UDH Hdr-Mirror Lake 1888


Alongside the many, many American Foursquares, numerous bungalows, and occasional Victorian, Colonial Revival, Prairie, and Tudor buildings that comprise the historic housing stock of the University District, there stand the Columbus Rowhouses. This often ignored style is one of the most common forms of housing in the University District. Rowhouses are so numerous and so widespread that our neighborhood would be unrecognizable without them. There is scarcely a street in the University District that doesn't feature at least one rowhouse.

1580-88 N 4th

1580-88 N. 4th St., built in 1916, is a beautifully restored example of a Columbus Rowhouse.

There is some variety in the particular features of rowhouses but all share certain basic attributes. Columbus Rowhouses have the following features:

  • Brick construction.
  • Rectangular, buildings are several times wider than deep.
  • Symmetric.
  • Decorative “battlements” (usually corbelled) or parapet in front.
  • Flat roof, hidden by parapet, sloping slightly towards the rear of the building.
  • Decorative brick and stone work along the top of the front wall, occasionally spelling out a building name. Additional decorative work around windows, doors, porch, and piers supporting porch roof.
  • Tall (60"), sash windows. Usually a simple 1 over 1. Occasionally, Craftsman style.
  • Front door is usually in Craftsman style, usually with transom.
  • Units grouped in free-standing buildings, two to fifteen to a building.
  • Two-story units with basement.
  • Units 1,000 square feet or less. Units typically measure about 15' wide by 30' deep.
  • Expansive front porches
  • Usually set back from the street by a 10 or 15 stretch of yard or perched above the street on an embankment.
  • Usually have a generous backyard

The photo at right of 274 Chittenden Ave., an end unit in a four-unit building built in 1917, shows all of the classic features of a Columbus Rowhouse.

The classic Columbus Rowhouse achieves a graceful transition from street to building and from public to private. Instead of crowding the street, the rowhouse moves back from it in steps. There is the sidewalk, then the small front yard or embankment, then the open porch, then the building itself. The sidewalk is open and public. The front yard is open but slightly less public. The front porch is open but semi-private. The building itself is mostly closed and private.

274 Chittenden

Older rowhouses (pre-1915) tend to be a bit plainer than later ones. They also tend to forgo the front yard and perhaps even the porch and come right up to the sidewalk.

Some rowhouses add a second story porch on top of the first floor porch.

While most rowhouse units are two story, some rowhouses blur the line between rowhouse and apartment building and house separate units on the first and second floors.

Rowhouses in the University District usually face the street but sometimes are perpendicular to the street and face another block of rowhouses across a small courtyard. Alhambra Court (2180-94 N. High), Duplex Court (N. 4th), University Place (1644 N. High) are surviving examples of this.