Member News

Thomas C. Hubka: VAF 2021 Cummings Award and University of Mary Washington Award

by Vernacular Architecture Forum & SAH News | Jul 01, 2021

In a field of extraordinary new publications covering a wide range of buildings and landscapes from California to Germany, this year’s Abbott Lowell Cummings Award winner forces us to rethink something we thought we understood: common American housing in the first half of the twentieth century.  Thomas C. Hubka’s, How the Working-Class Home became Modern, 1900-1940, is an important and beautiful book, the culmination of decades of Hubka’s patient and rigorous fieldwork, and a discerning analysis of buildings, documents, and previous scholarship.

Hubka’s book delineates the critically important, yet often overlooked, steady and dramatic improvements in the basic amenities of working-class homes, a process long missed by scholars who examined housing by reading prescriptive and marketing literature and paying primary attention to new houses designed for wealthier Americans. In 1900, a surprising number of the residences of those Hubka calls the “middle majority” still lacked amenities such as three-fixture bathrooms, electricity, and bedroom privacy. But by 1940, a remarkably short period of transformation including the Great Depression, huge gains had been made, pushing this middle majority towards a common material life of middle-class comfort. The working class often obtained this convenience and status through the remodeling of existing housing and in multiple family dwellings.

Read the full article with illustrations here

Hubka's book also won a 2021 Historic Preservation Book Prize from University of Mary Washington.  Established by the Center for Historic Preservation in 1988, the Historic Preservation Book Prize is awarded annually by a jury of preservation academics and professionals to the book with the most potential for positively impacting the discipline of historic preservation in the United States. In making its selection, the jury focuses on books that break new ground or contribute to the intellectual vitality of the preservation movement.  Read more about the Historic Preservation Book Award here.

Thomas C. Hubka initially joined SAH in 1979.  

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