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One of the reasons I am fascinated by Victorian houses is because they were the first houses built for the middle class that you and I would recognize as houses Prior to the Civil War most people lived in structures that may have looked like houses to modern eyes on the outside at least but they werent No matter how beautifully decorated the blunt truth is they were uninsulated and drafty heated only by open fireplaces and had no facilities for sanitation unless you count a chamber-pot setting off to one side of the bedroom They were filled with flying insects in the summer no screens and sooty wood smoke in the winter Their kitchens were scarcely more than barbecue pits with roofs over them and running water meant a servant running from an outdoor well bucket in hand I grew up on a farm and I know exactly what you call a building that has lots of flies no utilities and the unmistakable smell of excrement in the air You call it a barn The Victorians changed all that They were the first to build housing on a society-wide scale that featured central heating weather-tight windows and doors indoor running water and artificial lighting either gas or electric This housing was expensive by the standards of the day and only the well-to-do upper middle class could afford it Even so it marked a turning point in history For the first time people could differentiate houses on the basis of how comfortable and modern they were rather than by the expense of their ceiling decorations The esthetic aspects of Victorian houses that people today tend to value most -- their color and elaborate decoration -- were the products of technology Prior to the Victorian era almost everything that went into a house had to be made by hand even the nails It is not an accident that the houses of earlier
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