The group of materials presented here includes albums produced between 1908 and 1913 by developers and the real estate industry to entice potential middle and upper class tenants to New York City’s “principal high class apartment houses,” declares one volume’s subtitle. Each featured apartment house is briefly described, and illustrated with an exterior photograph and one or more floor plans. Among the Milstein Library Division’s most heavily consulted New York City real estate resources, these albums are supplemented in this digital presentation by trade catalogues for contemporary plumbing fixtures that may have been part of the modern and luxury appointments in these apartments.
Until shortly after the Civil War the well to do in New York City lived in private houses, and only the working class and the poor lived in multiple dwellings. By 1870 “French flats” had been introduced as a new concept in middle class living. They were distinguished from the tenement houses of the lower classes by amenities such as parlors, separate dining rooms, a small servant’s room, and indoor plumbing. For further contrast, they also bore names adopted from French, English, and American cultural and historical sources. The apartment concept proved to be attractive and by 1900 half of the middle class were living in multiple dwelling units.
Several factors facilitated the move towards apartment living. Changes in
the law in 1901 allowed buildings to rise to heights twice the width of the
street, resulting in buildings of ten to twelve stories (especially along broad
avenues). Also pivotal was the development of mass transit up Manhattan’s
west side when the IRT Broadway line subway opened in 1904. The Upper West Side
experienced a boom in the erection of heavily ornamented grand apartment buildings
in various architectural styles, but most notably Beaux-Arts. These new buildings
offered apartments of nine to twelve rooms and many duplexes. The chambers were
large, with high ceilings and lavish interior details, as well as well-appointed
bathrooms and kitchens, and ample closets. Apartment buildings provided luxuries
and conveniences not possible in most private dwellings. By 1929 almost all
upper and middle class residents in Manhattan were living in apartments.
Alpern, Andrew. Apartments for the Affluent : a Historical Survey of Buildings in New York. 
_____ . Historic Manhattan Apartment Houses. (1995)
_____ . Luxury Apartment Houses of Manhattan: an Illustrated History. (c1992)
Cromley, Elizabeth C. Alone Together: a History of New York's Early Apartments. (1990)
Douglas Elliman (Firm). The Douglas Elliman Locator: Plans of the Principal Apartment Houses East and South of Central Park. [c1923] 2v.
Hawes, Elizabeth. New York, New York: How the Apartment House Transformed the Life of the City (1869-1930). (1993)
Norton, Thomas E. and Jerry E. Patterson. Living It Up: a Guide to the Named Apartment Houses of New York. (1984)
-- Ruth A. Carr, 7/15/04; Updated 1/3/05