Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

No lawn to mow: Co -ops, condominiums, and the revolution in collective homeownership in metropolitan America, 1881–1973
by Lasner, Matthew Gordon, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2007, 570; 3265184
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a history of collectively owned multifamily housing in America. It explores a century of homebuilders', architects', lenders', and policymakers' experiments with cooperative, condominium, and own-your-own apartments, garden apartments, and attached houses as a solution to a variety of housing problems. It focuses on the metropolitan areas where this kind of housing was initially most common—New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. before World War II and greater New York, Southern California and Southeast Florida after—from first introduction of the co-op in the late 1870s through the early l970s, when the physical typologies and ownership arrangements that prevail today became popular.

Most urban, social, and architectural historians focus on building and community typology—the detached suburban house and the modern high-rise—rather than questions of buildings' social and economic functions in narratives of American urban change. As a result, they have overlooked phenomena like the condominium, which is a shape-shifting container rather than a physical form. While initially an experimental type of housing for the rich and avant-garde in Manhattan, by the 1960s collective homeownership had become popular in every U.S. city. Today, more than one in eight U.S. homeowners purchases a co-op, condo, or suburban-style townhouse rather than a house. Their ubiquity demands reconsideration of conventional explanations for urban form in the U.S., which typically posit that culture, business interests, and government have privileged the production of suburban detached houses at the expense of other kinds of dwelling.

The history of collective homeownership in America unfolds in three periods: chapter one explores its first introduction from 1881 to 1915, chapter two considers its popularization in several cities from 1920 to 1929, and chapters three, four, and five examine its rise to national prominence from 1946 to 1973 through the examples of New York, Southern California, and Southeast Florida. Throughout these years, co-ops, own-your-owns, condominiums, and suburban-style townhouses appealed to homeowners because they collectivize home and yard maintenance, allow broader ownership of popular locations than detached houses, meet the design needs of a greater variety of families and individuals than detached houses, and offer unique combinations of privacy and community.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Crawford, Margaret
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 68/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Architecture, Urban planning, Area planning & development
Keywords: Co-ops, Collective homeownership, Condominiums, Homeownership, Metropolitan
Publication Number: 3265184
ISBN: 978-0-549-04003-3
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