American Home Style: The Row House

From the early 19th century through the early 20th, America’s cities grew at a rapid pace. Immigrants from different countries in addition to a migration from farms into city centers fueled this growth. To adapt the new urban inhabitants, block after block of a new type of urban house, the row house, was assembled. This narrow and tall arrangement could be built quickly and efficiently and could be single or multifamily based on neighborhood economics.

The distinguishing feature of these row houses was their narrowness. Typically 20 feet broad, row homes were numerous levels of living room sandwiched between masonry, usually brick, celebration (shared) walls that provided excellent fire resistance and sound control.

Though many of these homes were demolished for new development, there are numerous neighborhoods where these houses still reign supreme. In areas like New York’s Harlem, Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope in addition to neighborhoods across Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and more there are many lovely old and renovated 19th-century row homes.

Actually, it’s that the adaptability to our 21st-century lifestyles that makes these homes as relevant today as they were more than a century ago.

Ben Herzog

Row house interiors are spaces that are long and narrow. Typically a stair hallway at the same side and living rooms into the other. Large openings between each of the rooms permit natural light to permeate the inside.

Burns and Beyerl Architects

Large windows and skylights are a must because natural lighting can be obtained only from the front, back and above. And tall ceilings, frequently 10 ft or more, give a spaciousness that compensates for the narrow floor plan.

CWB Architects

These houses are. Whether the renovation strives for historical accuracy, just previously, or even a sparer and more modern aesthetic, the decision is left up to the proprietor.

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KUBE architecture

The roof is the other source of natural lighting in these houses. Ordinarily, these homes were originally built with smaller skylights over the stairs so light could filter its way down to the house. But with new materials and technologies, there’s no reason not to have big, expansive skylights to wash the entire inside with light from above.

CWB Architects

To maintain the main level quieter and more secure, it was raised several feet above the sidewalk. The huge flight of stairs that leads to the front door is often made from stone, which makes the lower level architecturally distinct from the upper levels.

Ben Herzog

The rear, or garden, elevations of those homes is where more windows and doors can be installed to bring extra lighting to the insides.

CWB Architects

And these garden spaces could be intimate, quiet and tranquil oases from the urban landscape. They are perfect for little flower gardens, reading the Sunday morning paper and more.

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