Know Your Building Prewar, Postwar and Brand New

 For many of us, there comes a point when our buildings become so familiar we  hardly even notice them anymore. We rarely look up to admire the cornices or  contemplate the brickwork around a doorway. The tile floor in the entry hall  goes unnoticed on the way to the mailboxes at the end of each day while our  rooftop views become so second nature, we barely look up from conversations we  have with friends.  

 Every building in New York City tells a story, however. The hundreds of mid-rise  prewar buildings, for example, which rose up to become part of the city’s skyline in the decades leading up to World War II, share similar  characteristics. In their sameness, they give us a sense of history, telling a  tale of where this city has been and how, despite how much things change, an  awful lot still stays the same.  

 So perhaps it’s time to take a look at your building again and take a few moments to examine  these brick and mortar entities that sometimes seem as alive in their detail as  the people who inhabit them.  

 What Makes Them Special

 Although New York City is filled with enough variety to satisfy even the most  jaded architecture buff, one particular type of building holds an iconic place  in the city’s housing history, standing apart from its counterpart both in terms of style  and longevity: the prewar mid-rise. Generally speaking, the term “prewar” refers to structures between 12 and 15 stories in height built in the years  before World War II—in particular, the years 1915 to 1930. Typically, the buildings are  characterized by “structural steel, encased with heavy masonry and ornamental stone,” says Eugene Ferrara of JMA Consultants & Engineers PC in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  

 “Prewar buildings are perhaps the most popular in the [mid-rise] range,” adds Eric W. Cowley, PE, of Cowley Engineering, PC in Bedford. “Prewar structures were not efficiently constructed, but they have stood the test  of time…and they certainly are beautiful.”  


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