ABSTRACT

Despite the ubiquity of boardinghouses in the United States throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, little historical research has been done about their social significance. Using census data and architectural analysis, this article examines boardinghouses in the Southside neighborhood of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, between 1880 and 1920. Architectural analysis indicates the strategies boardinghouse keepers used to commodify domestic space, including rearticulating the parlor and dining rooms. Also, demographic analysis reveals that in addition to housing a local workforce, Southside boardinghouses contained the elderly, widows and widowers, and young children separated from their families. These populations indicate the vital role of boardinghouses in supplementing social services. In addition, ethnic relationships between boarders and boardinghouse keepers point to the importance of the institution in facilitating immigration and assimilation. These additional social functions demonstrate the significance of boarding to the Southside neighborhood and can be a model for study in other communities.

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