Houses below street level?

I was walking down Armitage Avenue in Bucktown today, and couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the houses are built on lots that are several feet (five or six?) below the level of the sidewalk and the street. After noticing that, I remembered seeing the exact same setup along some of the side streets in Chinatown, the numbered streets that shoot off to the west from Wentworth.

What is the purpose of this? Did they deliberately lower the residential plots, or did they raise the street? Is there some architectural reason? Or geological, or technological, or historical, or just plain aesthetic reason for it?

these occur in high density areas of single homes.

if i understand your description they could be Polish flats or German duplexes.

you got two stories (maybe eventually if they were done at two times) for less materials and less cost.

This kind of explains it.

Basically, streets were raised to faciliate drainage - raising of the house or houses was left to the owners.

Here’s a Geoffrey Baer segment on it as well.

Finally, here’s a google search result with a ton of links to help explain it.

Thanks, Missy2U! Great stuff.

I think I’ll be changing my user name to Joe Podsajdwokiem now.

I’ve seen it around here next to bridge abutments. The road starts going up before the bridge, but the houses stay on the same level.