Estates for All

Wendell Cox looks at how single-family detached housing came to be, and why it's likely to remain a popular option for the middle class.
November 12, 2008, 6am PST | Judy Chang
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"It may be that it was called a dream first in America, but its beginnings go back much further. For much of human history, most people who lived in large cities were forced to put up with virtually inhuman densities. By definition, large cities were compact. Indeed, they were often not a lot larger in their geographical expanse than smaller cities. Why? To be efficient labor markets, cities had to be small, so that all of the workers could get to all of the jobs – and in those days the only way to get around was by foot. As cities got larger, especially during the industrial revolution, densities rose in some neighborhoods to 200,000 and more per square mile. The lower East Side of New York topped out at 375,000 in the 1910 census and has since dropped by 75 percent."

"But not everyone lived in such crowded conditions. Throughout history, the most wealthy have had their castles, estates and mansions. This was true in the cesspool of 19th century American and European industrial cities, just as it was in Rome.

The coming of mechanized transport, especially urban and suburban commuter rail systems changed all this. In the latter half of the 19th century the upper middle class began to enjoy a small modicum of estate life."

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Published on Tuesday, November 11, 2008 in New Geography
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