Residential housing in Austin has evolved over the years from early single-family 2 and 3-story residences in Downtown Austin to bungalows and cottages in places like Hyde Park and Rosedale, to the more recent construction of downtown high-rises and suburban master-planned communities. Over those years, the concept of townhome living has evolved along with changes in architecture.
The History of Townhouse Development
While townhouses date back centuries to the Greeks, they became popular in America in the 1800s as inner-city row houses. These were attached 3 and 4-story houses built in a row with shared walls, basements, and attics. Looking up and down the eastern seaboard, most cities including Boston, New York, Philadelphia and even Charleston, SC had row houses. They accommodated large families or boarded guests. They also tended to be dark because the only light came from the front and back of the house.
In the 1960s, things began to change. Row houses transitioned to what we now know as the townhouse. Built for empty nesters or resort communities, they tended to be smaller than single-family homes. In the 1970s, with the introduction of planned communities, townhouses became an accepted housing option. Some communities even had amenities such as swimming pools and covered parking or garages.
During the 1980s, architects brought quads to market. These structures look like a large single-family home. Each corner has an entrance, side yard, and garage allowing four owners to share a common area. The 1990s brought more change as the appeal of townhouses continued to grow, particularly in vacation areas and with active adults. But, it was the next few decades that changed both the architecture of these homes and the acceptance of them in the luxury market. The size, materials, craftsmanship, and locations of these townhouses made them a viable choice for even large families. No longer relegated to resort areas or cities, townhomes are in most cities, suburban areas, and recreational destinations.
Today, townhomes in Austin come in a variety of shapes and sizes but are one of three styles: detached, quad/4 corners, or side-by-side. Detached townhouses look very much like single-family homes and may or may not include the land beneath them.