For centuries, the one hallmark of New York City has been constant change. Even back in 1839, ex-mayor Philip Hone lamented that "the spirit of pulling down and building up" had gripped the city. "New York," he wrote in his diary, "is rebuilt about once in 10 years."
That makes it all the more surprising that the city has managed to hold onto a significant number of structures that date all the way back to the middle of the 17th century, when the colony was still New Netherland. Instead of a strictly chronological list of the city's oldest structures, which are concentrated in Brooklyn and Staten Island, below instead are the three oldest buildings in each borough (plus an honorable mention for each).
Why are the city's oldest buildings in Brooklyn, and the "youngest" oldest ones in Manhattan? Thanks to the fires in 1776, 1835, and 1845, the oldest parts of the city, like lower Manhattan, didn't stand a chance. But the more important reason is development. Manhattan was always "the city," and old buildings are anathema to the sort of urban center New York has always aspired to be.
It's not just the pace of change—which is faster in "urban" Manhattan than, say, "rural" Queens—but the mindset that is different. Then and now, competitive, space-starved Manhattanites like shiny new things that serve as physical evidence to prove dominance over other buildings, cities, and nations.
Before the fun starts, two caveats: Many New York City buildings have spurious dates attached to them, such as the so-called "Lady Moody House" in Gravesend, and thus don't appear here. Also, modern conservation efforts (you'll see that many buildings on this list are under restoration) are likely to ultimately alter this timeline.Read More