]

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