Oak Park is a community rich with history and Oak Park Apartments likes to highlight that history. Pondering our own history made us curious about the history of apartment buildings and that search led us all the way back to ancient Rome.
Yes, we can thank the Romans for the creation of multi-family dwellings. Back in 1st century BC populations were growing, land was valuable, the workers that were the backbone of village existence had to live close and living had to be affordable. (Some things never change.)
So out of necessity the Romans developed the insula (meaning island, because these buildings took up whole city blocks). Insulas were usually designed around an open courtyard, most were three stories high with shops on the ground level, and were built out of wood with little attention to interior detail. Soon the insula became the most common form of housing in Rome and by the 4th century apartments actually outnumbered private homes by more than twenty-five to one.
Public safety was not a concern until after the Great Fire of Rome. In 64 AD fire burned for days throughout the city. The poor construction of many of the buildings coupled with high winds made it nearly impossible to extinguish the fire. Hundreds died and even more were left homeless.
This devastation led Rome to establish the first building codes. Regulations for the sake of public safety were established regarding such things as using brick as a building material, wall thickness, construction height and a need for multiple ways for tenants to exit the insula. (Once again we see historical parallels.)
So Oak Parkers take look at your own “Oak Park” apartment and see the influence of ancient Rome on today’s modern living. Really not so different. Well, today’s modern amenities – indoor plumbing, heat, electricity, to name a few – do make us grateful for 21st century living.