exploration of the project
| Observations | Highlights
how real estate appeared in newspapers is interesting for any decade and for
any city, but it is particularly interesting for Philadelphia and this time
period for two reasons. The first reason is that Philadelphia is well known
for its status as a city of homes. Philadelphia boasts the most homeowners than
any other city. These real estate advertisements and articles illustrate how
that came to be. Secondly, this is an interesting time period to showcase because
it illustrates the initial founding of land outlying the city as suburbs. These
advertisements and articles follow one of the first waves of city folk out into
the suburbs and precedes their major postwar boom. It appears that Philadelphia's
close suburbs "boomed" well before the war and the resulting post-war
suburbs are further away from the city proper.
examination of how real estate appeared in daily newspapers from the 1880's
to the 1920's uncovered a few interesting points. There are a few ways you can
look at the results; one way is to look at the advertisements by
date and see how both the real estate and the ways it was advertised changed
over time. This leads well into the second way to examine the results; search
the advertisements by type and look at how the real
estate was advertised and what the underscored selling points were. Furthermore,
the results could be analyzed looking at how advertising differed for different
suburbs/geographic locations or by different price ranges/classes. The images
and advertisements that were captured for this project focus primarily on real
estate for sale, but it would also be useful to return to these papers and look
at how real estate for rent was advertised and perhaps map when apartment rentals
was begun out of the inspiration to mknow more about middle class real estate/domesticity
between the 1880's and the 1920's. The results do not adhere strictly to this
goal. It was hypothesized that the real estate advertisements appearing in daily
newspapers would focus on middle class real estate; stock housing, rowhouses,
prebuilt homes, and resales. Instead a great diversity appeared in the papers
of types of homes being sold. Further work with this project could reorganize
the results further within the by type section and
organize the advertisements by type of home or price range. The latter would
be more difficult as the value of the dollar fluctuated within the fifty year
time period that is examined here. It would also be interesting to involve this
study in a much larger history of the modern real estate business or the history
of land developers and construction companies.
- The real estate advertisements
appearing initially, like in the 1880s, focused more
on upper class residences and mansions, but had the least visually appealling
- "Situations Wanted"
was a much more popular section of the classifieds in the 1880s and 1890s.
Many of these situations dealt with housing and involved someone requesting
a room (and sometimes board) in exchange for labor.
- The notion of a tri-state
region, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, extends to the 1880s as those
locations appeared in the real estate advertising sections.
- Most Real Estate Companies
or Offices were located within Center City although the majority of the advertisements
were for homes in West Philadelphia or the Suburbs.
- An advertisement in
this image mentions that the home is in a "restricted
neighborhood." Is this similar to a gated community?
- Many Real Estate Companies
had their offices in the Land Title Building
- Illustrated advertisements
began with more regularity in the 1900's
advertisement for homes in Elkins Park illustrates the elitist attitude
that was expressed about suburban homes with this copy: "Elkins Park
if the most select suburb of Philadelphia. There is an air of refinement at
Elkins that places it in a class by itself. Inspect this feature for yourself.
We are sure you will agree with is. In the selection of a suburban home as
much care should be given to the selection of the town and its surroundngs
as to the home itself; in fact, more care. A home in the suburbs, to be desirable,
should be near the station, trolleys, stores, schools and churches, and should
have police and fire protection, with well-lighted streets."
- Many Real Estate Companies
would advertise specific suburbs like the Elkins Park ad discussed above or
this one for Springfield, or even specific sections
within neighborhoods, like Aronimink in Springfield.
- Many advertised homes
were new and advertised in bundles of approximately twelve identitcal homes.
- Advertisements focused
most on the Western Suburbs (mainline), West
Philadelphia (as a suburb), Northwest Philadelphia
(especially Germantown) and Northeast Philadelphia.
- Many of the housing
groups were publicized before completion, so some finishing touches, like
the paper or wood finish, were left to the new owner to decide ("paper
- First Advertisement
for homes with garages seen in 1919.
- Drawings were used to
illustrate more than just the buildings themselves, but also the surrounding
area and local draws (trees, recreational spaces, local transit).
- Compared to other advertising
sections in the daily newspapers, real estate was very slow to improve and
establish eye-catching designs. Even in the 1880s
when real estate was appearing in boring two-line lists, other pages of the
newspapers were filled with more dramatic and illustrated advertisements for
clothing, medicines, department stores, and more. I think the change from
the list advertising to the eye-catching advertisements for real estate coincide
with the development of Real Estate companies who sponsored the advertisements
and the development of suburbs.
- Real Estate Sections
of the newspapers had a much improved visual identity in 1923.
- First "low-priced"
and apartment style advertisements seen here.
- In 1923 the Smullen
& Barry Real Estate Company advertised "lists"
of real estate which appear to be the predecessors to the real estate
booklets you can pick up now at banks and supermarkets.
- Building Materials
- Proximity to mass transit
(trains and trolley), both in miles and in minutes
- Proximity to Center
City/City Hall, both in miles and in minutes
- Kind of water and where
it is coming from (i.e. "artesian well water," "Springfield
water" or "pure water")
- Other utilities; heat,
plumbing, etc. (i.e. hot water heating and gas and electric lighting)
- Interiors; wallpaper,
wood, tile, fixtures, wardrobes, bookcases and cabinetry (tile and paper often
qualified as "artistic")
- Size of Lot
- Number of rooms
- Highlights the location/suburb
as opposed to the actual building or property itself
- Little focus on price,
if mentioned at all
- Suburban locations advertise
"every city convenience"
- Laundry with modern
- Reception Halls
- Occasionally, an open
house was mentioned, or in the case of rowhouses or stock homes: one of the
homes would be "open for inspection"
is a popular descriptive word
- Occasionally highlighted
the purchase of home or property as an "investment"
- High locations were
advertised ("especially high location"
or "highest point in Germantown")
All Images were copied
from microfilms of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Press, and The
Public Ledger at The Free Library of Philadelphia.