Vintage Rental Ads – Horse Parking Included

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“The luxury of today is the necessity of tomorrow. Every advance first comes into being as the luxury of a few rich people, only to become, after a time, an indispensable necessity taken for granted by everyone.” Ludwig von Mises

The thought of living in an apartment complex bereft of a fitness center, business center, or swimming pool might make you feel a bit uneasy. The thought of not having TV cable or an internet connection would surely send a few shivers down your spine. We’ve always strived to make our lives easier and more comfortable, probably since the first woolen blanket came to be. In just a few years, smart homes may be the new norm, and washing dishes, cooking food, or going through the pain of picking a movie to watch will seem just as distant as our Neanderthal cousins.

Until then, we thought it would be fun to dig through some of the oldest newspaper rental ads we could find and get a glimpse of what “home sweet home” meant more than two centuries ago. Here are our favorite finds:

This apartment in Philly that comes with yellow-fever-free furniture

1798 – Gazette of the United States & Philadelphia – Philadelphia, PA

Let’s start off with this neat little ad from 1798. This four-chamber apartment also includes a front parlor, kitchen, and cellar, making it perfect for entertaining your guests—but that’s not really what gives this home its unique charm. If you were a 1700s renter, germless furniture would most likely be a must-have amenity in a city that had just been through a yellow fever epidemic.

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This house with potential for either crop growing or public entertainment 

1811 – The Centinel – Gettysburg, PA

Nowadays, looking for the best floorplan layout can prove to be a real struggle, but 200 years ago nobody really cared for such things. Except if the water well was too far from the kitchen. That would have been a real drag, especially if you wanted to go for the Live-Work lifestyle and open a little tavern downstairs to maximize your income.

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This Virginia house that includes parking for your horse

1820 – Petersburg Republican – Petersburg, VA

When it comes to location, most of us dream of a lovely home, in a quiet, cozy neighborhood that’s close to everything but at the same time free from the constant noise of the city. Throw in a smokehouse where you can cure your organic salmon or bacon and you’d almost have a deal in the 1820s. This rental comes with all the necessary “out houses” and there’s even a lumber house for rent, if needed.

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This handsome house featuring an arbor of fine grapes – in New York City! 

1837 – Morning Herald – New York, NY

For some of us, a little balcony, sunroom, or private patio could really spark up the interest for a certain rental deal especially when coupled with a pretty view. Things haven’t changed that much since 1837 when a large yard with an arbor of fine grapes was definitely something worth advertising. We probably wouldn’t be too stoked by the opportunity to purchase the former tenant’s oil cloths and carpets though.

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This Staten Island dwelling house with a full bakery in the basement

1843 – New York Daily Tribune – New York, NY

The daily commute to work can seriously grind our gears sometimes, and that’s especially true for people living in New York. Back in 1843, a “two-horsepower” omnibus might have been able to soothe your nerves. This ad also boasts proximity to good schools and churches as well as the possibility to become an artisan baker, just in case the stock market crashes.

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This house in Hawaii with modern features such as access to public water

1859 – The Pacific Commercial Advertiser – Honolulu, HI

In the late 1850’s a new trend was swooping the nation and no serious renter could say no to water provided directly from the government pipes.

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This DC-area grand home with an attached garage (f.k.a. stable and carriage house)  

1868 – Alexandria Gazette – Alexandria, VA

Minimalism wasn’t really a thing in 1868, so if your pockets could handle it, you could rent a house that spanned 20 rooms. This one comes with a stable and a carriage house, a 170 -foot deep yard, a restaurant, and a wine vault, so you’d never have to leave your house.

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These luxury “French flats” boasting hot and cold water

1874 – The New York Herald – New York, NY

If you’re renting today, having a washer and dryer in your new apartment would be one of the first things you’d consider. People in the 1870’s had different priorities though. Hot water was one of them, followed closely by indoor toilets. This rental ad also features ranges on each floor, a bathroom, chandeliers, marble mantels and dumb waiters.

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This papered house in St. Paul, MN that rents for only $45 per month

1889 – St. Paul Daily Globe – St. Paul, MN

Worried that your rent keeps increasing? You could try to put some money aside for a time machine and travel back to 1889, Saint Paul, Minnesota, where you could rent a huge house for just $45 dollars per month. Don’t open a savings account just yet, because that amounts to $1,143 today, due to inflation. The average rent in Saint Paul today is $1,119, but you may not find a twelve-room house for that price. Even if by some miracle you do find one, it will still be missing those state of the art speaking tubes.

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This “rarely beautiful” San Francisco flat 

1898 – The San Francisco Call – San Francisco, CA

For the aesthetically-inclined, the interior and exterior design of an apartment might weigh in heavily when deciding on which apartment to rent. San Francisco, the Paris of the West as it was called around that time, would have been a destination for those drawn by beauty. You could almost swim in all the sunshine.

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This high-end New York apartment at the turn of the century (servants’ rooms included) 

1901 – New York Tribune – New York, NY

As we advance into the 20th century, rental ads are becoming eerily similar to the ones we’re used to seeing today, as exemplified by this 1901 ad for The New Century, an apartment building which is still alive and well in New York City. Being one of the first luxury apartment complexes in the city, it even had electric charging rooms for electric cars (yes, they’ve been around for some time). In today’s dollars, the rent translates to $6,203 a month for the cheaper ones and $8,730 a month for the pricier ones, and you didn’t even have to worry about the cost of electricity or refrigeration.

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This record-crushing apartment building

1912 – The Sun – New York, NY

Still not impressed? Just a few blocks away from The New Century lies The Belnord, an apartment building that offers you “a rare accumulation of advantages”.  Too bad Guinness World Records wasn’t established until 1955 because according to The Belnord’s marketers it would have probably been entitled to the “largest apartment building in the world” and the “largest court in existence” awards. For $2,100/year you could rent a 7-bedroom apartment and some delightful air of peace and quiet.

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This Florida riverfront home rated PG – 13

1948 – Daytona Beach Morning Journal – Daytona Beach, FL

As we get closer to the present we start noticing the features we’ve grown accustomed to in our present-day abodes. If it wasn’t for that ”no young children” and the $200 rent, we probably couldn’t tell the difference between this ad and a contemporary one. Luckily, we now have The Fair Housing Act.

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In time, we’ve added more and more hi-tech comforts and amenities to the simple joy of hot water and electric lights, but all in all our rental experience has remained the same. I’m not so sure about our sense of humor though…

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Nadia Balint is a senior creative writer for RENTCafé. She covers news and trends in residential and commercial real estate and their impact on our everyday life, including rental housing, for-sale housing, real estate development, homeownership, market reports, insurance, landlord-tenant laws, personal finance, urban development, economy, sustainability, and social issues. Nadia holds a B.S. in Business Management from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. You can connect with Nadia via email.

Nadia’s work and expertise have been quoted by major national and local media outlets, including CNN, CNBC, CBS News, Curbed, The NY Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Denver Post as well as industry publications, such as GlobeSt, Bisnow, Inman News, Multifamily Executive, and The Commercial Real Estate Show. Nadia also wrote for Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive, HubSpot, and more. Prior to entering the real estate industry, Nadia worked in the legal field, where she gained over 10 years of experience in business, corporate, and real estate law.

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