The Epic History of the Condo
Updated: May 1
You’re probably thinking – why do we need a history of something so recent as condos? How old could they be?
Well then you would likely be surprised to learn that the first recorded use of the format we understand as condominium is from more than 2,600 years ago.
Condos were being developed in 6th century B.C. Rome – the term ‘condominium’ comes from the Latin “con” (joint) “dominium” (sovereignty). The Romans, struggling with an influx of rural farmers into urban Rome combined with limited land, developed the idea of owned, apartment style spaces with common areas that were the responsibility of every owner through agreed upon fees.
If you know us here at Hive you would not be surprised by our delight to learn these Italian beginnings to a kind of development we love.
The roots of the condominium are ancient and diverse. According to a Chicago Tribune article by Anthony DeBartolo there is also a 2,400-year-old Aramaic Egyptian papyrus at the Brooklyn Museum in New York (part of what is known as the Elephantine Papyri) that is one of the oldest recorded references to what we understand as condominium ownership.
Papyrus 47.218.91 tells us that a Jewish man, Ananiah, son of Azariah, described as “a servant of Yahweh” at the garrison fortress of Elephantine, gave his wife Tamet, a former Egyptian slave, part of a house on October 30, 434 B.C. The idea being that they had their own portions of the house owned independently by them and shared responsibility for the common areas. Later he structured a similar contract with his daughter.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Aramaic. Property Transfer Document: Ananiah Gives Tamut Part of a House, October 30, 434 B.C.E. (date written). Papyrus, ink, mud, a: Small Box of Fragments: 1 3/4 x 4 1/16 x 4 1/16 in. (4.5 x 10.3 x 10.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Theodora Wilbour from the collection of her father, Charles Edwin Wilbour, 47.218.91a-b )
What do these things tell us? They tell us that for as long as people have been migrating to urban areas, condos have been used to come up with harmonious ways to live together in a way that maximizes land usage, prevents sprawl and even helps family members with home ownership.
Historically condos have been a logical outworking of the need to use limited land space responsibly. According to DeBartolo “A second condo wave took shape during the Middle Ages when many Western European cities, such as Paris, developed as walled fortresses out of fear of attack by marauders.”
Urban growth leads to the necessity of finding creative ways to house large numbers of people. Condos were a response to this, but also an opportunity to continue the important concept of home ownership. By also trying to keep them centrally located it meant that large numbers of people would be within walking distance of critical urban amenities.
The official development of condos did not cross the Atlantic until the 20th century. The concept worked its way up from South America, which saw its first condo development in Brazil in 1928 (where they were called “horizontal property”). The first condos registered in the United States were in 1962, adapted from Puerto Rican legislation, and finally they made it to Canada in 1967 with the development of Brentwood Village in Edmonton, Alberta.
Wow – what a journey from ancient Rome across 2,600 years of history and almost 9,000 km to Canada!
Hive Development believes in condos for all the right reasons – they are an efficient use of land, they offer attainable home ownership, they encourage community and they minimize the need for cars in favour of walking and cycling.
To see where condos have come to in the 21st century, check out The Lexington on 9th at our website www.lexingtonon9th.com where you can virtually tour one of our exceptional units and get loads more information. Who knows, maybe you will become part of this epic story in history as a condo owner!