FIREPROOF HOMES IN NEW YORK.
In Manhattan, New York, quite recently a Fifth avenue residence was sold, which attracted considerable attention. The house is only twenty-seven and a half feet wide, yet the consideration in the sale was almost $300,000. The cost of the land was considerable, of course, but there remained a wide margin to cover the outlay in building material, labor, and builder’s profit. The dwelling was worth so much and brought so much, because it was a fireproof house—as fireproof as the most modern office buildings in the downtown district. This is undoubtedly the house of the future. The fireproof private dwelling of today is of very recent origin. It is the result of a pressing demand, due to the disastrous tires which visited several residences in this city not long since. The more pretentious and costly the houses built on the old plan, the more dangerous they were found to be when lire got under way. Fire in private houses, it seemed to many, was attended by more fatalities than in the crowded tenements of the poor; for the building and police departments look after the tenements, requiring certain safeguards, both in construction and mainten. anco; but no watch is kept over private dwellings or their occupants.
The introduction of electricity for private tire alarms has proved a source of danger. The wires are installed among timbers and between flooring, and lathing, which have become very dry, combustion takes place easily, and frequently a tire will gel considerable headway and travel in the partitions back of tbs plaster before it is discovered.
To remedy this danger what Is known as the semlflreproof construction has been employed In housebuilding. In this type the first two or three lower tiers of beamsareof iron, filled with llruproot material, and often the partitions In the cellar and one floor above are laid up In fireproof blocks. The remainder of the house has wooden floor beams and wooden stud partitions, with all the open-airspaces between—pracslcally the same construction ns has always been followed in house-building. The metal lath was used for a time, but It was soon discarded. Outside fire-escapes are often added to these dwellings, but these have their dungers and drawbacks. In the houses that are ns nearly fireproof as they can well bo made all of the beams, including even the roof beams, are of iron, and they are tilled in solid between the fireproof arches. Upon these floor beams all of the partitions urebulltof solid fireproof material,at.d In this uninflammable mass are incused the interminable quuntliy of electric wiring, steam pipes, uud Hues of the modern house.
As an additional safeguard, a novel feature is Introduced into some of these dwellings. This la the flreproof interior inclosed staircase. It is usually placed as near the centre of the house as possible, and extends from the top story to the cellar and thence through a fireproof passage to the street. On each floor a fireproof door, hung on selfclosing hinges, opens into the main floor. This affords an absolutely safe exit in case of fire, for the staircase has no wood or inflammable material of any kind, the treads being of slate, and it is practieully waterproof and smokeproof.
With real fireproof construction, people are willing to occupy sleepingrooms high up. But they are not willing to climb many stairs. So the electrical passenger elevator is installed. It requires no attendant, and is operated by pressing a button, the elevator ascending or descending while the finger is on the button, and tlie doors opening automatically when the elevator has stopped. Thus the upper stories are as accessible as the first floor, and many of the newest houses are six stories in height. The top floor is usually fitted up entirely for servants, with many small, but cosy rooms and bathrooms.
Through the medium of fireproof construction a much larger amount of living space is secured. The fireproof partitions are not so thick as those of wood. And then the added story or two is a very decided advantage. It is estimated that the living space in a fireproof dwelling is twenty-five per cent, greater than in tho less modern type. In one twenty-eight-foot house there is 14.440 square feet of floor space. And not only the front rooms, but the rear and courtrooms are pleasant. This is because so much is gained nowadays by mutual restrictions between neighboring owners, whereby areaways are larger and lighter. Much is also gained by the use of white front brick, which gives a light and finished appeaiance, and which never requires painting.
Tho erection of this type of house is necessarily slow, and about two years is consumed from the time plans are ordered from tho architects to tho completion of the dwelling. It is interesting in this connection to note the amount of labor which mechanics can be relied upon to do. Those employed in the building trades work at the maximum forty-four hours per week, namely, eight hours for five days, and four hours on Saturday. But from this maximum service deductions must lie made for holidays, bad weather. strikes, and unavoidable delays, and experience has proved that an average of only thirty-seven hours of laboring time per week is devoted to construction. Added to the cost of labor and materials are the carrying charges, consisting of interest, two years’ taxes, and fees, so that the cost of a really fireproof house is necessarily great. Thus, when the costly interior finish is considered, an estimated outlay of over a quarter of a million for a narrow residence does not seem excessive.