Friday, September 21, 2018

Where In The City, Do You Stay?

Facade Balconies Urban House Architecture Many years ago, if you moved to the city you had a choice of two places to stay.  That is if you were a respectable young lady who wanted to earn money by working in a factory or store.

One was the YMCA or YWCA or girls chose a boarding house.  If you watch enough television shows based in the late 1800's or early to mid 1900's, these girls always stay at a boarding house.  I've been watching a show which takes place during World War II in Canada.  The single girls all stay at the local boarding house where they hang out when not working.

One will find boarding houses mentioned in literature such as when Jo March out of "Little Women" moves to the city to find a job and write, she ends up staying at a boarding house. Boarding houses were filled with strangers who lived under the same roof while sharing meals at a common table.  This was the standard accommodations for singles of the time.

Often in major cities, boarding houses filled whole neighborhoods.  There'd be boarding houses for African Americans, the Irish, Jews, and other groups so each neighborhood got named after the groups such as "little Italy". 

The use of boarding houses began growing in the 1830's and 1840's when people flooded into the cities looking for works.  They couldn't afford their own houses so they'd rent a room in a house.  Sometimes, it might be renting a room with a "gentile" family while other times it might be a room in a large building with others.

Boarding houses might be run by an private individual or they might be associated with a company.  When the Lowell textile mills opened, they provided boarding houses for their workers so they'd have a place to stay, do laundry, and have minimal meals provided.  It is estimated that between one third and one half of the population of Boston lived in boarding houses in the 1830's.

By the 1930's the boarding house was becoming a thing of the past due to improved transportation.  Before people needed to be close to their place of work but once transportation improved, people could live further out and commute in.  There are a few boarding houses that have been preserved around the country but they are gone because they've outgrown their need. 

In addition to finding boarding houses in the United States, they were found in England and Canada.  Many of these places were run by women in England where they ruled with an iron hand. 

I'm off, please let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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