old house with picket fence

Yes, I know, my apartment ceiling in this 100-year-old brownstone exploded one night and crashed to the floor in a thunderous cloud of gray plaster dust. And yes, it was scary. And yes, it was a pain setting up camp in a nearby hotel for nine days while the joint was repaired.

BUT the fact remains I still like living in a building that is well over 100 years old. Why?

I like the sense of spaciousness. The ceilings on the first two floors are 14 feet tall. My upstairs ceilings are 12 feet — in contrast to most new regulation ceilings at a paltry 8 feet. My rooms are small, designed for maids, their first occupants in the 1800’s. But the high ceilings and double skylights give an illusion of airiness and open space.

So thick and solidly constructed are my apartment floors and walls (except when they collapse, thanks to floods), murder and mayhem could happen next door and I wouldn’t hear a peep. Unlike newer buildings with walls so thin you can hear hiccups or sneezes next door, not to mention any manner of embarrassing stuff.

Sadly on their way out, the elegant details and fine, expert workmanship in this brownstone are a rarity. They include delicate plaster ceiling and wall moldings; parquet wood floors and gracefully shaped, marble fireplaces (different designs on different floors) topped with soaring beveled mirrors.

Unlike too many residential fly-by-night buildings constructed around town, when you enter this building, there’s an immedient feeling of rock like solidity, of warm cocoon like welcoming, of coming HOME. 

 Aside from a few oddball tenants who didn’t hang around long, my neighbors, also appreciative of our brownstone’s special qualities, are a fairly compatible gang. We’re also a quiet bunch, not given to noisy get togethers or raucous parties. That kind of boisterous partying seems to happen in newer apartment buildings with younger, itchier tenants.

 Lastly, this 100-year-old building, constructed in the days of horse and carriages and bustles, is loaded with personality. Some of its quirks — like a furnace that sometimes shuts down on freezing nights and a doorbell that often shorts out, and a roof with a leak no one can find– can be annoying. But in some odd way these things are part of the brownstone’s distinctive charm.

So where do you prefer to hang your hat? On a shiny new peg or a still-kicking 100 year old one?

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