Early 20th Century Labor Costs

Anatomy of A Rowhouse
What’d it cost to build rowhouses similar to the ones we’re deconstructing on Eager Street? To answer this question, and just about any other question having to do with rowhouses, we turn to Charles Belfoure and Mary Ellen Hayward’s The Baltimore Rowhouse, the absolutely essential reference for all things rowhousey.
baltimorerowhousebook

Buy this book.

When construction began, basements had to be dug. Laborers were paid $1.25 per day, and a team of nine fellows could do the job in two days.
On Eager Street, the next step would have been to lay the brick foundations. Bricklayers were typically paid 60 cents per hour, tying them with plasterers as the top earners among the tradesmen.
brick foundation

After basements were hand dug, bricklayers laid a foundation of extra-hard bricks fired at high temperatures. They were typically paid 60 cents per hour for their work.

As joists were laid, carpenters would have become involved- they made 50 cents per hour.  It’s possible there were several classes of carpenters, much in the same way there are now: framers for the joists and studs, finish carpenters for moldings and trim, cabinetmakers for cabinets and fixtures. Or, it’s possible that a crew of versatile craftsmen were capable of fulfilling all of Frank Novak’s carpentry needs.
exposed joists
After the bones of the house had been assembled, plasterers (60 cents per hour) would have entered the picture. The common laborers who helped all these tradesmen usually earned 33 cents per hour.
Missing from the above-mentioned tradesmen are dozens of specialized artisans and craftsmen who contributed to rowhouses across the city: lathers, tinners, plumbers, carters, glaziers, etc.
Charles Belfoure and Mary Ellen Hayward gleaned the figures above from the records of Edward Gallagher, one of Frank Novak’s biggest competitors. Gallagher’s building costs amounted to roughly $1.18 per square foot. Novak claimed that his costs were 70 cents per square foot, so it’s safe to assume that he paid his workers significantly less than the rates above.
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