Tip of the Month - November 2007

Zoning History

Source: HOUSES-3rd Edition by Henry S. Harrison

People are learning how to control their cities and to plan for the future.  Today, zoning is the widely accepted method by which society, in general, controls the use of the land.  Zoning is one of the means by which society controls the development of the physical environment.

This was not always so.  Zoning was unknown in the nineteenth century, the period in which many cities developed.  Up to World War I, the only protections a property owner and the public had were the nuisance laws, private restrictions and building codes.

As a result of this lack of control and planning, cities developed with congested streets, overcrowded buildings, poor light and air and a mixture of uses, each hurting the other.  From this disorganization, came the deteriorated commercial areas, slums and urban blight of today.

During the 1700’s and early 1800’s, growth in this country took place primarily in the uncrowded towns and villages and the farm areas.  Many of the houses that were built were two-story detached houses.

By the middle of the 1800’s, the growth pattern had shifted to the cities.  Streets were lined with row houses and tenements.  Multiple-story, single family houses were lined up side by side on crowded lots.  Streets were laid out in checkerboard fashion.  Little separation existed between industrial and commercial activities and residential neighborhoods.

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This web page was updated on 10/30/2007.