In the city, what is a "coach house" and where did they keep the horses?

I’ve noticed in older american cities, there are lots where a house, called a “coach house” sits in the back of a main house on a relatively small lot, or even in back of a two flat building. Sometimes, (especially in the case of a two flat) the coach house is not built in the same style as the two flat, even though the two flat is 100+ years old.

I’ve always wondered, what these “coach houses” were for, why are they so big (compared to a garage). Were they servants quarters? Why don’t they match the style of the main building?

If the coach houses contained carriages, where were the horses kept? Most of the time, these properties are 1/8 acre or so in size. There was no room for stables, and the surrounding houses are of the same old vintage (100+ years) so it’s not a case of a large estate being subdivided later.

I haven’t found much info. on this topic on the internet.

FWIW, I have a friend who owns a large, old house in Providence, RI. There is a sizeable “carriage house” behind it. As well as plenty of room for carriages, this building definitely contains remnants of stables. It does not match the style of the main house (which is rather ornate), but is well built and certainly not out of place.

There is no evidence of servants’ quarters in the carriage house (though ample evidence of these in the main house).

My grandparents’ house in Cleveland had what my grandmother (a very proper lady of Canadian extraction who celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday) called the “carriage house. I thought it was a small barn and my father was unfeeling enough to call it a barn. Up until the early 1920s when the last horse died or went to the glue works, the barn held the horse, a four wheeled two seater buggy, and a supply of hay and grain as well as harness and a small pharmacy of horse medicine. Once upon a time it had housed two horses, a saddle horse as well as a buggy horse. When the old man got an automobile during WWI one horse moved out and the Winton moved in.

In a really fancy operation there might be apartments for a groom, a stable hand and a coachman in the building. That would be a genuine carriage house. The sort of backyard barn my grandparents had was pretty standard for middle class and professional class homes. For reference see the Penrod stories.

Carriage and draft horses would have been stalled when they weren’t working, so the property would not require paddocks or turnout areas. Working horses were typically tied in straight stalls. These need only be wide enough for a horse to lie down in the “sternal recumbent” position, so the actual horse-holding area could be quite small.

there were liveries. that would house a large number of equines, for people who didn’t have a huge mansion, servants, and room for a polo pony.

personal carriage houses usually were across an alley from the main house in the back. most of the ones in my neighbourhood are 2 story, good sized buildings; built in the 1800’s and have been converted to apartments or one family homes.

In the house I was raised in, we had a carriage house behind. Our lot was half a city block, so there would’ve been turnout for horses available, although it’s probable that at that time it wasn’t considered necessary. Remember - to people of the period, horses were equipment. You gave them what was needed, but you didn’t think about whether they were “happy”, and I’m sure they got plenty of exercise in their work. Our carriage house had two sides, one for horses, the other for buggies plus a full second story which held hay and probably grooms quarters. I couldn’t understand why my parents wouldn’t let me have a horse (even though we were right in the middle of town).


Carriage house

Here are pictures of the house, and if you click on the one that says Garage, you can see the carriage house. And oh, my - they’ve built behind it. Our nice 1/2 block is subdivided! There’d still be at least 1/3 - the house, front yard and carriage ond side yard guarentee that, but still. It’s always hard to see a house you’ve left behind and see that they’ve done horrible things to it. I hope they left all the stained and leaded glass.


Around here, the lots have been very much chopped up since the horse days. My house was built in 1928 and used to include not just my spacious side yard on which I just built a large two car garage but also the entire lot of the people behind me. There used to be a lot of outbuildings, not built to the standards of the very sturdy homes and therefore mostly now gone (not to mention that the lots have been subdivided) that would hold one or two horses and something for them to pull. Doesn’t really take a ton of room.

Thanks everyone. I guess I didn’t realize that horses could be stabled in such a small space all the time without suffering health problems… There must have been a huge hay delivery and manure removal infrastructure in place in those days as well.

These structures are called “coach house” in the real estate lingo where I live. I guess the rest of the country calls them “carriage house”.

They can’t.

Ever read Black Beauty? Horses, for those who were wealthy enough to keep a carriage in town, were a disposable commodity. Until the rise of the late 19th century animal rights movement, which Black Beauty embodied, very few people spared a thought for the welfare of the horses that pulled their carriage in town. It would have been like wondering if your car was happy being parked in the garage all night. If a horse went lame or blind because of being tied in a dim stall 24/7 and not being allowed out to exercise, well, you just ordered up another horse from the local horse purveyor, and Black Beauty went off to the knackers to become dog food. There may have been enlightened coachmen who found ways to let their charges exercise on the days when Madame didn’t need to go calling, but for the most part, a horse was just another replaceable component.

You know, I never thought about that - did everybody keep a manure pile? I’ve never heard of a hay delivery like the milk and the grocery boy, either.

Another thing about urban carriage houses is that while horses were originally kept in them, by the 1930s it was common for the owners to have converted them for use for cars – so even if you see one (in person or in pictures) where the interior looks “old,” you might very likely not see anything that looks like a horse stall or hay bin or anything like that.

I think this post is a bit of an overstatement. To this day the Lipizzaner Stallions are kept stabled in largish straight stalls in downtown Vienna. They get no turnout other than their daily training work and performances. They are adapted to their environment, well managed, and content in their work. There are places all over Long Island where 1-2 hours of turnout is the norm for lack of undeveloped land.

See a photo of the stalls, below:

On this page, the stable is shown from its courtyard:

It is certainly easier to keep horses healthy with copious turnout. Stalled horses have different health concerns but it is not categorically impossible for them to be healthy when permanently stalled if they are well managed.

For one thing, horses have anatomic structures in their legs which collectively are termed the “stay apparatus” This enables horses to sleep standing up as they can basically hook their tendons over bony parts to hold themselves up without effort.

No doubt this ability evolved as a way to escape predators, but it comes in very handy for people who stable horses in tie stalls. Its well known that horses will do just fine even if they can’t lie flat on their sides for months or even years.

What Rusalka said was, “I didn’t realize that horses could be stabled in such a small space all the time.

To which I responded, “They can’t.”

Even the Lipizzaners, “… get…daily training work and performances.” So they’re not in their stalls all the time.

And “1-2 hours of turnout” is not the same thing as “kept tied up in a stall all the time, 24/7/365.”

And…“well managed” would include an hour or two of turnout every day, yes? In modern times, “permanently stalled” means, at the very least, a few minutes on a hotwalker every day. But in Victorian times, “permanently stalled” meant “in the stall, permanently, period, except when wanted.”

If you have a cite (sorry to sound pissy, I don’t know any other way to phrase it :smiley: ) that says that Victorian coachmen found ways to enable their charges to have some kind of exercise or turnout every day, I’d be very interested in seeing it, because my understanding is that, as I said, horses were a disposable commodity, and were kept “parked” in their stalls in the carriage house 24/7/365, except when required to ferry Madame around town.

There’s a famous restaurant in Manhattan, One If By Land, Two If By Sea, which is located in an old coach house. The history of the restaurant is no longer online, but you can see the cached page here . It’s a lovely restaurant, quite a nice date place.