But until about 150 years ago, it was impractical and expensive for unmarried adults to live alone (as well as morally suspect when it came to unhitched women).
Things changed in the 1870s—for guys, at least. “With the growth and industrialization of New York City in the 19th century, the work force consisted of very large numbers of unmarried men,” explains a 2004 Landmarks Preservation Committee report.
“The number of bachelors in the city ranged from 125,000 (about 13 percent of the population) in 1870 to nearly 45 percent of the male population over the age of 15 in 1890.”
Bachelor flats were basically apartment residences that consisted of a suite of rooms or just one room, sometimes with a kitchen and bath; sometimes without.
Many of these bachelor flats are long gone. But some still exist.
There’s the Benedick on Washington Square East (mentioned in Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth), the Gorham on Broadway and 18th Street, and a lovely copper-topped, circa-1890 building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 30th Street called the Wilbraham.
“The Wilbraham catered to single professional men of means,” noted the LPC report. “The 1900 census listed eleven single male ‘boarders’ at the Wilbraham, ranging in age from 28 to 80: two lawyers, two treasurers, two company ‘secretaries,’ a music professor, a drygoods clerk, a silk manufacturer, an architect, and an actor.”
The guys at the Wilbraham didn’t have their own kitchens. But there was a communal dining area, and they had plenty places to eat in their neighborhood—then a posh, happening area.
The bachelor flat concept didn’t last long. By 1927, the Wilbraham was open to women, and today, it’s a regular apartment building.
Bachelors are still here, of course, along with their female counterparts.
Tags: Bachelor Apartments New York City, Bachelor Flats New York City, Fifth Avenue 30th Street, French Flats, Gorham Apartments New York City, quirky apartment buildings, The Benedick apartments, Wilbraham Apartments