Inwood Apartment Rentals in 1936

Colonial Gardens real estate brochure. Courtesy of the New York Real Estate Brochure Collection, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

As many of you know, I both sell and rent apartments in the Inwood area.  So it was a true joy to come across the following article describing the Inwood rental scene of 1936.

I am intimately familiar with many of the buildings described below.  Many are still rental properties.  Others have gone co-op through the years.

At the time the article was written, not a single apartment rented for more than $100.  For comparisons sake, today,  in 2015, a studio rental in the neighborhood rents for about $1,300, a one-bedroom $1,700 and two-bedrooms start in the $2,200 range.

Now, step into the real estate time machine…

The New York Sun December 12, 1936
What Inwood Offers Renters
Modern Apartments at Modest Rentals Are Filled as Fast as They’re Built
By Gerry Fitch

The Dyckman section of upper Manhattan is becoming so popular as a residential locality that it seems almost as if tenants lie in wait for a new apartment building, to swoop upon it the minute it’s finished and fill it up overnight.

The reasons are simple, pleasant ones, that make for happy home life.  Convenience, comfort without ostentation, handsome dwellings and unpretentious rents.  It’s ideal for the family on a limited budget.

Not only are the apartment values remarkable, but garage rents are in keeping.  Just about everybody can produce a car around here, especially on Sundays.  It’s so easy to get to and from the country if you live here that Sunday motorists are home when most New Yorkers are just beginning the long grind through traffic.

Rapid Transit New

The Eighth avenue subway is an appreciated blessing.  It gets Dyckman residents to Times Square in half an hour—a bit more for Chambers street.  The section lies close to the Hudson River, near where Spuyten Duyvil Creek flows into the Hudson, and boasts wooded hills—like Inwood Hill, and a delightful park—Isham Park.  It has high rocky ground, fresh air and lots of charm.  Not to mention a fleet of new apartment buildings, with others about to open, and still others in the skeleton stage promised for next summer.

Colonial Gardens real estate brochure. Courtesy of the New York Real Estate Brochure Collection, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Just a few steps from the 207th street subway station is the largest of the new apartment structures, the Colonial Gardens at 4915 Broadway.  It is of a Colonial design, with two wings, and a court surrounded with little Christmas trees.  It was opened last October 15 and of the ninety-six apartments only ten are available, most of them not quite completed.

It must have taken overtime to finish the foundations of this building—surely the workmen paused for historic reflection as they turned up old bayonets, cannon balls, shoe buckles, jugs and muskets.  For the site was a Revolutionary War camp.  Right alongside the Colonial Gardens is the old Dyckman farmhouse, the only eighteenth century farmhouse still standing on Manhattan Isle.  It was built in 1783.  Fortunately it is now preserved as a museum.  Tenants of the Colonial Gardens look down on this sturdy little farmhouse constructed of huge planks and imported Dutch bricks, set among green lawns.  To explore the house is to feel you have read a fascinating book covering several generations in a few minutes. The completely equipped Dutch kitchen in the basement has achieved international fame.  A replica of a Revolutionary camp hut, built of pieces found near the farmhouse, stands in the grounds, near a picturesque grape arbor.  The fine old place gives the name Dyckman to the section, that in turn reflects its modest dignity.

What You Can Rent

Colonial Gardens real estate brochure. Courtesy of the New York Real Estate Brochure Collection, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

But back to the Colonial Gardens.  It is decorated in brown and cream, and has wallpaper picturing warring Indians.  The two, three and four-room layouts have an extra half room, and this dinette is so large in some instances as to be a fourth room.  I saw a three and one-half-room unit on the fourth floor for $66.  It has the most beautiful parquet flooring in herringbone design that a most fastidious admirer of fine floors could desire.  Three closets are off the foyer, the bath is a gem, and the furniture is so smart it has cupboards with ward-proof doors.  All the little nothings that mean so much are here in profusion.

A slightly larger apartment is available on the same floor for $70. Overlooking the garden of a retired professor who has never been known to miss a day among his plants.  Master bedrooms are 12 by 18 feet—living rooms 13 by 22 feet.

With the exception of this and another new building around at Payson avenue and Beak street, the apartment dwellings in the Dyckman section dispense with doormen.  Colonial Gardens and Payson House have higher rents because of the stipulated doorman in the lease.  Payson House has five-room suites for $100, and the average in the building is about $20 per room.  This whole section specializes on the apartment of five rooms and less, with rentals under $100 top.  On up Payson avenue, opposite Inwood Hill, are several new buildings, all rented.  The neat rows of names printed in white on black in the entrances haven’t a blank name among them.  There is obvious need of the new building now under construction nearby.

More Modern Features

The recently opened six-story structure with corner easement windows, at 207th and Cooper avenue is also 100 per cent rented.  It is gay with colors of black and salmon.

Lobby of 145 Seaman Avenue, Inwood, NYC.

The tenants of another new building at 145 Seaman avenue have plants in their wide windows without exception, most effective.  The color scheme here is black and yellow.  An electric fire glows invitingly in the foyer and the odor of good cooking—when I happened to be there—was something to be remembered.

680 West 204th Street lobby. This former rental building is now a coop.

You will find one high-class apartment after another in the new buildings of this neighborhood—at 680 and 687 on 204th street; at 60 Cooper street; across the way at Cooper Court.  All feature the artistic use of frosted glass with chromium trim.

If you feel a bit happier in a building that doesn’t vibrate with modernity; if you’ve held on to the old Spanish chasuble and like to drape scarves over the grand piano, there is still that large and lovely apartment building known as Isham Gardens, with some off the most enticing rentals in the city.  This Venetian looking place, has a very grand stairway fronting on Isham Park.  The tenants like stairs anyway; they have to.

Isham Gardens courtyard in 2009.

They get lovely suites of four and five rooms for $66 a month, and outlooks across Spuyten Duyvil Creek, or down into the fountained courtyard, but they have to walk up five flights to get them.  Those tenants I saw took the stairs easily, with babies in arms, or big dogs on leashes, and they looked enviably content.

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  1. Hi Cole: Thanks for the walk down memory lane. My parents came up to Inwood around 1933, and they came b/c my father’s brother had wandered from Hell’s Kitchen to 261 Seaman. So impressed were they that they moved uptown when they got married…he from the aforementioned Hell’s Kitchen, she from Chelsea. They settled first in 685 Academy St., then Hawthorne Gardens @ Bway. and 204th St., and finally 560 Isham St. You’ve probably heard old- old timers talk about moving rather than painting…less trouble, and you always got one month’s concession. They were also enamored of the “new” A train service. It was so cool in the tunnels in the summertime…really!

  2. We lived at 117 Seaman Avenue and had a beautiful 5 room apt. with large rooms which is very hard to find even in a private home these days. I do miss the old neighborhood and familiar faces. I think our old apt. went co-op and I guess it’s a fortune now; sorry we left it. Thanks for the memories.

  3. My brother gave me the name of this site and it sure did bring back memories. Mom and Dad had an apartment # 3 at 172 Sherman a one bedroom with four kids. Went to Good Sherpard and many a Sat. went to the movies on Dykman. Another fond memory and only when my parents could afford a sweet was a crumb cake from the Bluebird bakery . Spent many a summer at the Miramir Pool where I got a serious sunburn. I will continue to look at other Inwood sites. Thank yo.


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