crown CU Home > Libraries Home
[x] Close window

Columbia University Libraries Digital Collections: The Real Estate Record

Use your browser's Print function to print these pages.

Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 20, no. 497: September 22, 1877

Real Estate Record page image for page ldpd_7031128_020_00000195

Text version:

Please note: this text may be incomplete. For more information about this OCR, view About OCR text.
Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS' GUIDE. Vol. XX. NEW YOEK, SATUEDAY, SEPTEMBEE 22, 1877. No. 497. Published Weekly by '€^t %ml Estate %UQxii %^^atmixan, TERMS. ONE YEAR, in advance....$10.00. Communications should be addressed to C. IV. SWEET, Nos. 345 AND 347 Broadway. TENEMENT HOUSES. The tenement house presents one of the most formidable social questions connected with the growth of our city. That such houses should abound in certain wards contiguous to great manufactories and centres of labor, such as the docks and principal warehouses, is a matter of no surprise, and in the infancy of their development no doubt theywere regarded as an ephemeral phase of habitation. Bufc the system has now grown to proportions which seriously chaUenge attention, and its projection has spread over the whole sm-- face of the island, invading many of the wards which were deemed especiaUy reserved for private residences. Indeed, the system seems to have taken Urmer root by the lapse of time, and has developed itself through aU the Tarious grades and degi-ees untU it reaches the standard of the French flat, so-caUed, or model apartment house, destined, we are reluctantly compeUed to think, to become a prominent feature of New York dweUing accommodation. The development from the lowest to the highest is so gradual and tm- noticeable that it really becomes a difficult matter to draw the Une between what may be termed low tenements and high flats. This progressive characteristic may be the result or auxUiary of wholesome building laws and a strong public sen¬ timent. Certainly it has had the effect to improve the quaUty of the plainest tenements, so that the abomination which exists in our lower wards of dUapidated and reeking rookeries may be regarded as topical to those locaUties and not likely to find their counterparts in the upper wards. We are aware that moral and social phUoso- phers have discoursed pathetically and in harrow¬ ing terms upon the evUs and disorders attending this system, and have pictured in vivid colors the frightful consequences which are Ukely to result from its maintenance. No doubt these criticisms are justified, and entitled to attention as appUed to the lowesfc form of this sti-ucture. Those known as "double headers," venerable with age and pestUent with filth, are excrescences which no civUized community should tolerate. They have long since passed the point of amenity to rational sanitary regulation, and unquestionably should be closed up and discarded. Just as an unsafe or tottering buUding would be avoided as likely to be injurious to life and limb, so these nurseries of disease should be condemned and thrown down as prejudicial and fatal to health and life. There are radical opponents of the tenement house sys¬ tem, whether of high or low degree, who urge us to abandon the system entirely, and adhere to the ;principle of single, separate dwellings. They invoke the co-operation of the Hea]J;h Board, and appeal to the power of the Legislature to so limit and define the construction of tenement houses as to lay an actual prohibition upon them. If the system is as impracticable, iUogical, andunhealth- f ul as these theorists would make us believe, it becomes important for New Yorkers to solve fche question of then- continued and wholesale produc¬ tion. It is a notorious fact, to which we have recently adverted in these columns, that the ordi¬ nary demand for increase of this accommodation amounts to five hundred houses per annum, and has been known in certain years to reach the number of one thousand. With the popularity which appears to attach to the model apartment house, we may calculate upon an altogether un¬ expected increase of this class of buUdings, and as they differ only in degree from the others, there is every prospect that the yearly total of this form of buUding construction wdU continue to range between five himdred and one thousand. We have no intention here of discussing the sanitary features of these buUdings. We are keenly aUve in common with all good citizens to every question and suggestion relating to munici¬ pal and domestic sanitary science. It is our ambi¬ tion to see New York become a healthy city in pre¬ ference to its becoming a beautiful city, although happUy the two conditions may be made to coin¬ cide. We are disposed to look upon this matter wholly from a practical standpoint. We cannot conceive why sanitary regiUations should intrude so forcibly with reference to this class of structure, and not apply with equal force to the European hotel, the boarding house, and the place of public assembly. As far as private interests are con¬ cerned, it would be unfair to single out any one class of improvements to become victims of the sanitary mania, whUe others equaUy objectionable are allowed to pass unnoticed and unmolested. Whatever sanitary regulations may be proposed by the Board of Health, or sought to be enforced by legislative enactment, shoiUd apply generaUy to aU habitable structures, just as the buUding laws are supposed to be applicable to the marble palace, to the wooden hut, and toaUlntermediate structures. It is idle to attempt to gainsay the popiUarity of the tenement mode of structure. It is espe¬ ciaUy and distinctively illustrative of metropoUtan tastes on this continent, as it is in many of the leading cities of Ehrope, and we must seek for the cause of its popularity either in the necessities of human affairs or in the procUvities of human nature. The instinct which impels the citizen at large to seek community of enjoyment in the city, impels the citizen of slender means to seek the economies and co-operations of a community dwelling. Apai't from the question of health, which must be conceded to be aU important and controUing, we fancy that if our visionaries and theorists would enter more sympathetically into the daily lives and experience of the occupants of these tenements, they would find that, barring occasional outbreaks commonly known as tene¬ ment house rows, there is a sentiment, sociabiUty, and mutual helpfulness which aUythein.,to that mode of Uving in preference to the more commo¬ dious ;and.nipre isolated i^ethod of single dweU¬ ings. We venture to assert that, if any number of attractive cottages were coiistructed on this island, and offered at the same rents now asked for tenement suites, it would be quifce impos¬ sible to dislodge a large proportion of present tenants. Instead of seeldng to stigmatize and destroy this system, which must possess merit in the eyes of its patrons; mstead of indulging in sentimental tirades about a condition of life, of which we may hare Uttle or no knowledge, would it not be wiser to seek to adapt the condi¬ tions of these buUdings to the known wanfcs of their occupants ? This we conceive to have been the course adopt¬ ed by practical property owners, under the im¬ pulse of the laws, and of past agitation of the subject. The improvement in even the com¬ moner sort of tenements is marked and mimis- takeable. The specimens of each year seem to be largely in advance of those of the preceding. Greater comforts are supplied, greater afcfcenfcion paid to ventilation and drainage, and greater isolation of the tenements is atfcempted. It is cer¬ fcain that within the pasfc few year.s; among what are caUed the befcfcer class of fcenements, superior models of this form of construction have been presented, and it is equally certain that they have met with prompfc and grateful appreciation on the part of tenants. It is stating only what is generaUy and commonly known among pro¬ perty owners, when we say that oufc of a good, substantial, weU-arranged, plain tenement house, a larger and surer rental can be obtained than from any other i-eiafcive piece of properfcy. The multitudinous projections of such buUdings are not only proof of their popularity but of their profitableness to the landlord. It is a well recog¬ nized fact also among shrewd lenders of money on mortgage, that reasonable loans upon this class of property result in fewer foreclosures and more prompt and continuous payments of interest than upon a more pretentious class. Therefore, we de¬ precate and repel any unreasonable and bigoted crusade against this class of property, believing it to be indispensable to the proper development of our city's growth, restricted as it is by the lack of rapid transit. We would urge upon property owners and social agitafcors, who contemplate and advocate the destruction of the tenement house, to apply their energies rather to its com¬ plete reformation, that it may be made as perfect in model and equipment as the skiU and ingenuity of architect and buUder can make ifc. Let it be treated as the recognized method of housing the middle and em¬ ployed classes, and let legislative enactment, if necessary, define its mode of consfcrucfcion so as fco render it a safe and wholesome abode for the human race. Above aU, its consti-uction should be made as nearly fii-e proof as possible. Fire escapes are but a poor dependence in case of accident, and it is requisite that the main stair¬ case be made impervious to the effects of fire. The water .supply, drainage and ventUation of these buUdings demand no doubtful or inade¬ quate measures. Whether built for two or more famUies on a floor, aU tenements should be dis¬ tinctly divided in the center with such spacious air shafts opening on exterior space as wUl guar¬ antee free circulation of fresh air. We firmly