I’ve been spending way too much time poking around online looking at census data. Yes, after 72 years that stuff you filled out is released to the public. It’s actually pretty cool and it encourages me to actually pay attention next time the census comes around.
After I got done finding my grandparents, great-grandparents and all their siblings and spouses in the 1910, 1920 and 1930 census data, I started looking around at other things. It took some work but I found both streets we’ve lived on in San Francisco, the only place I’ve lived where old buildings are everywhere.
I found our current apartment in the 1920 census. I was not able to locate it in 1930 but I found the records for others in the same building. I can’t figure out how to locate the right area of the city in the 1910 census, so I don’t know anything from then.
In 1920, Hugh Haffey, his wife and their adult children lived here. Hugh’s occupation was noted as a “Watchman”, one son worked at a laundry, another was an elevator operator and a daughter also worked at a laundry.
Most of the households I found in this building for both 1920 and 1930 were couples with children, as many as five. All were renters. In 1930, apartments in this building rented for $27-30 a month.
Our apartment is about 700 square feet, with a large kitchen and dining room, a modest bedroom and a large parlor. There are also two closets in addition to the bathroom. We use the parlor as a bedroom and the bedroom as a computer room. The dining room is what would now be considered a living room (although I use it as a work area mainly.) There is no fireplace and the building has no garage or driveway.
Now every family wants to have one bedroom per child plus multiple eating, sitting and working areas so modern houses are huge. Much larger than I’d prefer, actually. (Who wants to heat and clean, not to mention furnish, 6000 square feet?) But from what I can tell this was a average family dwelling for those of modest means. Not spectacular, but not horrible either.
Several years ago I visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York, one of the apartments on the tour was about 350 square feet and housed a large family plus a home dressmaking business, with a shared toilet in the hall. Another person on the tour humorously commented that add a coat of paint and it looked like some of the several thousand dollar Manhattan apartments he’d been shopping for.