The Term Originally Referred to the City Residence of a Member of the Nobility

In architecture and city planning, a terrace(d) or row house or townhouse (though the latter term can also refer to patio houses) is a style of medium-density housing that originated in Europe in the late 17th century, where a row of identical or mirror-image houses share side walls. The first and last of these houses is called an end terrace, and is often larger than those houses in the middle.

The terrace house has housed different parts of the social spectrum in western society. Originally associated with the working class, in modern times, historical and reproduction terraces have been widely associated with the process of gentrification.


The terrace as a building style originated in Europe. In many cities terraced housing was favored over the apartment building.

The practice of homes built uniformly to the property line began in the 16th Century and became known as "row" houses. "Yarmouth Rows" in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk is an example where applied to a narrow street where the building fronts uniformly ran right to the property line.

Row housing became the popular style in Paris, France. The Place des Vosges (1605 – 1612) was one of the earliest examples of the style. In Parisian squares, central blocks were given discreet prominence, to relieve the façade.


The term terrace was borrowed from garden terraces by English architects of the late Georgian period to describe streets of houses whose uniform fronts and uniform height created an ensemble that was more stylish than a "row".

In the United Kingdom

In England, the first streets of houses with uniform fronts were built by the Huguenot entrepreneur Nicholas Barbon in the rebuilding after the Great Fire of London. The Georgian idea of treating a row of houses as if it were a palace front, giving the central houses columned fronts under a shared pediment, appeared first in London's Grosvenor Square (1727 onwards; rebuilt) and in Bath's Queen Square (1729 onwards) (Summerson 1947).

Early terraces were also built by the two John Woods in Bath and under the direction of John Nash in Regent's Park, London, and the name was picked up by speculative builders like Thomas Cubitt and soon became commonplace. It is far from being the case that terraced houses were only built for people of limited means, and this is especially true in London, where some of the wealthiest people in the country owned terraced houses in locations such as Belgrave Square and Carlton House Terrace.

By the early Victorian period, a terrace had come to designate any style of housing where individual houses repeating one design are joined together into rows. The style was used for workers' housing in industrial districts during the great industrial boom following the industrial revolution, particularly in the houses built for workers of the expanding textile industry. The terrace style spread widely in the UK, and was the usual form of high density residential housing up to World War II, though the 19th century need for expressive individuality inspired variation of facade details and floor-plans reversed with those of each neighboring pair, to offer variety within the standardized format. Post-World War II, housing redevelopment has led to many outdated or dilapidated terraces being cleared to make room for tower blocks, which occupy a much lower area of land. Because of this land use in the inner city areas could in theory have been used to create greater accessibility, employment or recreational or leisure centers. However botched implementation meant that in many areas (like Manchester or the London estates) the tower blocks offering no real improvement for rehoused residents over their prior terraced houses .

In 2005 the English Heritage report Low Demand Housing and the Historic Environment found that repairing a standard Victorian terraced house over thirty years is around sixty-percent cheaper than building and maintaining a newly-built house. In a 2003 survey for Heritage Counts a team of experts contrasted a Victorian terrace with a house built after 1980, and found that:

"The research demonstrated that, contrary to earlier thinking, older housing actually costs less to maintain and occupy over the long-term life of the dwelling than more modern housing. Largely due to the quality and life-span of the materials used, the Victorian terrace house proved almost £1,000 per 100 m2 cheaper to maintain and inhabit on average each year." Park Crescent, Regent's Park, London Carlton House Terrace, London BedZED zero energy terraced houses in Beddington, London Royal Crescent, Bath (1767-1777) Terraced houses in Fortuneswell, Isle of Portland, Dorset, UK Dormer top terraces Gambier Terrace in Liverpool

In Australia and New Zealand

It has been suggested that this section be split into a new article entitled Terraced houses in Australia and New Zealand. (Discuss)

See also: Australian residential architectural styles In Australia and New Zealand, the term "terrace house" refers almost exclusively to Victorian and Edwardian era terraces or replicas almost always found in the older, inner city areas of the major cities. Modern suburban versions of this style of housing are referred to as "town houses".

Terraced housing was introduced to Australia from the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century. Large numbers of terraced houses were built in the inner suburbs of large Australian cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, mainly between the 1850s and the 1890s. The beginning of this period coincided with a population boom caused by the Victorian and New South Wales Gold Rushes of the 1850s and finished with an economic depression in the early 1890s. Detached housing became the popular style of housing in Australia following Federation in 1901.

Terraced housing in Australia ranged from expensive middle-class houses of three, four and five-stories down to single-story cottages in working-class suburbs. The most common building material used was brick, often covered with stucco. Many terraces were built in the "Filigree" style, a style distinguished through heavy use of cast iron ornament, particularly on the balconies and sometimes depicting native Australian flora. As some terraces were built speculatively, there are examples of "freestanding" and "semi-detached" terraces which were either intended to have adjoin terraces or the neighboring buildings were later demolished.

In the first half of the twentieth-century, terraced housing in Australia fell into disfavor and the inner-city areas where they were found were often considered slums. In the 1950s, many urban renewal programs were aimed at eradicating them entirely in favor of high-rise development. In recent decades these inner-city areas and their terraced houses have been gentrified. Terrace houses are now highly sought after in Australia, and due to their proximity to the CBD of the major cities, are often expensive.

With artificial urban boundaries, new townhouse type developments -- often nostalgically evoking old style terraces in a post-modern style -- returned to the favor of local planning offices in many suburban areas.



Melbourne's flat terrain has produced regular terraced house patterns, and the wealth of the gold rush fuelled speculative housing development and also ensured that many terraces were built with ornate and elaborate details in a plethora of different styles, often collectively referred to as "boom" style.

The Melbourne Terrace style

The generic Melbourne style of terrace is distinguishable from other regional variations. The majority of designers of Victorian terraces in Melbourne made an effort to deliberately hide roof elements with the use of a decorative parapet, often combined with the use balustrades above a subtle but clearly defined eave cornice and a frieze which was either plain or decorated with a row of brackets (and sometimes additional patterned bas-relief). Chimneys were often tall, visible above the parapet and elaborately Italianate in style. Individual terraces were designed to be appreciated standalone as much as part of a row. Symmetry was achieved through a central classical inspired pediment or similar architectural feature balanced by a pair of architectural finial or urns on either side (though these details were subsequently removed on many terraces). The party walls were almost always decorated with corbels (which sometimes depicted heads) and the large wooden entry doors were decorated with stained or etched glass surrounds. Many Melbourne terraces also featured a unique style of polychrome brickwork, influenced heavily by the early work of local architect Joseph Reed and often highly detailed (though in many terraces this distinctive feature has been later painted or rendered over, although some have since been sandblasted or stripped back). The Melbourne style incorporated decorative cast iron balconies (of the filigree style). The demand for imported cast iron eventually led to local foundries. As a result, today Melbourne has more decorative cast iron than any other city in the world. Melbourne style terraces were often set back from the street rather than built to the property line, providing a small front yard. Decorative cast iron fencing regularly dispersed with rendered brick piers was typically used and the party wall of the end terraces would sometimes, but not always extend to the property line to join the fence.

History of Terrace Housing in Melbourne

Cliveden Mansions in East Melbourne was modeled on the terraces of London and the largest terrace house ever built in Melbourne but demolished in the late 1960s to make way for the hi rise Hilton Hotel.The earliest surviving terrace house in Melbourne is Glass Terrace, 72-74 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (1853-54). Royal Terrace at 50-68 Nicholson Street Fitzroy, completed three years later is only slightly younger and is the oldest surviving complete row.

Multi-story terraced housing became prevalent in the Melbourne suburbs of Middle Park, Albert Park, East Melbourne, South Melbourne, Carlton, Collingwood, St Kilda, Balaclava, Richmond, South Yarra, Cremorne, North Melbourne, Fitzroy, Port Melbourne, West Melbourne, Footscray, Hawthorn, Abbortsford, Burnley, Brunswick, Parkville, Flemington, Kensington and Elsternwick. Freestanding terraces and single story terraces can be found elsewhere within 10 kilometres of the Melbourne city center.

Terrace housing fell out of favor with Melbourne councils and some actually sought between 1918 and 1920 to ban them completely. The increase of slums in areas of terrace housing saw the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in 1910 identify the problem being small inner city allotment sizes. The Housing and Slum Reclamation Act of 1920 shifted the responsibility for slum reclamation to local councils. The consequence was a shift toward larger block sizes and inevitably - urban sprawl. During the 1920s, many terrace houses in Victoria were converted into flats.

Although Melbourne retains a large number of heritage registered terraces, many rows were substantially affected by wide scale slum reclamation programs in favor of high-rise public housing or commission towers during the 1950s and 60s. Later private development of walk-up flats and in-fill development has further reduced the number of complete rows. However the 1960s saw a new trend of restoration as part of the gentrification of Melbourne's inner suburbs. As a result, streets and suburbs which contain large intact rows of terrace housing are now fairly rare. Suburbs such as Albert Park, Fitzroy, Carlton, Parkville and East Melbourne are now subject to strict heritage overlays to preserve what is left of these streetscapes.

Some of the more notable examples of terrace housing in Melbourne include the heritage registered Tasma Terrace, Canterbury, Clarendon Terrace, Burlington Terrace, Cypress Terrace, Dorset Terrace, Nepean Terrace and Annerly Terrace (East Melbourne), Blanche Terrace, Cobden Terrace, Holyrood Terrace (Fitzroy), Rochester Terrace and the St Vincent Gardens precinct (Albert Park), Royal Terrace, Holcombe Terrace, Denver Terrace, Dalmeny House & Cramond House, and Benvenuta (Carlton), Marion Terrace (St Kilda) and Finn Barr (South Melbourne).

Royal Terrace on Nicholson Street in Fitzroy is Melbourne's oldest complete row Tasma Terrace at Parliament Place, East Melbourne is widely regarded as Melbourne's finest surviving terrace and is home to the headquarters of the National Trust of Victoria Queens Bess Row in East Melbourne is Melbourne's largest Queen Anne styled terrace Drummond Terrace in Drummond Street Carlton is Melbourne's largest intact row of terrace houses Marion Terrace in St Kilda is the most significant second empire styled terrace in Australia Holcombe Terrace in Drummond Street Carlton is Melbourne's best examples of the filligree style in polychrome brick Row Housing in Balaclava Rochester Terrace in St Vincent Gardens, Albert Park is the centerpiece of Australia's finest European style residential square Victorian terraces in South Melbourne, Victoria A mix of styles in Middle Park, Victoria Victorian filigree style housing in Windsor, Victoria Timber decorated terrace houses in Madden Street, Middle Park, Victoria These three story early Victorian terraces in Lonsdale Street are the only remaining in the Melbourne CBD Dilapidated terrace housing in Cremorne, Victoria are typical of the more industrial areas Park Street, South Yarra, Victoria contains a wide variety of middle class terrace styles Basement levels found in this terrace Park Street, South Yarra, Victoria are rare in Melbourne Terraces in Nicholson Street, Fitzroy. A variety of styles from different periods within a continuous streetscape A boom style classical inspired freestanding terrace in St Kilda, Victoria.

Regional Victoria

Outside of Melbourne in Victoria, Ballarat has some scattered existing terrace houses and semi-detached houses, as do the older cities of Geelong, Queenscliff, Portland and Port Fairy. Ballarat Terrace, Ballarat Single story terraces in suburban Geelong Two story filligree terraces in Queenscliff, Victoria Single story row in Queenscliff

New South Wales


Like Melbourne, Sydney also is home to a large amount of terraced housing. Suburbs where terrace housing is highly prevalent includes The Rocks, Paddington, Bondi Junction, Glebe, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Newtown and Balmain. Due to the city's higher density, it is not unusual to find terrace houses of up to four storys.

The Paddington and Balmain Style terraces

The terraces of some Sydney suburbs exhibit a distinctly regional variation. The undulating topography of Sydney's inner suburbs means that many of the terraces are typically staggered up hills rather than level or uniform. Sydney terraces were more likely to make a feature of the roof than their Melbourne counterparts, often featuring high pitched windows with dormer windows, but contrasted with much shorter more plain chimneys. Sydney terraces were also more likely to be built right up to the property line. Sydney's narrow streets also make for more intimate streetscapes where terraced.

In contrast to the British practice of the day, where dozens or even hundreds of houses were constructed by a developer as a single housing estate, Sydney practice was normally to build a short run of houses, an interesting example being the "Castle Terrace" in Paddington. Consisting of five houses, the middle one has been given a distinctive treatment.

Most Sydney terraces are firmly anchored into solid sandstone, which provided an opportunity to follow the British practice of constructing a basement story below street level, reached by a flight of stairs down from the street. Many examples of this are to be found in Paddington. In the suburb of Balmain, there are examples of houses actually constructed from local sandstone, rather than bricks covered with stucco.

Terrace Houses, The Rocks, Sydney Very old cottages The Rocks, Sydney Earlier Victorian stone-built Terrace The Rocks, Sydney Typical Paddington Terrace marching downhill, Sydney Castle Terrace in Paddington, Sydney A derelict row in Darlinghurst, Sydney A British-style basement in Paddington, Sydney Sandstone-fronted terrace in Balmain, Sydney A full bay-windowed end of terrace in Balmain, Sydney Basic houses typical of Surry Hills, Sydney 'Gentrified' property in Surry Hills, Sydney Boom style terraces in Newtown, Sydney

Regional New South Wales

Outside of Sydney in New South Wales, Newcastle has a fine collection of 1890s terraces. Almost all of them be found in a conservation area just east of the Central Business District on The Terrace, Wolfe Street, Tyrell Street, Bull Street and Watts Street, including Buchanans Terrace (c1890). Surprisingly, the Western New South Wales city of Dubbo has examples of Victorian terraces and semi-detached houses close to the city center, mostly in the Darling Street area.

Streetscape in Newcastle, New South Wales Unique Edwardian pair in Maclean, Northern Rivers, New South Wales Terrace in Dubbo, New South Wales



In Brisbane, Queensland, stone and attached building was disfavored outside of government buildings, and in fact legislated against by the Undue Subdivision of Land Prevention Act 1885. Enacted as a public health and anti-slum measure, this act set a minimum frontage of about 10 metres for each residential block, thus effectively ending the building of terraces, although a few terraces were built as a single rental project, were not subdivided, and managed to bypass the legislation. However only a handful of elaborate heritage listed examples remain, mostly clustered in the Central Business District (The Mansions and Harris Terrace on George Street and Petrie Terrace on Petrie Terrace), and a handful of singular rows in the inner suburbs (Cook's Terrace on Coronation Drive, Milton and Edmonstone Street in West End). Most of these examples notably differ in style to terraces in other Australian cities in that as a regional variation, most of them incorporated elements of the Queenslander. In particular the use of Corrugated galvanised iron high pitched or hip roof as a dominant and practical design element is notable.

Nostalgic replicas became popular in Brisbane in the 1980s and 1990s in mock Victorian style in attempt by developers to appeal to wealthy interstate migrants. As a result, there are some quite convincing replica Melbourne style terraces along Gregory Terrace in Brisbane.

The Mansions, Brisbane CBD Harris Terrace, George Street A mixed row in Normanby, Inner Brisbane Cook's Terrace overlooking the river in Milton O'Keefe's Buildings Petrie Terrace Petrie Terrace - on Petrie Terrace Gregory Terrace Replicas 1988, Brisbane Musgrave terraces, West End

South Australia

The planned city of Adelaide, South Australia has perhaps the most terrace houses of any other capital city, Marine Apartments in the suburb of Grange, is particularly notable, as it is a large three story filigree terrace.

Marine Apartments, Grange, South Australia

Western Australia

In Perth, Western Australia there are a handful of examples in the inner city and Fremantle's Point Street.


Tasmania, being one of the oldest European settlements has a number of good examples despite the relative size of its major cities in comparison to mainland cities. Inner Hobart has some good examples of terrace housing. Launceston has some great examples as well (mostly in the Central Business District and East Launceston), including Alpha Terrace, which has striking similarities to many of the terraces in Sydney's hilly suburbs.

New Zealand

Terrace houses are much rarer in New Zealand. Some examples can be found in the older suburbs of Auckland, such as Parnell and occasional one off examples such as Hyland House in Dunedin.

In the United States

The first terraced houses in the United States, were Carstairs Row in Philadelphia, designed by builder and architect Thomas Carstairs  circa 1799 through 1820, for developer William Sansom, as part of the first speculative housing developments in the United States. Carstairs Row was built on the southern part of the site occupied by "Morris' Folly" – Robert Morris’ unfinished mansion designed by L'Enfant. Prior to this time houses had been built not in rows, but individually. It can be contrasted with Elfreth's Alley, the oldest continuously occupied road in the U.S., where all the house are of varying heights and widths, with different street lines, doorways and brickwork.

Terrace housing in American usage generally continued to be called townhouses in the United States, with a distinctive type found in New York City, among other cities, called a brownstone. Some newer row houses, which are especially prominent in neighborhoods like Middle Village, Woodhaven and Jackson Heights in Queens and Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Canarsie and Marine Park in Brooklyn and williamsbridge, wakefield, and soundview in The Bronx are commonly referred to locally as "attached houses"

In Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Francisco, and Washington DC, they are simply called row houses or row homes, and are very common. Despite the narrow lots, many row houses are relatively large.

In much of the Southern United States, they are referred to as row homes. In the United States the term commonly describes a two story, owner-occupied housing unit that shares a wall with one or more neighboring units.

In the Midwest and Great Plains (and often in Georgia), they are referred to as "townhomes." The term is not terribly specific, a townhome sometimes implies one side of a duplex that is owned.

Row houses in Baltimore's Charles Village neighborhood Row houses along Dartmouth Street in Boston's South End Townhome Condominiums, Midtown Atlanta Colorful Townhomes, Midtown Atlanta

Row houses in Washington, DC's Eckington neighborhood Lawrenceville neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Victorian-era row houses in Pittsburgh Bristol Bay townhomes in Bristol, Wisconsin

Formstone-faced rowhomes in Baltimore Townhouses in Harlem's Mount Morris Historic District Row housing in Park Slope, Brooklyn Rowhomes in Washington, D.C.


Elfreth's Alley, PhiladelphiaIn historic Philadelphia, almost the entire city is populated with various types of row houses. Many of Philadelphia's row houses date back to colonial times. The style and type of material used in constructing Philadelphia's row houses vary throughout the city. Most homes are primarily red brick in construction, with stone and marble accent. There are some communities in the city where the homes are built of solid granite, such as Mayfair in Northeast Philadelphia and Mt. Airy in Northwest Philadelphia.

New Orleans

New Orleans Creaol Townhouse
Creole Townhouses, New Orleans French QuarterNew Orleans has a distinctive style of terrace house in the French Quarter known as the Creole Townhouse and are part of what makes the city famous. The facade of the building sits on the property line, with an asymmetrical arrangement of arched openings. Creole Townhouses have a steeply pitched roof, side-gabled, with several roof dormers. The exterior is made of brick or stucco.

San Francisco

San Francisco is also famous for its townhouses. The "Painted Ladies" on Steiner Street, Alamo Park, although not strictly "terraced" are a symbol of the city. Other homes labelled as painted ladies around the city are terraced and many others are semi-detached.


Stockton California Townhomes











In Malaysia and Singapore

Introduced around the beginning of the twentieth century, terraced houses (also known as linear linkhouses) have been adopted in both Malaysia and Singapore since the countries' early British colonial rule. Based on British terraced home designs, the Southeast Asian variations are similar to their British counterparts (in which the living quarters are located on the front and top floor and the kitchen at the back) and were adapted to accommodate the area's tropical weather, which is primarily warm throughout the year and receives heavy rainfall. Earlier versions were more open, designed to better circulate air and features inner courtyards, with a frontal yard, rear yard, or both. A typical Malaysian and Singaporean terraced house is usually one or two floors high, but a handful of three or four story terraced homes exist, especially newer terraced houses. Earlier variations followed traditional Western, Malay, India and Chinese architecture, as well as Art Deco and International styling between the 1930s and 1950s.

The manner in which the buildings were designed varies by their location in an urban area. Derivatives located within city centers may also utilize their space for both commercial on the ground floor and residential use on the first floor and above (accurately known as shop houses, also similar to Lingnan buildings). Inner city terrace house design tended to lack any frontal yard at all, with narrow street frontages, hence the building's structure directly erected in front of the road. One of the reasons behind this was the taxing according to street frontage rather than total area, thereby creating an economic motivation to build narrow and deeply. A five foot way porch was usually laid out at the ground floor for use by both the residents and pedestrians. Alternatively, the porch may be sealed from the rest of the walkway to serve as personal space. Such designs became less common after the 1960s.

Terrace houses located on the outskirts of city centers were less restrictive, although the design of the building itself was not unlike those in the city. Certain homes tend to feature longer front yards, enough to accommodate cars. Others strictly serve as a small garden. This design remained in demand throughout the twentieth century, and a construction boom of the house design occurred in Malaysia since the 1940s, with numerous housing estates consisting of terrace homes sprouting in and around cities and towns. In the process, the design of the building began to diversify, with various refinements and style changes. Generally, the building's floor space and yards become larger and more elaborate through time, as is the modernization of exterior construction and facade.

Certain older terrace houses tend to be converted for various new roles; some are converted into shop houses or business premises (including clubs, hotels and boarding homes–especially pre-independence houses–and kindergartens). Others have remained in use as residential units, are abandoned, neglected, or razed. Significant expansions are also common on all terrace homes; roofs and additional rooms may be added within the floor space of the house's lot. Concerns are also raised with the limited maintenance and monitoring of deserted terrace homes, which potentially become hiding places for rodents and snakes (in yards with overgrown grass), and drug addicts.

Earlier variations of the terrace house were constructed with wood, later replaced with a masonry shell holding wooden beams to form foundations for the upper floors and tiled roof. Contemporary variations are primarily held together with reinforced concrete beams, which are later completed with concrete slabs, brick walls and tiled roofs.

See also

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