Boarding house

A boarding house is a house (frequently a family home) in which lodgers rent one or more rooms for one or more nights, and sometimes for extended periods of weeks, months, and years. The common parts of the house are maintained, and some services, such as laundry and cleaning, may be supplied. They normally provide "room and board," that is, at least some meals as well as accommodation.

Lodgers legally only obtain a licence to use their rooms, and not exclusive possession, so the landlord retains the right of access.[1]

Boott Boardinghouse Store
One of the last remaining textile mill boarding houses in Lowell, Massachusetts, on right; part of the Lowell National Historical Park


Miners boarding house
Early-20th century dinner in a miners' boarding house in northern Canada

Formerly boarders would typically share washing, breakfast and dining facilities; in recent years it has become common for each room to have its own washing and toilet facilities. Such boarding houses were often found in English seaside towns (for tourists) and college towns (for students). It was common for there to be one or two elderly long-term residents. "The phrase "boardinghouse reach" [referring to a diner reaching far across a dining table] comes from an important variant of hotel life. In boardinghouses, tenants rent rooms and the proprietor provides family-style breakfasts and evening dinners in a common dining room. Traditionally, the food was put on the table, and everyone scrambled for the best dishes. Those with a long, fast reach ate best." [2]

Boarders can often arrange to stay bed-and-breakfast (bed and breakfast only), half-board (bed, breakfast and dinner only) or full-board (bed, breakfast, lunch and dinner). Especially for families on holiday with children, boarding (particularly on a full-board basis) was an inexpensive alternative and certainly much cheaper than staying in all but the cheapest hotels. In the United Kingdom, boarding houses were typically run by landladies, some of whom maintained draconian authority in their houses: the residents might not be allowed to remain on the premises during the daytime and could be subject to rigorous rules and regulations, stridently enforced.[3]


StateLibQld 1 258605 Maroochydore Boarding House, ca. 1917
Maroochydore Boarding House, Queensland, ca. 1917

Boarding houses were common in growing cities throughout the 19th century and until the 1930s.[4] In Boston in the 1830s, when the landlords and their boarders were added up, between one-third and one-half of the city's entire population lived in a boarding house.[4] Boarding houses ran from large, purpose-built buildings down to "genteel ladies" who rented a room or two as a way of earning a little extra money.[4] Large houses were converted to boarding houses as wealthy families moved to more fashionable neighborhoods.[4] The boarders in the 19th century ran the gamut as well, from well-off businessmen to poor laborers, and from single people to families.[4] In the 19th century, between 1/3 to 1/2 of urban dwellers rented a room to boarders or were boarders themselves.[5] In New York in 1869, the cost of living in a boarding house ranged from $2.50 to $40 a week.[4][a] Some boarding houses attracted people with particular occupations or preferences, such as vegetarian meals.[4]

The boarding house reinforced some social changes: it made it feasible for people to move to a large city, and away from their families.[4] This distance from relatives brought social anxieties and complaints that the residents of boarding houses were not respectable.[4] Boarding out gave people the opportunity to meet other residents, so they promoted some social mixing.[4] This had advantages, such as learning new ideas and new people's stories, and also disadvantages, such as occasionally meeting disreputable or dangerous people. Most boarders were men, but women found that they had limited options: a co-ed boarding house might mean meeting objectionable men, but an all-female boarding house might be – or at least be suspected of being – a brothel.[4]

Boarding houses attracted criticism: in "1916, Walter Krumwilde, a Protestant minister, saw the rooming house or boardinghouse system [as] "spreading its web like a spider, stretching out its arms like an octopus to catch the unwary soul."[2] Attempts to reduce boarding house availability had a gendered impact, as boarding houses were typically operated or managed by women "matrons"; closing boarding houses reduced this opportunity for women to make a living from operating these houses.[7]

Later, groups such as the Young Women's Christian Association provided heavily supervised boarding houses for young women.[4] Boarding houses were viewed as "brick-and-mortar chastity belts" for young unmarried women, which protected them from the vices in the city.[5] The Jeanne d'Arc Residence in Chelsea, which was operated by an order of nuns, aimed to provide a dwelling space for young French seamstresses and nannies.[5] Married women who boarded with their families in boarding houses were accused of being too lazy to do all of the washing, cooking, and cleaning necessary to keep house or to raise children properly.[4] While there is an association between boarding houses and women renters, men also rented, notably the poet-authors Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe.[5]

In the decades after the 1880s, urban reformers began working on modernizing cities; their efforts to create "uniformity within areas, less mixture of social classes, maximum privacy for each family, much lower density for many activities, buildings set back from the street, and a permanently built order" all meant that housing for single people had to be cut back or eliminated.[2] By the early 1930s, urban reformers were typically using codes and zoning to enforce "uniform and protected single-use residential district[s] of private houses", the reformers' preferred housing type.[2] In 1936, the FHA Property Standards defined a dwelling as "any structure used principally for residential purposes", noting that "commercial rooming houses and tourist homes, sanitariums, tourist cabins, clubs, or fraternities would not be considered dwellings" as they did not have the "private kitchen and a private bath" that reformers viewed as essential in a "proper home".[2] As a result, boarding houses became less common in the early 20th century. Another factor that reduced boarding house numbers was that improved mass transit options made it feasible for more city residents to live in the suburbs and work in the city.[4]

By the 1930s, they were uncommon in most of the United States.[4] In the 1930s and 1940s, "rooming or boarding houses had been taken for granted as respectable places for students, single workers, immigrants, and newlyweds to live when they left home or came to the city".[8] However, with the boom in housing in the 1950s, middle class newcomers could increasingly afford their own homes or apartments, which meant that rooming and boarding houses became used mainly by post-secondary "students, the working poor, or the unemployed".[9] By the 1960s, rooming and boarding houses were deteriorating, as official city policies tended to ignore them.

Similar concepts

Rogers Street North 221, Old Boarding House-Recovery Engagement Center, Bloomington West Side HD
Old Boarding House Recovery Engagement Center, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

The common lodging-house or flophouse usually offered a space to sleep, but little else. When used for temporary purposes, this arrangement was similar to a hostel. Flophouse beds may offer dormitory-style space for as little as one night at a time.

A lodging house, also known in the United States as a rooming house, may or may not offer meals.

Single room occupancy (SRO) buildings rent individual rooms to residents, and have a shared bathroom; some may have a shared kitchen space for residents to cook their own meals.[4]

Dormitory accommodations for post-secondary students, with a cafeteria, are similar to a boarding house.[4]

In the 2010s, microapartments with one or two rooms rented plus access to shared common spaces in the building, are very similar to boarding houses.[4] WeWork, a company mostly known for its shared coworking rental spaces, is also offering shared housing arrangements in which renters get a private bedroom but share a kitchen, living room, and other common areas.

Bed and breakfast accommodation (B&B), which exists in many countries in the world (e.g. the UK, the United States, Canada, and Australia), is a specialized form of boarding house in which the guests or boarders normally stay only on a bed-and-breakfast basis, and where long-stay residence is rare.

However some B&B accommodation is made available on a long-term basis to UK local authorities who are legally obliged to house persons and families for whom they have no social housing available. Some such boarding houses allow large groups with low incomes to share overcrowded rooms, or otherwise exploit people with problems rendering them vulnerable, such as those with irregular immigration status. Such a boarding-house may well cease to be attractive to short-term lodgers, and the residents may remain in unsatisfactory accommodation for long periods. Much old seaside accommodation is so used, since cheap flights have reduced demand for their original seasonal holiday use.

Apart from the worldwide spread of the concept of the B&B, there are equivalents of the British boarding houses elsewhere in the world. For example, in Japan, minshuku are an almost exact equivalent although the normal arrangement would be the equivalent of the English half-board. In Hawaii, where the cost of living is high and incomes barely keep pace, it is common to take in lodgers (who are boarders in English terminology) that share the burden of the overall rent or mortgage payable.

In the Indian subcontinent boarders are also known as paying guests. Paying guests stay in a home and share a room with domestic facilities. Rates are nominal and monthly charges are usually inclusive of food, bed, table and a cupboard. The rent can go higher for a room in an upscale locality with facilities like single occupancy, air conditioning and high-speed wireless internet access.

Legal restrictions

In the United States, zoning was used by neighborhoods to limit boarding houses.

In popular culture


  • Sherlock Holmes lived in a boarding house at 221B Baker Street, of which the landlady Mrs. Hudson provided some domestic service.
  • Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote the now classic boarding-house mystery, The Case of Jennie Brice, in 1913.
  • H. G. Wells satirized boarding houses of the Edwardian era in his novel The Dream (1924).
  • E. Phillips Oppenheim set his espionage novel, The Strange Boarders of Palace Crescent (1934) in a London boarding house.
  • The climax of Patrick Hamilton's 1941 novel Hangover Square occurs in a dingy Maidenhead boarding house.
  • Lynne Reid Banks's 1960 novel The L-Shaped Room is set in a run-down boarding house.
  • Ben Mears, the main character in the 1975 horror novel Salem's Lot by Stephen King, stays at Eva Miller's boarding house.
  • Harry Dresden, from the book series The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher lives in the rented basement of a boarding house early on in the series.
  • In True Grit, the main protagonist, Mattie Ross, stays at the Monarch Boarding House where she is forced to share a bed with Grandma Turner, one of the long-term residents and where a robust communal meal takes place.
  • The young heroes in Horatio Alger's 19th Century rags-to-riches tales often experience life in boarding houses and single works often depict both unscrupulous and kindly boarding house proprietors as the characters make their way upward (or downward) in the world.



  • Mary Richards, the main character in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, lives in a studio apartment in a Victorian boarding house.
  • In the cartoon Groovie Goolies, the characters of that show reside at a boarding house called Horrible Hall that is located on Horrible Drive.
  • The titular protagonist of the Nickelodeon television show Hey Arnold! lives in a boarding house owned by his grandparents called Sunset Arms.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, Stefan and Damon Salvatore live in the old Salvatore Boarding house when they return to Mystic Falls.
  • The South Korean television series Reply 1994 is set in a nineties boarding house.
  • In the Torchwood episode "Immortal Sins", Jack Harkness, and his companion Angelo Colasanto stay in a boarding house.


See also


  1. ^ For comparison purposes, a laborer in the construction trades in New York usually earned $1.00 to $1.50 per day around that time.[6]


  1. ^ Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Boarding-House" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 95.
  2. ^ a b c d e Groth, Paul. Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States. Chapter One—Conflicting Ideas about Hotel Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1994 1994.
  3. ^ Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Graham, Ruth (13 January 2013). "Boardinghouses: Where the City was Born". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
  5. ^ a b c d Hester, Jessica Leigh (22 February 2016). "A Brief History of Co-Living Spaces". City Lab. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  6. ^ Wholesale prices, wages, and transportation. Report by Mr. Aldrich, from the Committee on Finance, March 3, 1893. Washington. 1893. p. 449.
  7. ^ Groth, Paul. Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United States. Chapter Eight- From Scattered Opinion to Centralized Policy. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1994 1994.
  8. ^ Campsie, Philippa (1994). "A Brief History of Rooming Houses in Toronto, 1972-94" (PDF). Rupert Community Residential Services. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  9. ^ Campsie, Philippa (1994). "A Brief History of Rooming Houses in Toronto, 1972-94" (PDF). Rupert Community Residential Services. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
Boarding House Groonen

Boarding House Groonen (German: Pension Groonen) is a 1925 Austrian silent comedy film directed by Robert Wiene and starring Anton Edthofer, Karl Forest and Harry Nestor. It was Wiene's first film in Vienna, where he had moved to from Berlin to work for Pan Film. The film was made in 1924, but its premiere was delayed until 9 January 1925.

Boarding House Reach

Boarding House Reach is the third studio album by American rock musician Jack White, released on March 23, 2018 through Third Man Records, Columbia Records, and XL Recordings. It is his first solo studio album in nearly four years, following Lazaretto (2014).

After recording independently in Nashville, the album was also recorded throughout 2017 in New York City and Los Angeles. "Connected by Love" was released as the album's lead single on January 10, with "Over and Over and Over" following up as the second on March 1.

Boarding House Reach received generally positive reviews, with its unorthodox production and style noted as a departure from White's previous studio albums and projects. While critics mainly praised the album for its ambition, experimentalism and artistic approach, its criticisms mainly focused on its inconsistency and production. The album performed well commercially, topping the US Billboard 200 upon release, making it White's third number-one album on that chart. Elsewhere, it was a number-one album in Canada and reached number five in Scotland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Burford School

Burford School is a mixed secondary school with academy status located in Burford, Oxfordshire, England. The school was founded by the Burford Corporation as a grammar school in 1571 and moved to its current premises on Cheltenham Road in 1957. The original building on Lawrence Lane is now used as a boarding house.

College Boarding House

College Boarding House (Spanish:La casa de la Troya) is a 1959 Spanish comedy film directed by Rafael Gil and starring Ana Esmeralda, Arturo Fernández and Pepe Rubio.

Empire Bay, New South Wales

Empire Bay is a suburb on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia. It is part of the Central Coast Council local government area.

Empire Bay was originally known as Sorrento being the name of a large boarding house in the locality. The land was subdivided in 1905. The name changed to Empire Bay in 1908 when a Postal Receiving Office was opened in a building attached to the boarding house. The name was changed because there was already a post office named Sorrento in Victoria and Empire Bay was chosen because there was no other such name in the Commonwealth. The name was officially changed on 24 May 1908. William Huggart who owned Sorrento House was the first postmaster. In 1909 the status of the office was changed to Post Office. It was moved into C. C. Swinburne's general store when he became Postmaster in 1910.

Fultah Fisher's Boarding House

Fultah Fisher's Boarding House is a 1922 American silent film short and the first film directed by Frank Capra. Based on a poem by Rudyard Kipling, the film is about prostitute living at a boarding house who provokes a fight that leads to the death of a sailor.

House system

The house system is a traditional feature of schools in England, originating in England. This nomenclature may apply to similar schools in the United States. The school is divided into subunits called "houses" and each student is allocated to one house at the moment of enrollment. Houses may compete with one another at sports and maybe in other ways, thus providing a focus for group loyalty.

Different schools will have different numbers of houses: some might have more than 10 houses (with as few as 50 students in each house) or as few as four or fewer (with as many as 200 students in each). In some cases, individual houses can be even larger, as in McCracken County High School in the U.S. state of Kentucky, whose five houses have nearly 400 students each. Facilities, such as pastoral care, may be provided on a house basis to a greater or lesser extent depending on the type of school. Historically, the house system was associated with established public schools in England, especially full boarding schools, where a "house" referred to a boarding house at the school. In modern times, in both day and boarding schools, the word "house" may refer only to a grouping of pupils, rather than to a particular building.

Houses may be named after saints, famous historical alumni or notable regional topics (e.g. in international schools, houses are sometimes named in honor of local celebrities). Other more arbitrary names—animal names or colours, for example—are also often used. Houses are also often referred to by the original name of the building or by the name or initials of the teacher in charge of the house (housemistress or housemaster). Each house will usually also be identified by its own symbol, logo, or colours.

At co-educational boarding schools, there may be separate houses for boys and girls, as at the Lawrenceville School, whose house system is itself based on that of Rugby School. Students may also be grouped by year groups or status as boarders or day students. At Winchester College and Eton College, there is a separate house for foundation scholars. Where the school has boarders and day pupils like the King's School, Canterbury or Shrewsbury School, they will often be allocated to separate houses. There have also been cases, for example at Cheltenham College, of pupils being allocated to different houses according to their religion. At traditional full boarding schools such as Radley College and Harrow School, students are grouped by boarding house.

Kingham Hill School

Kingham Hill School is a co-educational independent day and boarding school for children aged 11–18, located near the village of Kingham in Oxfordshire. It was founded by local landowner Charles Edward Baring Young in 1886, with buildings designed by the architect William Howard Seth-Smith.

Little Miss Broadway

Little Miss Broadway is a 1938 American musical drama film directed by Irving Cummings. The screenplay was written by Harry Tugend and Jack Yellen. The film stars Shirley Temple in a story about a theatrical boarding house and its occupants, and was originally titled Little Lady of Broadway. In 2009, the film was available on DVD and videocassette.

Live at the Boarding House

Live at the Boarding House is an album recorded by the 1973-1974 bluegrass group, Old & In the Way. It is a complete recording of a concert held October 08, 1973, at the Boarding House in San Francisco. It was released in 2008.

Mary Hare School

Mary Hare School is a residential co-educational Non-Maintained special school for deaf pupils in Newbury, Berkshire, England. It consists of around 230 pupils from year 7 (age 11) to year 13 (age 19). It was established by Mary Adelaide Hare in 1916 as Dene Hollow School for the Deaf in Burgess Hill, West Sussex. After Mary Hare's death on 5 November 1945, it was redesignated as Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf on 1 January 1946.

The school bought Arlington Manor and surrounding estates in 1947, and moved from its old site in Burgess Hill to the refurbished premises in 1949. Several building projects have since followed, expanding the school to its current size, including a classroom block, school hall, boarding house for boys, staff flats (now boarding house for year 7 pupils), new updated swimming pool, science block, sixth form campus, arts and design centre, Arlington Arts Centre which includes a theatre seating 250, music therapy centre, and recording studio. The newest project underway is a boarding house for year 11 pupils, called Murray House, which was completed in 2012.The swimming pool appeal was started in 2014 with completed renovation in 8 months of the swimming pool in March 2017, with replacement of the old rusted away roof.

The school teaches a variety of subjects at GCSE and A level, and guarantees a good solid education for deaf children, many of whom go onto university and other further education. The communication policy is oral, that is, sign language is not used in class. Some students may use sign language outside of class: the "speech competition", a compulsory contest within the school to encourage speech and discourage signing, was abolished sometime in the 1980s.

The school itself is now a small part of a company by the name of Mary Hare Limited, consisting of Mary Hare Secondary and Mary Hare Sixth Form. Other divisions are Mary Hare Primary (formerly Mill Hall School, Cuckfield, West Sussex), Arlington Labs (earmould manufacturers), Mary Hare Training Services (post graduate courses in deaf education, audiology, and hearing aid dispensing), Mary Hare Foundation (fund raising), Arlington Arts Centre (theatre, music, conferences), and Mary Hare Hearing Centres (hearing aid shops).

Mary Surratt

Mary Elizabeth Jenkins Surratt (1820 or May 1823 – July 7, 1865) was an American boarding house owner who was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was hanged and became the first woman executed by the US federal government. She maintained her innocence until her death, and the case against her was and is controversial. Surratt was the mother of John H. Surratt, Jr., who was later tried but was not convicted of involvement in the assassination.

Born in the 1820s, Surratt converted to Catholicism at a young age and remained a practicing Catholic for the rest of her life. She wed John Harrison Surratt in 1840 and had three children by him. An entrepreneur, John became the owner of a tavern, an inn, and a hotel. The Surratts were sympathetic to the Confederate States of America and often hosted fellow Confederate sympathizers at their tavern.

Upon her husband's death in 1862, Surratt had to manage his estate. Tired of doing so without help, Surratt moved to her townhouse in Washington, D.C., which she then ran as a boardinghouse. There, she was introduced to John Wilkes Booth. Booth visited the boardinghouse numerous times, as did George Atzerodt and Lewis Powell, Booth's co-conspirators in the Lincoln assassination. Shortly before leaving Washington to kill Lincoln, Booth spoke with Surratt and handed her a package containing binoculars for one of her tenants, John M. Lloyd.

After Lincoln was murdered, Surratt was arrested and put on military tribunal trial the following month, along with the other conspirators. She was convicted primarily due to the testimonies of Lloyd, who said that she told him to have the "shooting irons" ready, and Louis J. Weichmann, who testified about Surratt's relationships with Confederate groups and sympathizers. Five of the nine judges at her trial asked that Surratt be granted clemency by President Andrew Johnson because of her age and sex. Johnson did not grant her clemency, though accounts differ as to whether or not he received the clemency request. Surratt was hanged on July 7, 1865 and later buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. She has since been portrayed in film, theater and television.

Nortonia Boarding House

The Nortonia Boarding House, at 150 Ridge St. in Reno, Nevada, was built in c.1900-1904. In 1906 it was purchased by Norton, who changed it to a boarding house, and it was also extended then. It is primarily Queen Anne in style but includes elements of Colonial Revival architecture as well. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. It is notable as "one of the best" surviving Queen Anne houses in Reno.

Our Boarding House

Our Boarding House was an American single-panel cartoon and comic strip created by Gene Ahern in 1921 and syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association. Set in a boarding house run by the sensible Mrs. Hoople, it drew humor from the interactions of her grandiose, tall-tale-telling husband, the self-styled Major Hoople, with the rooming-house denizens and his various friends and cronies.

After Ahern left NEA in March 1936 to create a similar feature at a rival syndicate, he was succeeded by a number of artists and writers, including Wood Cowan and Bela Zaboly, before Bill Freyse took over as Our Boarding House artist from 1939 to 1969. Others who worked on the strip included Jim Branagan and Tom McCormick. The Sunday color strip ended on March 29, 1981; the weekday panel continued until December 22, 1984.

Room and Board (comic strip)

Room and Board was an American comic strip created by Sals Bostwick on 21 May 1928. He drew it until his death in 1930, after which it was continued by cartoonists like Brandon Walsh, Ben Batsford, Darrell McClure, Dow Walling and Herman Thomas before coming to an end in 1932. It was revived in 1936 by Gene Ahern and syndicated until 1953, following Ahern's Our Boarding House which he drew from 1921 to 1936.

The Boarding House

"The Boarding House" is a short story by James Joyce published in his 1914 collection Dubliners.

The Boarding House (nightclub)

The Boarding House was a music and comedy nightclub located at 960 Bush Street in San Francisco, California, opened by David Allen in 1971. Robin Williams launched his career there and Steve Martin's first three albums, Let's Get Small, A Wild and Crazy Guy, and Comedy Is Not Pretty were recorded there, in whole or in part. The club was also host to a multitude of musical acts, such as Dolly Parton, Patti Smith, Neil Young, Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Mason Williams, The Tubes, Talking Heads, Old & In the Way, Randy Newman, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, Jim Croce, Harry Chapin and Tom Waits. British progressive rock group Camel played there on 6/26/76 in a performance that was broadcast on KSAN-FM, and cult favorites The Residents also first played there. Ellen DeGeneres and Jay Leno have said they first met at The Boarding House.

Toowoomba Grammar School

Toowoomba Grammar School is an independent, non-denominational, day and boarding grammar school for boys, in East Toowoomba, Toowoomba, Toowoomba Region, Queensland, Australia.

Toowoomba Grammar has a non-selective enrolment policy and currently caters for approximately 1,150 students from Prep to Year 12, including 300 boarders from Years 5 to 12.Some of the Toowoomba Grammar School buildings are listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.

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