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The Lack of Old Homes in America

by Charles Eliot Norton, 1889.

    "We shall live to see the day," says Holgrave, the artist, in the "House of the Seven Gables," "we shall live to see the day, I trust, when no man shall build his house for posterity." The wish comes little short of fulfilment in America, for we have already lived to see the day when scarcely a man builds his house for his own posterity. If one runs over the list of the persons known to him he finds very few of more than forty years old living in the houses in which they were born. Of the twenty houses built more than fifty years ago nearest my own, only one is lived in by the family by which it was originally occupied, while most of the others have had numerous successive owners or tenants. Of my own friends near my own age there are but two or three anywhere who live in the houses which their fathers occupied before them. This lack of hereditary homes - homes of one family for more than one generation - is a novel and significant feature of American society. In its effect on the disposition of the people and on the quality of our civilization it has not received the attention it deserves.