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The Woods at Bath: Pioneers of Real Estate Development

Working paper #428
Harvey Rabinowitz

The eighteenth-century housing projects of John Wood and his son, John Wood the Younger, in Bath, England, are significant contributions to modern real estate develop-ment. The projects are an ensemble consisting of Queens Square, King’s Circus, and the Royal Crescent (30 three-story houses with service basements and attic servants’ quarters, arranged in a flat arc more than 500 feet across) and the connecting streets. The Woods, who were both architects and developers, found debt and equity financing for the proj-ects, and also leased and managed the properties. In integrating these diverse functions and creating projects of lasting significance, Wood and his son were among the first profes-sional real estate developers. Their architectural strategy was to control the public façade of the buildings, while allowing the houses themselves to vary considerably in the rear. They also pioneered the use of the Palladian style in housing terraces. While Bath was a spa town, this approach was emulated in commercial housing in more than twenty British cities, including London, Edinburgh, Brighton, Cheltenham, and Ramsgate.

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