What to Know Before Moving Into an Historic Building in NYC


Many New York City property buyers tend to find and fall in love with old historic buildings. While these beautiful properties can be very charming, it’s important to understand the many restrictions and expenses included when closing a deal on a historical space. With structural needs, hidden issues, and lots of refurbishment spend, purchasing an old home is not always easy or cheap. For those of you who are considering buying a timeless piece of real estate, here are a few essential things to know before moving into a historical building in NYC.

What Qualifies as a Historic Building?

The National Register of Historic Places defines a historic building as a building that demonstrates a signature architectural design, is associated with famous people in history or captures a particular time period. A historic building could also include a house that is designated in a historical district. In New York City, there are hundreds of buildings that have been designated as historical landmarks (click here to see the map).

Restrictions and Additional Costs

The main goal of renovating a historic building usually includes preserving its original construction and design. Before purchasing a space, you’ll need to obtain special permits to protect the character of the neighborhood or property. These permits can make it tricky to add individual elements to a home, such as square footage and extra rooms. And because the exterior parts of a house represent the original design, a building’s roof, windows, and shutters will most likely need to be preserved, which can cost additional money.

Make sure that you're able to renovate a historic home before purchasing one.
Make sure that you’re able to renovate a historic home before purchasing one.

Higher Utility Bills

Utility bills also tend to run high in older spaces, as with outdated insulation or inefficient HVAC systems, they often consume more energy for heating and cooling throughout the year. Before buying, it’s best to investigate a home’s previous bills to better understand how much you’ll need to pay. While you can qualify for tax benefits after investing in a historic building or district that needs restoration, tax levies for living within a historical area or property tend to be much higher compared to other NYC neighborhoods. To find out more about setting up your new home’s utilities, check out this guide to setting up NYC utilities from Imperial Moving.

Buying Process

After considering the expenses involved when purchasing a historic building, here are the next steps in the buying process:

  • Ensure that the house meets all health and safety standards by conducting lead paint and asbestos tests
  • Consult a qualified and experienced home inspector or structural engineer who specializes in older homes to do a formal home inspection
  • Collect estimates from local contractors on all essential repairs and renovations required

Once you’ve thoroughly assessed the property, you may discover that there are expansions or remodeling plans that you can’t fulfill due to restrictions or underlying issues. And if you discover that your historical home has suffered from major structural problems, it might be best to walk away and settle on another property.

If you do find a building that meets all of your needs while agreeing with all housing restrictions, congratulations! Historic houses in NYC often have unique architecture and beautiful features that have withstood the test of time and can be wonderful homes for raising a family.

NYC Buildings That Have Played a Starring Role in Hollywood Films

NYC Library

Whether you realize it or not, a famous place or building can play a major role in a movie and can help set the tone for a good story. For example, would The Shining be anything without the menacing and mysterious Overlook Hotel as a key setting? And would King Kong be remembered if it weren’t for that iconic image of Kong clinging to the Empire State Building in the final scenes? Without these pieces of architecture, some of these films would lose their excitement or atmosphere with audiences. And while many structures around the world are made famous by the film industry, the buildings of New York City have had a significant share of Hollywood fame among viewers. Whether it’s the city’s historic beauty or vibrant energy, most cameras can’t get enough of the Big Apple’s scenery.

To see some of NYC’s influence in movies over the years, here are just a few of the city’s buildings that have played a starring role in popular Hollywood films.

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library is the second-largest library in the United States and was used as the filming location for classic movies such as Spiderman, Ghostbusters, and Sex in the City. With historical moldings and a vintage atmosphere, it’s a perfect setting for any major hit. The next time you visit, be sure to check out the beautiful Rose Reading Room, which happens to be the place where the Ghostbusters characters spotted their very first ghost!

Grand Central Station

NYC would be nothing without its iconic Grand Central Terminal. With a spacious and gorgeous interior, it’s a natural star that appears in masterpieces such as The Fisher King, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. The hustle and bustle of this building has also made it a perfect site for chase scenes, heroic battles, and even flash mobs.

The beautiful Grand Central Station has been featured in many films over the years.
The beautiful Grand Central Station has been featured in many films over the years.

FAO Schwarz Store

The FAO Schwarz Store deserves mention because of its legendary piano scene in Big. It’s one of the most memorable clips in Hollywood film history that makes everyone want to be a kid again. And although it may be closed now, it lives on eternally through the silver screen.

Empire State Building

Of all the beautiful architecture in NYC, the Empire State Building definitely takes the cake. It’s basically the Meryl Streep of buildings and stars in literally hundreds of films. Serving as a prominent location in When Harry Met Sally, Independence Day, and of course, King Kong, one of its most remembered roles is when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan finally meet in the finale of Sleepless in Seattle.

An Historic Cast Iron in Philadelphia Gets a Remodel

Lits Building

The Lits Building at 7th and Market Street in Philadelphia was once emblematic of the great, thriving city of Philadelphia. Built in 1891 as a department store, this historical building has always been one of Philadelphia’s most beautiful buildings. For decades, it was home to the successful Lit Brothers department store, but when the store closed in 1977, the building sat empty for years and years, it’s ornate facade reminding passersby of its former glory days. While it could have faced demolition, it was instead rescued by a developer who reimagined it as a mixed office/retail space. Today, the Lits Building once again pulses with life. Read more about this Philadelphia landmark here.

7 Most Iconic Buildings in Manhattan

Empire State Building

New York City is home to some of the most famous urban buildings in the United States. If you’re looking to experience the nation’s history, culture, and architecture in one spot, you’ll find it in the iconic structures of Manhattan. For the top seven sights to visit, tour, or sneak a glance at, take a look at our guide below.

1. Empire State Building

Located at 350 Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building is a steel framed, Art Deco skyscraper that was named after the state of New York’s nickname of ‘The Empire State.’ It was completed in 1931 and is a remarkable 102 stories high, making it the tallest building in NYC until 1972. Visitors can take an elevator to the Observatory on the 86th floor for stunning 360-degree views of the sprawling city skyline. For an additional fee, you can even tour the smaller Top Deck on the 102nd floor.

2. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest Neo-Gothic style cathedral in North America and contains the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. With pointed spires, intricate architecture, and an enormous church organ, it’s definitely a sight worth seeing. Located between 50th and 51st Streets, visitors can attend one of the many Mass services that are held at seven different times a day. A scheduled tour of the church’s hidden corridors and inner rooms is also available for both individuals and groups as well.

3. Chrysler Building

Located at 405 Lexington Avenue, The Chrysler Building was designed and built with its sleek automobile counterpart in mind. And with stainless steel arches, an Art Deco style, and 77-floors, it’s an impressive building to visit. Completed in 1930, the building used to host an observation deck on its 71st floor. And while the deck is now closed to the public, guests can still visit the building’s ornate and elegant 3-story lobby to view intricate murals and glamorous surroundings.


The Chrysler Building definitely sticks out on the Manhattan streets!
The Chrysler Building definitely sticks out on the Manhattan streets!

4. Grand Central Terminal

The Grand Central Terminal is a famous commuter rail station that serves the West Chester and Fairfield counties. Located at 89 East 42nd Street, the terminal’s spacious first-floor interior boasts a beautiful starlit ceiling and many up-scale shops and restaurants. Visitors can take a tour of the station to see its inner workings and learn more about the history of its structure.

5. Flatiron Building

This Beaux Arts-style building has a triangular shape and is steel framed with a limestone and terra-cotta façade. It was completed in 1902 and was one of the first buildings in the United States to have a steel skeleton, which gave the Flatiron its unique shape. And while there are no official tours of the building, visitors can find the Flatiron wedged between Fifth Avenue and Broadway and marvel at its architectural feat.

6. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located at 1071 Fifth Avenue and is one of the best contemporary art museums in NYC. With a spiral shaped structure that was designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the museum contains many vibrant art collections, exhibitions, and performances. Perfect for an afternoon of observing and learning about prominent artists, guests can visit the museum six days a week with free admission.

Locals and tourists alike enjoy the many different activities at Rockefeller Center.
Locals and tourists alike enjoy the many different activities at Rockefeller Center.

7. Rockefeller Center

Featured in countless movies, T.V. shows, and publications, the Rockefeller Center is truly one of the most iconic buildings in NYC. Located at 45 Rockefeller Plaza on Fifth Avenue, this 12-acre complex was developed between 1929 and 1940 by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and is home to the landmark Radio City Music Hall. Other favorite attractions here include the winter ice rink, Atlas statue, Channel Gardens, and the Observation Deck.