It’s a discussion as old as attached dwellings. Well, maybe only since the term row house was established sometime during the 19th Century. But I wanted to explore some of the terminology used for attached houses in America.
I remember a while back, townhouses seemed to denote fancy and affluent attached houses, while rowhouses were working class dwellings of modest construction, at best. Then, you’d have particulars like brownstones, which are usually found in cities and indicate very fancy, very large, rather old houses in established neighborhoods, although Edith Wharton called them ugly at the time when building them was the rage, and many weren’t housing for the affluent originally.
However, over the last few years, I’ve noticed that even brownstones are being called rowhouses now. And why not?
Technically, row houses are several attached dwellings that are built at the same time. There’s likely some continuity of style in the elevation and façade. Materials used are consistent from house to house. Typically, the row extends most of the block. Rows include at least three houses. Party walls can be on the thin side.
This technique wasn’t widely used until the 19th century. Before that, you’d have attached housing built in an organic manner, with houses being added as needed, built for, and by, the individual home owner. My little rowhouse is an example of this, with our row of four houses being attached but built at separate times by different owners. Across the street there are 200 years of building, in different styles attached to each other.
So, call them what you will, townhouses, brownstones, etc., but they are all types of rowhouses. And, for most people, if you’re living in attached housing, it seems to be the trend that you’re calling your home a rowhouse as well.