What Are Post-War and Pre-War Buildings?

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What Are Post-War Buildings In NYC?

Any commercial or residential building constructed after the Second World War is essentially post-war. However, most sources put the exact timeline between the 1950s and 1990s, though some start the post-war architecture period in 1945. Buildings built before that time are pre-war and buildings constructed after the 90s are usually considered new construction.

Another definition of post-war buildings covers the ones built between the late 1940s and mid-1970s, and it includes another “class” of the building between post-war and new construction: post-1980s buildings.

Benefits of post-war buildings are:

  • A rich variety of architecture is available, especially buildings from the 50s and 60s
  • They usually have better amenities than pre-war buildings
  • It’s relatively easier to find a post-war condo
  • Post-war apartments have better natural light and more closet space
  • They are more affordable compared to pre-war buildings
  • The cost of renovation is usually lower

Some cons of post-war buildings include:

  • Lower ceilings make the apartments feel cramped
  • Minimal aesthetic value and unattractive architecture (a lot of white/red-brick boxes)

Post-War Building Examples

1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1071 5th Ave) was built in 1959 and has beautiful post-war architecture. It was designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. 
2. Seagram Building (375 Park Avenue Manhattan) is a 516-feet high skyscraper completed in 1958 and is counted among the best post-war architectural examples (NY Times). 
3. Imperial House (150 East 69th Street) is a 30-story post-war apartment building completed in 1960 and became a co-op in 1971.

What Are Pre-War Buildings In NYC?

Commercial and residential buildings built before (or during) the Second World War are considered pre-war buildings. While some consider buildings in the 1800s to be pre-war as well, most agree that pre-war buildings were the ones built during the first four or so decades in the 20th century (between the 1900s and 1940s). Another definition stretches the timeline for pre-war buildings to the 1880s. Pre-war buildings cover a larger portion of the housing stock in NYC than post-war.
Most (if not all) of the pre-war apartment buildings are co-op

Some pros of pre-war buildings are:

  • The character that comes with old, established buildings
  • High ceilings, hardwood floors, and often solid wood doors
  • Most pre-ward buildings have a unique interior and architecture
  • Thicker walls prevent noise pollution

Some cons of these buildings include:

  • Condos are very rare, so buyers are limited to co-ops
  • Renovations can be quite expensive
  • In-building amenities like pools, gyms, common rooftops are uncommon

Pre-War Building Examples

If we go by the pre-war building definition that includes buildings from as far back in time as the 1880s, the Dakota (1 W 72nd St) – built-in 1884 – and the Osborn (205 W 57th St) – completed in 1885 – are amazing examples of pre-war apartment buildings.

1. Chrysler Building (405 Lexington Ave) was completed in 1930 and remained the tallest building in the world for 11 months. It’s still the 12th tallest in NYC and the tallest brick skyscraper in the world.
2. Liberty Tower (55 Liberty St) in Manhattan is a 385 feet apartment building with a very small footprint. It was completed in 1910. 
3. River House (435 E 52nd St) is a beautiful art-deco architecture building in Midtown East, overlooking the East River. It was completed in 1931 and had 26 floors.

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