A three-decker or triple-decker, in the United States, is a three-story (triplex) apartment building. These buildings are typical of light-framed, wood construction, where each floor usually consists of a single apartment, and frequently, originally, extended families lived in two, or all three floors. Both stand-alone and semi-detached versions are common.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tens of thousands of three-deckers were constructed, mostly in New England, as an economical means of housing the thousands of newly arrived immigrant workers who filled the factories of the area. The economics of the three-decker are simple: the cost of the land, basement and roof are spread among three or six apartments, which typically have identical floor plans.The three-decker apartment house was seen as an alternative to the row-housing built in other cities of Northeastern United States during this period, such as in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.
Three-deckers were most commonly built in the emerging industrial cities of central New England between 1870 and 1920. There are large concentrations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Worcester, Massachusetts, was the likely origin of the type, with Francis Gallagher (1830–1911) held to be the originator.Other cities make the same claim, and they can also be found in the former industrial cities of New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut, as well as the New York City area (particularly in northern New Jersey and Yonkers) and Upstate New York, where they are commonly seen as far west as Utica. Three-deckers are also found in Canadian cities with strong ties to New England, particularly Halifax, though they are less ubiquitous. They were primarily housing for the working-class and middle-class families, often in multiple rows on narrow lots in the areas surrounding the factories. They were derided as poor quality buildings, shoddily constructed from flammable balloon framing: a 1911 report by the Massachusetts State Housing Committee in Massachusetts decried the three-decker as "a flimsy fire-trap and a menace to human life".
It is estimated that by 1920, the city of Boston had over 15,000 three-decker houses. Areas such as Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, and Jamaica Plain were popular with the emerging middle class and became "streetcar suburbs" as transportation systems expanded from the older, core sections of the city. Typically, the affordable three-decker homes attracted live-in landlords who would collect rent from the other two apartments.
In Worcester, Massachusetts, sewer connection charges were based on street frontage, so builders favored houses with as little frontage as possible. This is one reason why three-deckers are often situated on narrow lots and are rectangular shape, with the smaller sides at the front and the rear.
In the textile mill city of Fall River, Massachusetts, thousands of wood-framed multi-family tenements were built by the mill owners during the boom years of the 1870s to house their workers. Many more were built by private individuals who rented their apartments to the mill workers and their families. This style of housing differed greatly from the well-spaced boardinghouses of the early 19th century built in Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts, or the cottages of Rhode Island.
A different three-story style apartment house is also common in urban working-class neighborhoods in northern New Jersey (particularly in and around Newark, Jersey City and Paterson). They are sometimes locally referred to as "Bayonne Boxes".
Similar brick apartment buildings were built in Chicago in the 1910s and 1920s. There they are locally referred to as "Three Flats".
Three-deckers are usually defined by the style of their roofs, being either gable, hip, or flat-roofed, with preference often varying regionally. For instance, hipped and gabled three-deckers are dominant in Worcester.In smaller cities, such as Lawrence or Albany, New York, two or two and a half story variants are common, while retaining a similar overall typology, with a bay window on the front, and prominent porches. While typically lacking the ornamentation found on other homes of the Victorian period, they sometimes were built with certain decorative details, such as porch railings and posts. A typical feature of the three-decker is a vertical stack of bay windows, usually facing the street side of the house. The rear often has utility porches, which are often enclosed.
Often, three-deckers feature two apartments per floor, with the units sharing a common wall. Each apartment typically has a front and/or back porch for each apartment, and because the buildings are usually freestanding, there are windows on all four sides. Some three-deckers feature a single front door that accesses all three units; others feature two entrances (one accessing the first floor unit externally, with the other leading to a stairwell to units two and three).
Three-deckers typically use balloon framing, which makes them especially susceptible to destructive fires.
Three-deckers were built in huge numbers, in some areas comprising entire neighborhoods, but by the 1950s, a number of them had been abandoned or razed because of suburban growth and urban renewal. Their reputation as poor quality and dangerous persisted into the 1970s.Starting in the early 1980s, however, they became desirable again as older streetcar suburbs began to gentrify, often by buyers looking for homes where they could live in one unit and rent the other two, thus helping them pay their mortgage. As condominiums became more common, many were converted into individually-owned units.
Since 1990, many three-deckers in Worcester, Massachusetts, have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Recently, a new wave of three-decker apartment houses has been built in areas of Boston as an alternative to the townhouse style condominium or apartment buildings more typically associated with suburban areas. Boston's zoning regulations allow new three-family houses to be constructed in areas with existing three-deckers. However, building codes for the new buildings are far more stringent today, with requirements for fire sprinkler systems and handicap access.
An apartment, or flat, is a self-contained housing unit that occupies part of a building, generally on a single story. There are many names for these overall buildings, see below. The housing tenure of apartments also varies considerably, from large-scale public housing, to owner occupancy within what is legally a condominium, to tenants renting from a private landlord.
A townhouse, townhome, town house, or town home, is a type of terraced housing. A modern townhouse is often one with a small footprint on multiple floors. In a different British usage, the term originally referred to any type of city residence of someone whose main or largest residence was a country house.
A duplex house plan has two living units attached to each other, either next to each other as townhouses, condominiums or above each other like apartments. By contrast, a building comprising two attached units on two distinct properties is typically considered semi-detached or twin homes but is also called a duplex in parts of the Northeastern United States And Saudi Arabia.
Multifamily residential is a classification of housing where multiple separate housing units for residential inhabitants are contained within one building or several buildings within one complex. Units can be next to each other, or stacked on top of each other. A common form is an apartment building. Many intentional communities incorporate multifamily residences, such as in cohousing projects. Sometimes units in a multifamily residential building are condominiums, where typically the units are owned individually rather than leased from a single apartment building owner.
The Rockdale Common Housing District is a historic district at 4-20 McBride, 46-58 Plantation, and 37-42 Taft Sts. in Northbridge, Massachusetts, United States. The district is composed of a collection of tenement houses built from c. 1880 to 1920. They were built by members of the Whitin family, who owned most of the textile production capacity in Northbridge. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
The Swan Larson Three-Decker is a historic triple decker house in Worcester, Massachusetts. The house was built c. 1918 and is a well-preserved local example of Colonial Revival styling. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The Wellington Street Apartment House District of Worcester, Massachusetts encompasses a collection of stylistically similar apartment houses in the city's Main South area. It includes sixteen properties along Jacques Avenue, and Wellington and Irving Streets, most of which were built between 1887 and 1901. The notable exception is the Harrington House at 62 Wellington Street, a c. 1850s Greek Revival house that was virtually the only house standing in the area before development began in the 1880s.
The Andrew Friberg Three-Decker is a historic triple decker in Worcester, Massachusetts, United States. Built about 1928, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990, noted for its Colonial Revival styling. These details have been lost or obscured by later exterior siding installation.
The Rodney Davis Three-Decker is a historic triple decker house in Worcester, Massachusetts. Built in 1894, it is typical of early triple deckers built in the city's developing Belmont Hill neighborhood, although its more elaborate Queen Anne porch decorations have been lost. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The Thomas F. Doran Three-Decker is an historic three-decker in Worcester, Massachusetts. The wood-frame building was built c. 1894, and is one a few well-preserved Stick style three-deckers in the city. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The Knut Erikson Three-Decker is a historic triple decker apartment building in Worcester, Massachusetts. Built c. 1912, the building exhibits some well-preserved Colonial Revival features, although some have been lost. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The Euclid Avenue–Montrose Street Historic District encompasses a well-preserved cluster of Colonial Revival triple decker housing units occupying a dramatic hillside location on Euclid Avenue and Montrose Street in Worcester, Massachusetts. It includes all triple deckers on those two streets between Vernon Street and Perry Avenue, and exclude other forms of housing in the area. Of the 40 triple deckers in the district, 27 have gambrel roofs, and most of these have an asymmetrical facade with porches on the first two levels, and a recessed porch area in the gambrel section of the facade. These porches are usually flanked on one side by a two-story projecting window bay. Detailing on the porches varies: some, such as 8 Euclid, have Tuscan columns, while others, such as 8 Montrose, have squat square columns; columns are also sometimes paired or clustered in groups. Houses with triangular gables more typically have three-story porches, often with arched openings instead of a simpler construction. The layout of the properties on the hill, combined with the somewhat cohesive styling of the buildings, makes the district visually distinctive from its surroundings when viewed from a number of perspectives. The district includes Deedy Park, a triangular grassy area where Euclid and Montrose meet.
The Evert Gullberg Three-Decker is a historic triple decker in Worcester, Massachusetts. Built c. 1902, the house is a well-preserved instance of an early Colonial Revival triple decker with a gambrel roof. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The John and Edward Johnson Three-Decker is a historic triple decker house in Worcester, Massachusetts. The house was built c. 1918, and is a well-preserved and distinctive example of Colonial Revival styling, with a number of unusual features. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The Patrick McGuinness Three-Decker is a historic triple decker in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was built c. 1908, and is a rare well-preserved example of a double triple-decker with Colonial Revival styling. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The Arthur Provost Three-Decker is a historic triple decker house in Worcester, Massachusetts. Built c. 1910, it is a locally rare instance of the form built in brick. It was also originally noted for its fine Queen Anne porches, which have been removed. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The John Wescott Three-Decker, also known as the Wescott-Mulcahy Three-Decker is a historic triple decker house in Worcester, Massachusetts. It is a well-preserved example of a Queen Anne triple-decker, built about 1892. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The Building at 29–31 River Street in Southbridge, Massachusetts, is one of two once similar triple-deckers built during a housing boom related to the success of the nearby Hamilton Woolen Company. Of six such houses built in the 1910s and 1920s on River Street, only it and 25-27 River Street remain. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, since when its historic integrity has been compromised.
The Building at 38–42 Worcester Street is a historic six-unit triple decker in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Built sometime between 1878 and 1898, it has features influenced by the area's then-growing French Canadian immigrant population, including its outside porches. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
The Colonial Apartments are a historic apartment building at 51-53 High Street in Bangor, Maine. Built in 1919, it is one of the oldest and best-preserved apartment houses in the city that was marketed to a middle and upper-class population. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.