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Carriage house disruption

The Spaces has a post up called: 7 carriage houses on the market in New York City. They’re all quite expensive. The house on East 63rd designed by Paul Rudolph is particularly interesting. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

As I was going through the photos – that’s what The Spaces does best – I thought of two things.

First, there’s a segment of the market that is obsessed with living in spaces that were not originally intended to be used as residences. That’s what (hard) lofts are. That’s what carriage houses are. And that’s partially why I would love to live in a laneway house (Toronto vernacular).

Backhouses, as they are also called, were initially designed to hold horse and carriage. But as horses disappeared from New York City, the structures got repurposed.

Here’s one theory for how that went about:

Barry Lewis, an architectural historian, theorizes that rear buildings became residences to accommodate the 19th-century immigrant population that moved into middle-class areas in Lower Manhattan in the 1830’s and into the Village and Brooklyn after the Civil War. “Backhouses seem to belong to the era of houses in Manhattan, not the era of apartments,” Mr. Lewis said. “The property owner probably shoved more immigrant families into the stable or workshed in the back. Other owners may have built a new backhouse just to get the lucrative immigrant rents.

The second thing I thought about is the potential parallel between this story and the one being written right now. It feels like a transportation revolution is upon us and changes in mobility always seem to rewrite the landscape of the city.

Hopefully that will mean more laneway houses in Toronto.

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