NYC’s oldest private homes: Enigmatic living tales of past

By Allison Hope

New York looks forward, and not backward. Unfortunately, that means many of its oldest and most impressive homes — from the old row houses that once filled the Lower East Side to the robber baron mansions that lined Fifth Avenue — have met the wrecking ball.

Others, preserved by fate and community activism, are now public museums. However, there are a few old residential structures left in the city that are still being used as they were intended – as private homes.

“It’s not surprising that relatively few historic homes have survived in New York City as residential properties for 150 to 200 years,” said Deborah Gardner, a former member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

She explains that the buildings that do survive as private residences tend to remain anchored incompatible residential neighborhoods like the East and West Villages, Brooklyn, and Chinatown.

“When neighborhoods change from residential to commercial or more dense residential developments like large apartment blocks, single-family homes can become marooned in starkly different cityscapes and become less appealing for domestic life. Families die out or sell out, or arrange for the building to become a museum,” Gardner said.

Here is a look inside the most notable NYC dwellings that have lived through centuries and generations of continued ownership.

(Courtesy: NY Post)

Image courtesy of NY Post