Homes for a world of strangers: Hospitality and the origins of multiple dwellings in Urban America

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Our historical understanding of the origins and development of multiple dwellings is incomplete. The standard account involves people struggling to establish permanent homes despite overcrowding and hypercompetitive housing markets. But there was another line of development for multiple dwellings in America - one that followed the spatial logic of hospitality rather than domesticity. Instead of evolving out of residential structures, it arose from the practice of providing travelers and strangers with temporary shelter, food, refreshment, and household services. Empirically, this article offers a significant revision of the history of urban housing, one that involves a distinctive set of imperatives and a different morphology. Theoretically, it contends that our analysis of the urban landscape, with its longtime emphasis on the production and distribution of goods, would benefit from another look at the interrelated phenomena of mobility, transience, and anonymity - classic symptoms of urbanism that were foundational concepts in early urban theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)933-964
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Urban History
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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