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The Oldest Apartment Buildings in the United States – That Still Rent Today!

They don’t make ’em like they used to – nothing is truer if we look at apartment buildings that have been around since before 1950 and still welcome renters to this day. The top 20 oldest buildings renting today are more than 135 years old and are characteristic of the North and Northeast region.

Modern interest in sustainability is bringing age-old buildings into the limelight not only for their undeniable charm, but also for their versatility and lasting potential. For instance, in the North, the harsher climate led to the use of stone and brick materials, which resulted in century-old structures that are still admired and inhabited today.

“A building’s endurance and durability can be attributed to the materials used back in the day,” said Kurt Walker, a real estate investor and real estate agent for Cream City Home Buyers. “Raw materials used to cost a fraction of what they do today. Materials can make a building last more, but they can also cause a structure to whither.”

So, for Halloween and fans of the old, we decided to take a leap into the past: We’re crossing the threshold of America’s oldest apartments buildings and tapping into their everlasting charm. As years go by, architecture remains the thing that outlasts the past as much as it defines it — such as an 1850 Cincinnati structure known as the Pendleton that’s home to the oldest apartments in the U.S.

Look to the North & Northeast for Ye Olde Buildings

Pendleton, Cincinnati, OH, built 1850

 

Six of the 20 oldest apartment buildings are in prime locations such as upper-class Manhattan neighborhoods or near Yale University in the heart of New Haven, CT. As time went by, cities flourished around them and these structures became enduring staples of the community.

The oldest apartment building on our list is the quaint Pendleton in Cincinnati, OH. Dating back to before the Civil War, the red brick structure is alive with residents inhabiting its 78 rental units. And it’s not just the 171-year-old Pendleton that still has some life left in it! Some of today’s apartment communities witnessed the glitz and innovation of the Gilded Age, while others rode out two World Wars.

Check out the 20 oldest rental buildings in the U.S.:

Something must have been in the cement water back in 1880 because 12 of the oldest buildings we still rent today were completed in that year alone, back when household electrification wasn’t even around. But, although electricity might not have been an amenity yet, with innovation and industrialization in full swing, building development witnessed huge progress. For example, the quality of the steel produced during this time became more dependable in construction. This makes some of these 141-year-old structures the first examples of successful steel-frame architecture.

Modern living in a building dating back to the 1800s is not the premise of a reality show perfect for Halloween, but rather a reality for some renters. And, despite steady new construction, renting in older apartment buildings is pervasive. To that end, one thing real estate experts agree on when debating why someone would choose an older building over a newer one is charm. But, there are other, more practical reasons, too — good old insulation, in particular.

“One of the biggest draws to buildings constructed before 1950 is charm,” said Marina Vaamonde, founder and commercial real estate investor at PropertyCashin. “Many folks are attracted to the look and feel of these older buildings, and there is often a certain status that living in a well-maintained, pre-1950s apartment block brings. There are more practical benefits, however. One of the biggest is the soundproofing and insulation in a lot of older apartment blocks in cities like New York or Chicago. These buildings are often reported to be a lot quieter and warmer than modern ones.”

Barry Saywitz, president of The Saywitz Company, added: “Renovated and/or upgraded older buildings tend to have a charm that you cannot find with a newer product. In many metropolitan areas, these are attractive and well-located. In many instances, the walls are solid and provide better insulation from weather and noise.”

Here are some of our favorite old buildings that stood the test of time and welcome renters to this day:

· Lofts at Anthony Mill, Coventry, RI, built 1868

Oldest Apartment Buildings in USA

Originally built more than 150 years ago, this former cotton mill in Rhode Island went on to become the largest building of its time and one of the finest mills in the state, with its iconic tower and belfry still in place today. Then, in 2012, the building was converted into apartments, upgraded, and remodeled to restore it to its former glory and beyond. Today, renting here means walks along the banks of the Pawtuxet River, refreshing bike trails, an indoor basketball court and even a theatre room -- why not?

But, it’s not only Anthony Mill that stands out with its beautiful, rubble-stone architecture. The old buildings in the area are so revered that the entire Anthony Village Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

· Cambridge Oxford Apartments, New Haven, CT, built 1860

Its proximity to the Yale University Campus is just the icing on this stained-glass-windowed cake. Built all the way back in 1860, Cambridge Oxford managed to keep its vintage allure in the face of necessary modernization and renovations. More than 150 years and 84 boutique apartments later, this property is one of New Haven’s most desirable communities. Plus, New Haven has been a vivacious culture hub for a while, especially following a full-on revival of its downtown area a few years back. And the building’s address on High Street alone is enough to make it top of the list for a renter looking for apartments with character.

· St. Martin's Manor, New Orleans, LA, 1872

oldest buildings in the united states

This New Orleans outlier proves that the South also has its share of beautiful, durable architecture. Now perfect for seniors or renters with physical disabilities looking for accessible and comfy living, St. Martin's has come a long way since its construction in 1872. Yet, as you step through its gates and reach the manicured greenery, peace and quiet come just as easy as it did generations ago. That might be because of the popular on-site chapel of The Promise Church or the safety that this gated community offers.

Cities with Rental Buildings Still at it More Than a Century Later

Renting in historical hubs like Philadelphia or NYC has been around literally for ages – and we have the vintage rental ads to prove it. Manhattan alone, for instance, has 26% of the country’s old building inventory. Therefore, it’s no surprise that, when we look at the average age of some of the oldest buildings nationwide, history-packed places tend to rise to the top.

 Gazette of the United States & Philadelphia, rental ad offering yellow-fever-free furniture, 1798

 

While Manhattan and Philly do make the top 20, it’s smaller Northern cities like Boston, MA, Minneapolis, MN or Cincinnati, OH that boast the oldest buildings around. Specifically, old-timey buildings in former Massachusetts Bay colonies like Boston or Springfield are more than a century old on average, much like the 1800s gems of Minneapolis, MN and Cincinnati, OH. Ranging from a respectable, 105-year-old average to 92 years young, here are the cities with the oldest average age when it comes to present rental apartment buildings built prior to 1950:

Boston is the oldest city when it comes to the average age of its old buildings – 105 years old. Of course, you can’t have such a rich history and be home to heritage protection organizations like The Boston Preservation Alliance without cherishing your olden buildings. While you can’t rent the 1680s Paul Revere House, the oldest apartment building that does rent here is 141 years old and still stands tall on Sewall Avenue – an 18th-century road right by the historical Coolidge Corner.

Sewall Avenue, Boston, MA

9 Sewall Avenue, Boston, MA, built 1880

 

Younger by a year, apartment buildings in Minneapolis have an average age of 104 years. The presence of Minneapolis on the list might come as a surprise, but its architectural fabric is admirably preserved. It also doesn’t hurt that its heritage includes century-old buildings all across Main Street or that it was home to influential architects like Perry Crosier. You can still find Victorian-style buildings and colonial architecture peppered across Minneapolis — and Lowry Hill, the neighborhood that houses the oldest rental building in the city (131 years old at 709 Douglas Avenue) is no exception.

709 Douglas Ave Minneapolis

709 Douglas Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, built 1890

 

Meanwhile, old buildings in Cincinnati, as well as Springfield, MA, are 101 years old, on average. While Cincinnati flaunts the 171-year-old Pendleton — the oldest apartment building on our list — Springfield’s SilverBrick Lofts is some 20 years younger, with arched windows and high ceilings that are still as appealing as ever. Although significantly smaller than its Massachusetts sister, Springfield counts 90 entries on the National Register of Historic Places, including an array of historical districts like the Memorial Square District and the Smith Carriage Company District.

Curious to see what vintage properties caught our eye? Check out the oldest apartment buildings in your city:

Methodology

  • RentCafe is a nationwide apartment search website that enables renters to easily find apartments and houses for rent throughout the United States. Apartment data was provided by our sister company, Yardi Matrix.
  • We analyzed rental properties completed until 1950 and that are currently renting. The study is based on apartment data related to buildings containing 50+ units.
  • We considered the oldest buildings in each city & the share of old rental properties within a city’s rental inventory. Cities with less than 10 rental properties built before 1950 were not included.
  • The Bronx and Staten Island are not included in the New York data set.
  • Cover image courtesy of Cambridge Oxford in New Haven, CT. Photo credit goes to the respective buildings and Yardi Matrix; photos used with expressed permission from the property management. Contact RentCafe for further property image use.

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the research, graphics, and images presented in this article. When doing so, we ask that you credit our research by linking to RentCafe.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology. For more in-depth, customized data, please contact us at media@rentcafe.com.


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Alexandra Ciuntu
Alexandra is a creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With a background in e-learning content writing and a passion for knowledge-sharing platforms, she's covered topics from prop-tech to renters insurance to interior design tips. Very familiar with the renter lifestyle herself, Alexandra enjoys researching and writing about renter demographic shifts and residential real estate market trends as much as she loves writing about how to get along with roommates. You can connect with Alexandra via email. Alexandra’s work includes collaborations with financial and business publications. Her articles have been featured in several national and international online publications, including the New York Times, Barrons, Inman, Forbes, Architectural Digest, Marketwatch, Bisnow, and Curbed. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Japanese and English and an M.A. in Journalism and Cultural Studies.

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