Urban planning is often thought of as a conscious collection of governmental choices made as to the shape and social structure of the city. Thoughtful and forward looking public policies are viewed as mapping out the future. Overlooked or understated in this estimation are the less purposeful influences on the urban morphology and city sociology. This paper examines one such influence, land tenure, by taking a comparative look at the residential development of Birmingham, England, and Baltimore, Maryland, between 1700 and 1900. Birmingham and Baltimore both housed their working class populations in densely-packed dwellings with shared party walls. And both produced and conveyed these dwellings as ninety-nine year leaseholds subject to ground rents. This paper will look at the influence of long-term leasehold tenure on the land, houses, investments and politics of Birmingham and Baltimore. We will see that the two cities share a shape distinctive to leasehold towns, and we will see that a different social attitude toward entailment in the two cities gave ninety-nine year leasehold tenure a different destiny.
Digital Commons Citation
9 Journal of Architectural and Planning Research 315 (1992).