Were tiny row houses on back alleys the key to the reputation that Baltimore enjoyed, as a "city of homes," with its high rates of homeownership ever since the early Republic? Mary Ellen Hayward contends that these diminutive dwellings provided "the solution" for working-class families (139), giving low-income residents an alternative to the "squalid wretchedness" of speculative tenements elsewhere (144). Here she mistakes journalistic bombast from 1873 for historical reportage, since in most American cities private houses far outnumbered tenements, and conditions could be equally deplorable in either. She is correct that Baltimore's 99-year ground rents were a significant factor. Under this system a few large landowners rented parcels to builders at reasonable and renewable rates, and when a builder sold a house, the new owner assumed the rent; since the homeowners held title to dwellings but not land, their expenses...

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