8 James and Susan Borchert

units per stairwell. An inner court gave neighbors of both buildings a shared commons, a village within a village removed from street disruptions.

Other residential structures were also adapted to the neighborhood's needs. Some Birdtowners used a strategy common to other migrant neighborhoods in Midwestern industrial cities: front and back houses on the same lot. Owners lived in one house and rented the other. As with boarding houses and tenements, this practice eased owners' mortgage payments and increased the supply of rental houses. The proximity of front and back single-family houses conformed to the village pattern of linking a few close neighbors.

As families grew larger and more affluent and as more relatives left Europe to join extended families in the village, double houses and single-family detached houses claimed the remaining vacant lots. In any case, village property owners did not view their homes as having permanent form. They added rooms when they needed more space. As the neighborhood became more affluent, owners installed electricity and full plumbing. More recently, as housing demand declined and the desire for larger apartments grew, owners collapsed the "sixes" and "eights" into fewer units. Through it all, residential structures remained organic as villagers adapted them to current needs.

While each individual home builder decided issues of house site and facade, the collective result reflected villagers' concerns about their new community Working within such constraints as narrow streets and a lot size determined by PHLC, Birdtowners chose to locate their homes close to the street. This arrangement produced a close, tightly knit physical structure with street-facing homes only narrowly divided by small front yards. Villagers moved even closer to their neighbors by adding front porches. As porches and front yards became regular meeting places for friends and neighbors, the distinction between public and private space broke down and residents merged in a robust street life. Isolation from the rest of the city and cul-de-sac streets discouraged the disruptive presence of outsiders and further focused neighborhood interaction within the village.

Ultimately then, Birdtowners constructed a residential environment, both social and physical, that linked villagers together and encouraged their constant interaction; it plunged every resident into an overlapping series of informal groups ranging from boarding and tenement mates to street-facing neighbors. Obviously "neighboring" is important for any new community These interactions, however, involved much more than might immediately seem apparent. First, in a community with limited resources, where residents depended on each other for help locating employment, housing, and with home construction, constant interaction helped individual and collective survival and success. Moreover, as neighbors gossiped daily about each other's behavior, they began to construct a sense of what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior for the community. While never formalized and always changing, this gossip-based etiquette codified the village's world view.



Last Updated May 24, 2000

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