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Row Home History
Originally called the “terraced house,” the row house dates back to late 17th century England. This style of housing consists of a row of identical houses, which shared common walls. The first row houses in the United States were built in Philadelphia in 1799 through 1820 by the architect Thomas Carstairs. These row houses, known as “Carstairs Row,” were located on Sansom Street between 7th and 8th Streets.
William Penn had initially wanted the city of Philadelphia to be different from the narrow streets and crowded row houses of London. He planned to have large blocks of single homes interspersed with green spaces. However, the rapid growth of the city and the increase in land value ultimately demanded a change in plan. The large blocks were broken up into smaller lots ideal for row houses. These houses made the most of the increasingly limited space in the city, occupying a very small footprint.
Speculative development also explains the proliferation of row houses built in Philadelphia during the 19th century. Developers would buy several properties in the city and then build row houses on them so that they could later subdivide and sell them individually.
Philadelphia has more than 300,000 row homes in almost every possible shape and size. In fact, Philadelphia has more row homes than any other city in the United States.