Tenement house conditions A Tenement house is an apartment typically occupied by one family that lives in a run down and poor part of a city. These apartments were narrow, and low rise homes. New York city had the most people living in Tenement homes during the revolution. During the 1880’s New York’s population grew greatly due to the rise of immigrants moving to the U.S from Ireland, Italy and Germany to escape poverty, and famine (History.com).
Wealthy residents of New York City vacated their tenement houses in the early 1900’s to move north due to the revolution. This helped to house the increasing amount of people who moved to the city for a better life and to find a job. Tenements were divided into many family living spaces to help with the growing population during the Industrial Revolution. More than half of New York’s population, approximately 2.
3 million people during the 1880’s- the early 1900’s lived in tenement houses (History.com). Immigrant Jacob Riis was the man who brought light to the absurd problem of unsafe living conditions after writing a book about his experiences. The predominant causes of the poor living conditions in the tenement homes were due to the rising community of people that moved to the cities. The overcrowding of tenement homes, cheap structural material that can cause harm, and poor ventilation and sunlight in the homes ultimately led to the effect of the Tenement House Law of 1901.
There were many safety issues that had to do with poor living conditions during the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s. For instance, the tenement houses were only meant for one family but there were typically up to 4 families living in one house at a time. This made living very cramped and sickness spread quickly due to close living. The death rate among infants was 1 in 10 because of the diseases that spread. When it came time for sleeping, rooms were transformed into sleeping areas with some people sleeping head to toe in a bed and even on the ground.
There could have been as many as 12 teenagers/adults sleeping in one 13 ft wide room (History.com). After author Jacob Riis brought light to the cramped living conditions through his book, investigations took place on tenement housing and the Tenement house law was passed in 1901. The law helped the cramped living conditions by stating, “no room in any tenement house shall be so over crowded that there shall be afforded less than 400 cubic feet of air to each adult, and 200 cubic feet of air to each child under 12 years of age occupying such a room” (Tenement house Laws of 1901). Although the law did not make the living conditions completely better, it improved them greatly. Another issue that made living conditions unsafe is the cheap material that was used to make the Tenement houses.
Most of the Tenement houses were made from natural wood. This was an unsafe material because since the living spaces were close together, fires would start because of cloth hitting stoves. The Tenement houses would burn down quicker than normal apartments because natural wood is an easy burner. The Tenement House laws of 1901 also helped aid the unsafe structural materials. The law stated that buildings must be “Absolutely Fireproof” (Tenement House Law of 1901).
Lastly, the third effect that added to the poor living situation of families was the lack of ventilation and sunlight. Because of the increasing population, more and more tenement houses were added into already cramped areas. Some areas had as little as one foot of space between each building.
This affected the families negatively because there was little air flow and sunshine which made people ill. The Tenement House law of 1901 improved this condition by saying every home “shall have at least one window opening directly upon the street and upon a yard or court” (Tenement house law of 1901) In conclusion, the causes of the overcrowded Tenement homes, low- cost structural material, and little air flow and sunlight led the city officials in New york to conduct an investigation and pass a law that improved living conditions for millions of families that lived in Tenement Houses.