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who have now occupied their apartments for three months, are generally well satisfied, and consider that the experiment has been a success in every respect. To the charge that they are dear, it can be said that the rents are higher than was anticipated, but that they are less than an equal amount of floor-space would command in an equally desirable neighborhood. A few figures will make this evident. Each apartment contains exactly 1788 superficial feet, and the average rent is $1,260. For this the tenant gets a parlor, three bedrooms, a dining-room, a servants' room, a kitchen, and a bathroom, besides necessary closets. He has access by two stairways, a dumb-waiter to lift coal from the cellar, where he has a bin, and to carry clothes to the roof, where he has a compartment for drying clothes. The plumbing and appointments are all that would be required in a firstclass house. Let us compare this with what he could get elsewhere. In one of the large-sized dwelling-houses in the same neighborhood, say 25 by 60 feet in size, a floor contains exactly 1500 superficial feet, and the second floor will bring $1,200 a-year, if it can be rented at all, in such a house and neighborhood. Yet it has no conveniences for living on one floor, and, when thus rented out, becomes scarcely more endurable than any common tenement house. This Eighteenthstreet building, it is said, nets the owner just seven per cent. on the capital invested. That the demand of people of moderate incomes for comfortable and convenient apartments, at low rents, has not been met in this case, there is some reason to believe. But when we consider that there were enough applicants for apartments, before the house was finished, to fill four more of the same size, it is evident that a great many people found every thing to their liking, and would have been only too glad to pay the rent demanded. Before building more houses of this kind, we must ascertain what a "moderate income" consists of, and then we can shape our houses to suit our tenants' purses. But therein is the great difficulty. Doubtless many tenants in Mr. Stuyvesant's building consider
their incomes "moderate" enough. Thousands of others, who may be living in apparent luxury in their Avenue homes, have a deeper sense of the "moderateness" of their incomes. But if it is asked, "Can a man live in such apartments for $5,000 a year?" we say, "Yes;" and if it is asked, "Can he do it for $3,000?" we say Yes; " but that is the least, supposing him to have a family of three, and to keep one servant. Then if it be asked, "Can such houses be built for persons of smaller incomes still?" we say "Yes." And the reason is this: that in living on such a system a family require less space, in order to attain an equal amount of comfort, than when keeping an entire house. In fact, when a wife sees how much trouble and annoyance can be saved by the new way of living, she regards contraction as an advantage to her-a downright luxury, which she never knew of before; for what greater privilege can she have than the time to cultivate and enjoy her better senses? How often is it said that babies banish pianos, and that the young mother's duties to her offspring compel her to neglect her higher intellectual culture. Yet it is not, in reality, the baby to which she is enslaved, but the thousand-and-one household cares that come with an increased family. It is in these that the housewife economizes by the apartment system of living. Now, to answer the question, if such houses can be built for people of small incomes, we say "Certainly," for that which has been already built actually has room to spare in its apartments, where the family is small, and an attempt is made to live economically. Smaller apartments will of course be cheaper; and in a neighborhood where land is less costly, and in a house of plain exterior, they can be decidedly cheaper, and still retain all those safeguards upon which depends the comfort, protection, and isolation of each family, and which make the apartment house different from the "tenement house" so called. What these essentials are, we will mention further on. But there must be a limit to the decreased amount of rent, as long as such safeguards are
retained. These things must be paid better dispense with these things than
With regard to the cheapness of apartment-house" rents, the public have been greatly deceived by false prophets and inexperienced writers on the subject. Their mistakes have been mainly due to the assumption that a Parisian house, which looks so cosy to them, with its gilt clocks, and mirrors, and porcelain stoves, was just the thing for American cities; while the fact is, that the same persons would not live in a Parisian house of the average kind, if it were bodily transported to America. Such a house would come, in time, to be a nuisance and a pest, and we will presently see why. It would have, of course, a grand escalier for all, and its apartments would have an antichambre and a salon, to be sure; but here these things would be only a corkscrew-stairway, a vestibule, and a parlor; it would have no passage-ways except the vestibule, and all communication within would be from room to room; it would have no bathroom nor wash-basins, and the kitchen would be a dimly-lighted closet, without room for the cook to sit down, and with every prospect that on our hot summer days she would roast herself while broiling our steaks; it would leave no trace of a closet or store-room for either clothes or provisions, and no back stairs for servants, unless it were an absolutely firstclass house, in which case it would probably have a stable in the back cellar. Such, as far as comfort and convenience are concerned, would be a Parisian apartment house, transferred to an American city. And this brings us to the real difference between what such a house is abroad, and what it should be here. It is by the omission to provide all those thousand-and-one things which every American housewife considers essential to comfort and respectability, and often to decency, that the foreign apartment houses are made so compact, and, consequently, economical. In only one respect are they better than American houses are likely to be, and that is in their substantiality and artistic finish, especially of the interior. But we can
with others, upon which our comfort so much depends. Now, the greater demand in this country for back stairs, closets, store-rooms, passage-ways that will take you from any one room to any other without going through a third, bath-rooms, large kitchens with ranges, sinks and wash-tubs, storage for fuel, and places to dry clothes, not to mention a host of others, is what makes American apartment houses necessarily expensive. Take one item of expense-plumbing-and remember that each apartment must have almost as much plumbing as is required for a small dwelling-house, and some idea can be formed of the source of this increased cost. All these things must be paid for when the occupant pays his rent.
There is a strong reason, however, for the cramped condition of Parisian houses, and it is in the fact that the value of land in proportion to buildings is much greater in Paris than here. It is a question, therefore, whether or not, with the enormous increase in the value of land in cities like New York, we may ultimately be compelled to adopt the French plan for our own houses, with all our little comforts lopped off. Some architects hold that we will, and that it is wasteful to show such liberality in closets, etc. But let the future shape events as it may; it is our duty to provide for the needs of the present. The experiment is at least worth trying in good shape.
"Who, then," the reader asks, "may have apartments?" We answer, that, as far as investigation and estimate have been carried, they are accessible, with all improvements, to families of four persons with an income of $2,000 a year. The rental to such a family cannot be much less than $800. This estimate does not assume to be infallible, but is the best result of thought and calculation.
It is time that the public should understand clearly what they may expect from the new system. To that end, we will consider what an apartment house should be, and how it should be managed. Before doing so, however, we will offer some suggestions on economic living.
The disappointment of so many as to the amount of rent which it is necessary to pay for apartments is much to be regretted. Some explanations are therefore necessary, which, it is hoped, will dispel such misgivings. It should be remembered that the rent of an apartment includes not only the landlord's interest on his investment, but a share of the expense of door-keeping, lighting, cleaning, and heating all the halls and stairways, removing ashes and garbage, cleaning sidewalk, sprinkling the street, pumping water for the upper stories, and water-tax. These involve the rent and salary of the porter and his attendants, and the maintenance of a steam-boiler and pump, which consume a large amount of fuel. These things being done by the landlord, the tenant pays his proportionate share of the expense, which is seemingly part of the rent. All this outside work being done, as it were, by wholesale, the cost to each tenant is very small, in proportion to the outside work of a single house. Herein is one of the largest items of expense saved by the tenants. Few housekeepers know how great is the cost of this work for an ordinary house. It is a matter hard to calculate, but the result, as found by experience in the apartment house, shows that it constitutes a large proportion of the household expenses. The saving in the cost of furniture is another item, and the wear and tear on carpets is much less, owing to the distance of most apartments from the street. House-cleaning, to the occupant of apartments, is a small item.
The physical advantages of the apartment system, especially to women, should not be overlooked. No exercise is more injurious to women than climbing stairs, while none is so beneficial as walking on a level. To women who are confined to their houses by domestic or other duties, the climbing of stairs, especially in our narrow and lofty city dwellings, is a wearisome and exhausting task, and, while it is almost their sole exercise, is that which is most injurious to them. A greater share of it by far falls to them than to the male members of the family.
In the apartment, however, where the rooms are on one floor, and the distances are considerable, attendance to the usual household duties compels them to take that exercise which is generally denied to those who are compelled to remain indoors, and which they so much need. But aside from these advantages of the apartment house, who can calculate the amount of care, anxiety, and drudgery saved to women by the new system? By it, also, the great servant-question is to some extent solved. A system which enables us to dispense with half the usual service may well be rejoiced at. The servant-question is also met in another respect. Though it may be difficult to get servants who will work so near to the eyes of their mistresses-and this has been found to be the case-the mistress is quite certain to get those only who are willing to be watched, and surely no others could be desired.
The conclusion, therefore, is, that what we gain by the apartment system is not in cheap rents, but in cheap living. The outside work done by the landlord is really done on the principle of coöperation. This, though a saving to the tenant, makes the rent apparently high. But the economy in the system will be found mainly in the reduced household expenses. Unfortunately, this cannot be proved by figures, but experience has thus far shown it to be true. The charge often made against the morality of the system may be dismissed with a word. It is without reason or precedent. It comes from a Puritanical horror for every thing that is French, and is based on a misconception of the state of French society, which is usually formed by superficial travellers.
Let us now consider what should be the practical requirements of an apartment house, built in accordance with American ways of living.
It should have two entrances, one communicating with the front stairs, and the other with the back stairs for servants and hucksters. There may be one or more stairways of each kind, according to the size and shape of the house. The porter's office should be, if possible,
between the two entrances, so that he can easily control both, and his bedroom should adjoin it, if he does not sleep in the office. His family-rooms may be in the basement, where the nature of the ground admits, as in most parts of New York. The entrance-halls should not be more than three steps above the sidewalk. The passage-way to the back stairs should, if possible, lead directly to the stairways; but if the exigencies of the plan will not admit of this, it should be carried down to the basement, and the stairs started at that point. There should be an outside entrance to the basement, for the carrying of ashes, garbage, etc., which should also communicate with the back stairs. Coal-bins are a necessity in this country, and they must be provided in the basement, with separate compartments for each tenant. Hand-lifts must also be provided at convenient places to convey fuel and stores to each apartment, landing them in the vicinity of the kitch
The back stairways must connect with each apartment, near the kitchens, where the entrance-doors should have spring-latches and bells. They must also be well lighted and ventilated. The best way of doing this, if they are not situated so as to have corridors, is to construct a shaft alongside of each stairway, instead of depending upon a skylight at the top, which, in a high building, will only light the upper flights. This arrangement is also adapted to the main stairways, when not contiguous to exterior walls.
The main entrance to an apartment house should be elegant and substantial, and should be so finished as not to give evidences of wear and tear. The hall and stairways should be so built as not to be easily soiled, for it is important to avoid the necessity of constant cleanings, which means expense. To this end the floors should be of marble or tiles and the side walls should either be faced with stone, wainscoted with marble, or covered with a plaster that will admit of polishing. This latter method has lately been employed with success. The stairs should be of marble, or, if the supports are iron, slate or bluestone are
the best coverings for steps. The entrance to each apartment should be made evident by appropriate ornamentation of the door and its casings, and each door should have a distinct and legible plate, for it is not so easy to read names in-doors as on the street.
We now come to the arrangement of the apartments themselves. Herein there may be great diversity as to relative position, size, and number of rooms, depending, of course, on the size of the family to be accommodated, and their way of living. Apartment houses will in course of time be built for all classes of people, the most extravagant and luxurious as well as the most saving and economical. But it concerns us now to find what can be done for the latter class, those for whom such houses are most in demand. In an American house it is essential that every room should communicate with a common hall or passage-way. This is one of the respects in which it must differ from a Parisian house. There the entrance is into a vestibule, or antichambre, which is a room of some pretensions, which must communicate directly with the parlor, the dining-room, and a passage-way to the kitchen. It is considered good enough, even in the best houses, to enter your bed-rooms either through the parlor, dining-room, or from the passage-way to the kitchen. César Daly says in his great work on the Domestic Architecture of Paris,* that the antichambre is the common room, the "neutral ground,” of the apartment between the proprietor and his servants. It is the common passage-way even between the kitchen and the dining-room, so that the visitor coming late to dinner, as he enters, may run against the waiter with his soup. An antichambre may be a very good thing for an American house, but we must have the common hall-way as well, so that if the host is belated, he may not have to meet his guests in the parlor or dining-room while passing to his chamber to change his boots. Granted, then, that our apartment must have a common
L'Architecture Privée au xixme Siècle sous Napoléon III A. Morel & Cie, Paris, 1864.
hall, the entrance from the grand stairway must be upon the private hall near to the parlor, which is best located when in the middle of the suite of rooms. On one side of the parlor should be two double bed-rooms, connecting with each other, and one of them communicating with the parlor. This arrangement will make it possible to use the parlor for a bed-room in case of sickness, or of company being detained over night. Contiguous to the bed-rooms should be the bath-room, and, if possible, a small room in which a nurse can sleep, and be within easy calling assistance of the bed-rooms. On the opposite side of the parlor should be the dining-room, connecting with it by means of folding or sliding doors, so that on grand occasions the two rooms can be united. Beyond the dining-room should be the kitchen, separated from it by means of a pantry, with a sink. The servants' room may be in the vicinity of the kitchen, or between the dining-room and the kitchen, in which case the communication between the dining-room and kitchen must be maintained by means of a short passage.*
All the above rooms should communicate with the common passage-way. There should be a door across this, beyond the dining-room, to keep the smell of the kitchen from invading the other rooms. The entrance from the servants' stairs should be upon the back hall thus formed, and immediately contiguous to it should be the door of the lift for coal.
The above would comprise an apartment suitable for a family of four adults, or two adults and three children. More, however, could be comfortably accommodated by the use of sofa bedsteads and similar contrivances. Necessary closets and store-rooms should of course be provided. The various rooms must be provided with fireplaces, even if the
The servants' room is the most difficult thing to manage, because, if located in the apartment, it must occupy nearly as valuable space as any other room. This, however, is a disagreeable necessity, and must be put up with. It would be a dangerous plan here to adopt the French system of putting the servants of the different families together in the top-story.
whole building is heated by steam: the kitchen should have all the conveniences usually provided, including range, boiler, sink, and wash-tubs; while the bedrooms should have permanent basins.
Apartments such as have just been described can be provided in good but not fashionable neighborhoods, and good but not elegant buildings, for $800 a-year. In a desirable neighborhood and a house finished in a first-class manner, the rent would be at least $1,100. These amounts are the average rental of a house of five stories, supposing each apartment to be the same and the rents graduated according to height of the floors from the street. To provide all these things in a well-planned house is no light matter, and will tax to the utmost the ingenuity of the architect.
Nothing has thus far been said about an apurtenance which is greatly needed in buildings of this class. We refer to passenger elevators. These appear to be the great desideratum for making the upper stories of a building accessible. When introduced, they will make it practicable to erect houses six and seven stories high, while without them but four stories are admissible. The introduction of elevators necessitates two things. First, they add considerable to the cost of a building, while the expense of running them, which includes fuel, attendants, and repairs, is a still greater item of expense. A second necessity, where elevators are used, is that the building must be specially planned for them. For instance, all the apartments on one floor must be reached from one landing. In a building with two apartments on a floor this is a simple matter, but if there are four, the problem is not easy to solve. Calculation shows that it would not "pay" to introduce a steam elevator in the former case. Supposing the use of an elevator practicable, when there are four apartments to a floor, there must in this case be but one main stairway; for the elevator must be run in connection with the stairway. It is also evident that it would not "pay" to introduce two elevators in a building of this kind. In any case, where one is used it must