In The Decorated Tenement: How Immigrant Builders and Architects Transformed the Slum in the Gilded Age (University of Minnesota Press 2019), historian Zachary Violette counters the standard narrative of crowded tenements and crusading urban reformers to reconstruct the role of tenement architects and builders in improving housing for the working poor. Drawing on research and fieldwork that surveyed more than 3,000 extant tenement buildings in New York and Boston, Violette uses ornament as an entry point of his study, employing both new contemporary photography and many never-before-published historical images. His work complicates the monolithic notions of architectural taste and housing standards, while broadening our understanding of the diversity of cultural and economic positions of those responsible for shaping American architecture and urban landscapes.
Zachary J. Violette is a preservation consultant and lecturer at Parsons/The New School of Design. His book is based on his dissertation in American and New England Studies at Boston University.