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-   -   Whence the term "2-flat?" (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=723506)

enalzi 05-15-2014 11:06 AM

Whence the term "2-flat?"
 
In the middle of an apartment hunt, I keep seeing the term "2-flat" in reference to two unit buildings. Googling around, it looks like this phrase is mainly unique to Chicago. So where did it come from, seeing as "flat" is normally a British term for an apartment? And why is it just a local phrase.

Bonus Question: Is there a name of this style of architecture, which is ubiquitous to the region: http://cribchatter.com/wp-content/up...-francisco.jpg

kunilou 05-15-2014 07:41 PM

It's not just Chicago; there are 2-flats (and 3- and 4-flats) in St. Louis.

I don't know if there's an "official" difference, but here in the Lou, a flat is commonly used to mean residences in a multi-story building with separate street entrances, while apartments are in multi-story buildings with entrances to a hall or stairway that leads to a common street entrance.

Of course if the building is a single story with multiple entrances, that's a duplex (triplex, fourplex, etc.)

nevadaexile 05-15-2014 07:52 PM

In the Chicagoland area a “two-flat” is almost always used to describe a single family home converted into two separate apartments. I used to live in one and it’s not that bad,especially if you live on the upper floor in the winters as it can save on your heating bills.

Mr Downtown 05-15-2014 11:01 PM

I don't agree with nevadaexile. Nearly all two-flats were built as such. Chicago's middle-class families of the early 20th century saw the investment value of living in one unit and renting out the other.

Like most vernacular architecture, the style of the building in the picture doesn't really have a name. As for the name, we also have three-flats and six-flats all over the city. There's some thought that it may be an explicit description that all rooms of the unit are on the same level. That wouldn't have been true of most houses at the time.

I like to joke that Chicago is a city of only 12 buildings, each repeated 80,000 times. That's one of the themes we'll be exploring at next year's Vernacular Architecture Forum in Chicago.

SeaDragonTattoo 05-16-2014 12:10 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by enalzi (Post 17378892)
Bonus Question: Is there a name of this style of architecture, which is ubiquitous to the region: http://cribchatter.com/wp-content/up...-francisco.jpg

I can't say it's the proper definition, but if someone were to tell me when giving directions or when describing their new abode, if they were to say "Chicago row house" style, or greystone or brownstone, that picture is the basic structure that pops into my head.

Tim R. Mortiss 05-16-2014 12:17 AM

I always assumed that "flat" meant that each individual residence only occupied one floor of the building; and often only half of one floor. I've lived in apartments in three-flats, four-flats, and six-flats.


ETA: And don't even get me started on the dreaded "Four-plus-one" style of architecture.

pulykamell 05-20-2014 07:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 17380854)
I don't agree with nevadaexile. Nearly all two-flats were built as such. Chicago's middle-class families of the early 20th century saw the investment value of living in one unit and renting out the other.

I agree. There is such a thing as a converted two-flat, but the kind pictured is a classic vintage two-flat and was built as such. These are the most common around here. They have a common entrance, and identical floor plans on the first and second floor. The basic idea is that middle class families would live in one unit and rent out the other for investment purposes. These days, they are quite often not owner occupied, though. Also, there is often a garden unit/ basement area that can be illegally rented out (or, as in the case of my friends who grew up in two flats, were used as an extra bedroom or two for the older kids.)

Little_Pig 05-21-2014 02:46 PM

Flat to let.

kunilou 05-21-2014 04:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Little_Pig (Post 17394810)
Flat to let.

Well, that certainly cleared things up!:D

nevadaexile 06-15-2014 12:01 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 17380854)
I don't agree with nevadaexile. Nearly all two-flats were built as such. Chicago's middle-class families of the early 20th century saw the investment value of living in one unit and renting out the other.

Like most vernacular architecture, the style of the building in the picture doesn't really have a name. As for the name, we also have three-flats and six-flats all over the city. There's some thought that it may be an explicit description that all rooms of the unit are on the same level. That wouldn't have been true of most houses at the time.

I like to joke that Chicago is a city of only 12 buildings, each repeated 80,000 times. That's one of the themes we'll be exploring at next year's Vernacular Architecture Forum in Chicago.

Didn’t ask you to “agree”; I was simply stating a fact.
Most of the two flats in Chicago were single family homes that were later converted to duplexes.Walking inside of them will quickly make apparent.

C K Dexter Haven 06-15-2014 06:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nevadaexile (Post 17463526)
Didn’t ask you to “agree”; I was simply stating a fact.
Most of the two flats in Chicago were single family homes that were later converted to duplexes.Walking inside of them will quickly make apparent.

I don't have a clue about "most." I know that there are "two-story houses converted into two apartments", and there are specifcally constructed "two apartment buildings" that were never a single dwelling. I've heard them both called "two-flats", although some people call the former "converted brownstone" or "converted two-flat."

Mr Downtown 06-17-2014 11:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nevadaexile (Post 17463526)
Didn’t ask you to “agree”; I was simply stating a fact.
Most of the two flats in Chicago were single family homes that were later converted to duplexes.Walking inside of them will quickly make apparent.

I don't know how to make this more clear without sounding rude, but that is simply factually incorrect. Nearly all Chicago two- and three-flats were built that way. You can look up the original building permits on microfilm at the UIC Library and a few other places, or you can look at the aggregate data in the 1937 land use survey.

Perhaps you're being misled by the fact that the stairway to the upper unit is generally behind the main entry door from the porch.

pulykamell 06-20-2014 12:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr Downtown (Post 17472220)
I don't know how to make this more clear without sounding rude, but that is simply factually incorrect. Nearly all Chicago two- and three-flats were built that way. You can look up the original building permits on microfilm at the UIC Library and a few other places, or you can look at the aggregate data in the 1937 land use survey.

Perhaps you're being misled by the fact that the stairway to the upper unit is generally behind the main entry door from the porch.

I agree with this. As I know them , most two- and three-flats were designed with such consideration. Hence the identical floor plans and such.

Little_Pig 06-24-2014 11:57 PM

I've see 2-flats that were actually 4-flats. There was an entrance in the front for the lower flat and one for the 2nd floor flat, and then there was an entrance on the side of the house for the back units. Two units in front, two units in back, which meant the front units were only half the the length of the house. And the house sat on stilts over a dirt floor. These were pre 1900 buildings. Location: Bucktown.

pulykamell 08-21-2014 05:44 PM

Interesting story I saw pop up on my Facebook feed about Chicago two-flats and their history.


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