In a city built of glass, brick and stone, wooden houses are hard to spot in Manhattan these days. That said, some wooden houses have survived throughout the years from the 18th and 19th centuries. These houses were built back when the city was mainly farmland. When the city became industrialized, these wooden houses were deemed hazardous and new construction in wood was outlawed in 1866 on the island of Manhattan with the “fire limit” law of 1866. Thus, the few that remain in New York City today are extremely rare. Here are the ten of the most remarkable, charming wooden homes ordered from oldest to youngest that you can still spot in Manhattan:
12. Morris-Jumel Mansion (1765)
This haunted Federalist style mansion was built in 1765 by British colonel Roger Morris and is in fact Manhattan’s oldest house. From a distance, it looks like a stone house, but the exterior and frame are made of wood. Originally, the home was a 130-acre farm that stretched from the Hudson to the Harlem River. This mansion was built as a private summer home which explains why this home is tucked away in Washington Heights, originally isolated from any neighbors.
This house served as George Washington’s headquarters during the American Revolution and was the location of the first Presidential cabinet meeting. In addition, Aaron Burr and Madame Eliza Jumel lived in this mansion. Jumel was one of the wealthiest women in New York and resided in the mansion from 1810-1865, but she apparently still lives in the mansion, haunting it! Keep a sharp lookout because her ghost is often sighted lurking on the balcony.
The Morris Jumel Mansion is located at 65 Jumel Terrace, 10032.
11. Dyckman Farmhouse (~1785)
The only remaining Dutch Colonial style farmhouse in Manhattan is the Dyckman Farmhouse. The farmhouse was built around 1785 and originally stood on a 250-acre farm. Now, the farmhouse stands in a small park in the Inwood neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, and the farmhouse serves as a museum that tells the tales of the farmhouses’ residents and rural living.
In the 1660s, Jan Dyckman established a farm near the northern tip of Manhattan that was destroyed during the Revolutionary War. As a result, William Dyckman (Jan’s grandson) replanted the land and built the Dyckman Farmhouse around 1784. Three generations of the Dyckman family lived in this small home, but in 1868 the character of the neighborhood changed from rural to urban and the farmhouse became dilapidated.
Alice Dyckman Dean and Fannie Fredericka Dyckman Welch—the daughters of the last Dyckman to grow up in the house—saved the house from total disrepair in 1915. These women worked to restore the house by furnishing the interiors and landscaping the property. They preserved the historical farmhouse as a museum to showcase New York’s Dutch heritage. This past weekend, Untapped Cities Insiders were treated to a tour of the inside of the house.
The Dyckman Farmhouse is located at 4881 Broadway, New York, NY, 10034.
10. Bridge Cafe (1792)
Completed in 1792, Bridge Cafe is the oldest surviving tavern and one of the oldest buildings in Manhattan. The building has contained in the past a porter house, a beer-serving grocer, and a brothel on an upper floor.
Located near the marina at 279 Water Street in the South Street Seaport area of Manhattan, the establishment attracted pirates and sailors who often hung out in the brothel drinking beer and whiskey. Besides serving great drinks, Bridge Cafe has gourmet food. In the 19th century, the building was described as a grocery, a porterhouse, or a liquor establishment and is one of New York City’s oldest historic taverns. But, beware if you visit this vintage bar, it may be haunted!
The Bridge Cafe is located at 279 Water Street, 11201.
9. Hamilton Grange (1802)
In 1802, Alexander Hamilton’s two-story home—named the Grange—was built. “The Grange” takes its name from Hamilton’s grandfather’s estate located in Ayrshire, Scotland. Hamilton commissioned McComb Jr. to build this 32-acre estate that sat on a hilltop, allowing for views of both the Hudson and Harlem Rivers. This historic house is built in the Federalist-style, as seen from its large windows and long piazzas on each side of the house.
The Hamilton house required 14.5 million dollars of renovation and has relocated two times. In 1889 the house moved to Convent Avenue at 141st Street where is was used as a place to worship. In 1962 the house became a National Memorial and in 2008, the house was moved to the corner of the north end of St. Nicholas Park. The current location of the estate was part of the original Grange acreage and today free admission and tours of the estate are offered. You can go into the house portion of the Grange on tours through Untapped Cities Insiders as well.
The Hamilton Grange is located at 414 W 141st St, New York, NY 10031.
8. Charles Street Farmhouse (~1810)
This isolated, peaceful, and secretive farmhouse that has survived for over 200 years was originally located in the Upper East Side on York Avenue and 71st Street. The farmhouse dates back to the 18th or early 19th century according to the Greenwich Village Historic District Designation Report, and some sources actually date the house back to 1810.
In 1868 Irish immigrants William Glass and his wife bought the house and used it for dairy and eventually they lived in it. They built a small brick house in house in front of the farmhouse which they used as a tea room and in the 1940s the brick building functioned as a restaurant: Healy’s Dining Room. Furthermore, in the 1940s-1950s the author Margaret Wise Brown rented the house. Brown is the author of the children’s book Mister Dog which shows an illustration of this house and she also the author of Goodnight Moon; thus, the house is sometimes referred to as the “Goodnight Moon House.”
The Glasses sold the farmhouse in 1965 to the Archdiocese of New York, but Sven Bernhard (Brown’s ex-fiancé) and his family went to court to save the farmhouse from being demolished to make room for a senior home. The Bernhard’s were successfully at saving the property but this came with the price of relocating the farmhouse because the senior home was being built regardless. Therefore, the farmhouse was moved to 121 Charles Street in Greenwich Village on March 5th 1967. In 1988 Suri Bieler and Eliot Brodsky purchased the farmhouse from the Bernhards.
The Charles Street Farmhouse is located at 121 Charles Street, 10014.
7. The Grove Street Home (1822)
In the market for a wooden house in Manhattan? Well you are in luck because a rare 200 year old wooden house at 17 Grove St. in West Village with classic clapboard siding is for sale for a soaring price of 12 million dollars.
The carpenter William Hyde built much of this three story home. The first two floors of the property were built in 1822 and the third floor was built in 1870. Additionally this home comes with a two story guest home with a separate address: 100 Bedford St. One of the unique features of this home is the trapdoor that could have functioned as a holding space of a tunnel to hide people escaping slavery as part of the Underground Railroad.
The Grove Street Home is located at 17 Grove Street, 10014.
6. Rose Hill House (~1837)
In 1747, John Watts bought the Rose Hill House as part of a land purchase, and he developed the property to include a main house, additional houses, outbuildings, orchards, and gardens. The estate took on the name Rose Hill Farm after the property Watts owned in Scotland.
Watts, however, was exiled from New York in 1811 because of his loyalty to England during the American Revolution. The main house on this lot was burned to make room for individual lots. In the 1900s the house served as a junk shop with apartments above it. In 1979 the house was converted to a three-story bedroom apartment.
Today, the original framing and roof are left intact and date the house back to the 1790s. Interestingly, the house is located at 203 East 29th Street and appears to look as if it is floating in mid air amongst New York’s brick buildings!
5. 412 East 85th St. Wooden Home (~1860)
East 85 St. Wooden Home
Located in Upper Manhattan is a rare surviving three story Italianate style wooden house of the pastoral era in Yorkville. It has a raised brick basement, a three-bay façade clad in capboard siding, a porch with a tall stoop, floor-length parlor windows, and a bracketed cornice. This home was built around 1860 just before Manhattan’s “fire limit” law in 1866. This law was extended north to 86th Street and consequently this house is one of the last wood houses in the Upper East Side. When built, this neighborhood was a wealthy rural area and became the home of many German immigrants during the late 19th century.
For 50 years, John Herbst and his family lived in this house and they ran a monument shop there. Despite having many owners, the house always maintained its character. Currently the owners Catherine and Alfredo De Vido restored the house to maintain its history and is actually considered a landmark.
4. Twin Wood Houses in Turtle Bay (1866)
Just before the New York City passed a law banning wood houses up to 86th Street, two wooden frame houses at 312 and 314 East 53rd Street were built in 1866. Two carpenters decided to build these twin clapboard houses in the French Empire style on the Old Eastern Post roadbed. They include mansard roods, bracketed cornices, and round-hooded dormer windows.
The twin wooden homes have survived in Manhattan via industrial change when factories, tenements, and slaughterhouses were being built and for this these sister homes are breathtaking to see.
3. 128 E. 93rd Street
Photo by GigiNYC
128 East 93rd Street is a charming and stunning originally three-story wooden house. The house was built in 1866 and is one of the five surviving wooden houses in the Upper East side worth today at least 10.5 million dollars. It was in fact in 1866 the New York City fire code banned all wooden construction below 82nd Street, and it was in 1882 the law expanded to 155th Street.
The first person to live in this house was Henry W. Shaw, the maker of artificial limbs. Additionally, in the 2000s television producer C.C. Dyer along with her daughters lived in this beautiful 25-foot wide house that includes a treehouse and a 48-foot deep backyard. The house today has four stories, four bedrooms, an elevator, a butlers pantry, a furnished basement, and a wine cellar. Will you be the next resident of this delightful house?
2. #120 E 92nd St. House (1871)
Built in 1871 in Carnegie Hill, this picturesque four story house is one of the last wooden-frame houses built in Manhattan. The house is on East 92nd street of Park Avenue and is in fact part of a trio (#160, #122, and #120) of old wooden houses of the Civil War era in the Upper East Side. Before streets were built, these houses were in open fields.
The architect of #120 is unknown (the carpenter Albro Howell built #160 and #122). #120 has a welcoming front porch, fireplace, high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and its original crown moldings and hardwood floors. The house’s eat-in kitchen overlooks a gorgeous, tranquil garden. Natural light is brought into the house from its master bedroom on the second level to bathrooms on the third level. If you are looking to live in a beautiful updated yet historic wooden house, this house could be for you!
1. Sylvan Terrace (1882)
Sylvan Terrace is a cobblestone residential street in Washington Heights lined with 19th century wooden rowhomes that were designed by Gilbert R. Robinson. To enter the Sylvan Terrace, there is a little stone wall with a staircase.
This hidden terrace is actually the driveway of the 1765 Morris-Jumel Mansion estate. When the mansion was sold in the 1800s, when this land was largely rural, in 1882 twenty uniform high-stooped yellow, green, and brown houses were built along the drive. The purpose of these houses were to house the laborers and working class servants, which included a grocer and a feed dealer. For upkeep of these houses, they are covered in the aluminum siding that they were built with and isn’t it amazing how these houses have survived for almost 130 years?
Go check out these rare wooden houses that serve either as museums or still functional homes. Are you now in the market for a rare, historical wooden home?
Next check out the 7 oldest buildings in Manhattan.