Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States

Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States

by Paul Groth, Nola Burger
     
 

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From the palace hotels of the elite to cheap lodging houses, residential hotels have been an element of American urban life for nearly two hundred years. Since 1870, however, they have been the target of an official war led by people whose concept of home does not include the hotel. Do these residences constitute an essential housing resource, or are they, as

Overview

From the palace hotels of the elite to cheap lodging houses, residential hotels have been an element of American urban life for nearly two hundred years. Since 1870, however, they have been the target of an official war led by people whose concept of home does not include the hotel. Do these residences constitute an essential housing resource, or are they, as charged, a public nuisance? Living Downtown, the first comprehensive social and cultural history of life in American residential hotels, adds a much-needed historical perspective to this ongoing debate. Creatively combining evidence from biographies, buildings and urban neighborhoods, workplace records, and housing policies, Paul Groth provides a definitive analysis of life in four price-differentiated types of downtown residence. He demonstrates that these hotels have played a valuable socioeconomic role as home to both long-term residents and temporary laborers. Also, the convenience of hotels has made them the residence of choice for a surprising number of Americans, from hobo author Boxcar Bertha to Calvin Coolidge. Groth examines the social and cultural objections to hotel households and the increasing efforts to eliminate them, which have led to the seemingly irrational destruction of millions of such housing units since 1960. He argues convincingly that these efforts have been a leading contributor to urban homelessness. This highly original and timely work aims to expand the concept of the American home and to recast accepted notions about the relationships among urban life, architecture, and the public management of residential environments.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This fascinating book examines residential hotels, from luxurious palace hotels for rich people like the Ritz Tower in New York City to single-room-occupancy dwellings for the poor like the Sierra House above Big Al's North Beach nightclub in San Francisco. This is largely social history and sociology organized topically and chronologically, emphasizing the years from 1880 to 1930, when most American residential hotels were built and thrived. Groth is an architectural historian at the University of California at Berkeley, and his book is an outgrowth of his doctoral dissertation. But this is no dry and dusty tome. Instead, Groth breathes new life into the continuing battle over housing in America by praising, not burying, his topic. Recommended for academic collections.-Peter Kaufman, Boston Architectural Ctr.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520219540
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
06/29/1999
Pages:
423
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 9.75(h) x 0.88(d)

Meet the Author

Paul Groth is Associate Professor of Architecture History at the University of California, Berkeley.

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