This study combines historical and quantitative methods to determine the market response to a major nineteenth century American urban architectural form-the speculatively built row house. The paper estimates a hedonic price index which decomposes the original purchase price of the row house into a set of prices for the characteristics of the house, including detailed architectural features. In turn, the estimated prices for the architectural features reveal the market's response to the aesthetic design. With more than 3,500 row houses, its tree-lined streets, and scattered parks, Boston's South End is the largest Victorian residential district remaining in the United States. The homogeneity of the brick bowfront row house form, coupled with the variety of architectural features, provides an unusual opportunity to test the effect of architecture on market values. We find that variables for lot size, house size, and location within the neighborhood explain 74 percent of the price of a row house. Architectural style and features account for an additional 14 percent of the price of the house and are more highly valued when they differentiate a row house from its neighbors. These are significant results, for they provide systematic statistical evidence that architectural design matters in the marketplace. "But tell me: When you say; 'The value of a building,' do you really lay more stress on the subjective value than the dollar value?" "On both. For human nature determines that subjective value, sooner or later, becomes money value; and the lack of it, sooner or later, money loss. The subjective value is far higher, by far the more permanent; but money value is inseparable from the affairs of life; to ignore it would be moonshine."
- Copyright 1993 The Society of Architectural Historians