“All modern conveniences”: multi-family housing choice, the apartment, and the modernization of Raleigh, North Carolina, 1918-1929

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Elizabeth Paige Meszaros (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Lisa Tolbert

Abstract: This dissertation argues that city planners and boosters in 1920's Raleigh, North Carolina, advocated that she was to be a "residence city" based on single-family homes in exclusive suburbs for the white middle-class. However, both realtor-developers and private homeowners chipped away at the symbol of the "residence city." Raleigh was to be modern, but it was a modernity based not just on the rhetoric of city leaders who emphasized the single-family home. It was a modernity based on the actions and desires of realtor-developers who were anxious to exploit the new architectural form of the apartment house. It was also a modernity based on the decisions of individual, private, homeowners to incorporate non-family members into their households to earn additional income and contribute to their family's economic prosperity. Homeowners in some ways rejected the "residence city" because they rented out portions of their homes to non-family members. In other ways, they embraced the symbols of the white, affluent, suburb by insisting on architectural solutions, such as porches and private entrances, which emphasized the value of privacy and by complying with restrictive housing covenants which barred sale or rental of properties to African Americans in perpetuity. Realtor-developers also rejected the "residence city" because they chose to invest money in multi-family apartment houses in addition to single-family home developments like Boylan Heights, Cameron Park, Glenwood-Brooklyn, and Oakwood. The "residence city" was a philosophy put forth by city boosters in which the single-family home became the symbol of progress and refinement--a modern philosophy for a modern place. It was the way in which Raleigh business leaders expressed the concept of the "suburban ideal" locally. In the eyes of these city boosters, Raleigh would not be a city of transients and renters instead, it would become a bastion of southern success through an army of white, affluent, suburban homeowners. The "residence city" was newly constructed in the 1920s to help control the socio-economic composition of Raleigh's suburbs as they competed for land space with already established communities that did not conform to the vision of racially and economically sorted neighborhoods. The popularity of multi-family housing solutions in the form of boarding houses, apartments within single-family houses, and new apartment houses contradicted the vision of the "residence city" made up of single-family, suburban homes. This study contributes to the fields of urban history, suburban history, southern history, and architectural history because it examines Raleigh's transition from a town to a modern, southern city filled with new technologies and experimental housing forms. Most importantly, this dissertation contributes to the history of the New urban South and vernacular architecture history in terms of examining traditional multi-family housing patterns, the introduction of newer, more modern multi-family housing options, and to suburban history by using an analysis of housing records (including city directories, newspaper classifieds, historic property registration and nomination forms, and suburban promotional brochures) coupled with modern fieldwork photographs. The tension between how Raleigh boosters, realtor-developers, and residents in the early decades of the twentieth century defined the "residence city," in symbolic terms, and the actual practices of middle-class homeowners and realtor-developers alters our understanding of the history of the American suburb.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012
Apartment, Apartment house, Boarding house, North Carolina, Raleigh, Single-family house
City planning $z North Carolina $z Raleigh $x History $y 20th century
Real estate development $z North Carolina $z Raleigh $x History $y 20th century
Suburbs $z North Carolina $z Raleigh $x History $y 20th century

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