Townhouse Styles, Part 2 – Side by Side

The 'side by side' townhouse style is the most popular by far, dominating 80.8% of all active Twin Cities townhouse listings. This style also has the longest history, with roots going back to classical Greece and ancient Rome where deep houses with narrow facades were built in places like Pompeii. Townhouse-like buildings were also found in early US settlements, going back 400 years.

Rowhouses were popular in the 19th century, but over time townhouses lost status in the US, and the emergence of the houses of suburbia after WWII furthered their decline in popularity. When the detached and quad/4 corners townhouse styles emerged in the 1970's, there was renewed interest in 'side by side' styles as well…with a big jump in the 1990's and an explosion in the 2000's. A brief look at current Twin Cities side-by-side townhouse listings by year built shows how dramatic their growth in numbers has been in the last decade.


 Early side-by-side townhouses were long and relatively narrow rowhouses, with windows and doors on  front and back outside walls and shared walls on both sides. This configuration style usually got its square footage from multiple levels (4 stories in the 1800's rowhouse pictured below) which were often long and narrow. With windows on only the two ends they could be dark, but some historic luxury townhomes even had innovative skylights and central light shafts to bring natural light into the center space.

Most early rowhouses currently for sale in the Twin Cities were built in St. Paul in the 1800's and had no garages when they were first built…of course, there were also no cars at that time! These rowhouses were spacious and luxurious…there is one curently listed in St. Paul with 4,800 sq ft for $699,000.

After their popularity in the late 1800's and early 1900's, very few townhouses were built until the 1960's. Units currently for sale from the first half of the 20th century are often duplex conversions.

When they started building townhouses again in the 1960's they were often intended for downsizing empty nesters leaving their houses for freedom from maintenance, snow and lawn care. Units built at this time usually had detached garages, often single car…and were two stories, often with basements. They still tended to be somewhat long and narrow, with front and back outside walls and no side windows due to shared walls.

There was a huge growth in townhomes built in the 1970's, when new styles started to emerge. Rowhouses built in this era were often multi-level, sometimes with as many as 6 different levels. Living and sleeping rooms were still usually on different levels. There was often more green space, sometimes with shared pools and tennis courts. Double garages were now often in front of the units, but usually not attached…sometimes forming a private courtyard between the garage and the unit entrance. Interestingly enough, end units were still often designed like center units, with no side windows.

In the 1980's side-by-side townhouses were usually wider, and many adopted the split entry style popular at that time in both houses and the new quad/4 corners style townhouses. The main living and sleeping areas were both on the main upper level, with a family room on the lower level which was usually daylight or walkout. End units often had a different design from center units, with windows on three sides and sometimes more space.


Side-by-side townhouse styles made a big shift, starting in the late 1980's. As they tried to expand their appeal to first-time and single homebuyers there was a proliferation of mega complexes with units now back to back…meaning there might be 10 units in one building. Instead of a single unit stretching from front to back exterior walls, buildings were now often divided so units were back to back, and center units had three shared walls. Because the units weren't as deep in this style, they often weren't as dark as traditional rowhouse styles, even though center units had only one outside wall for windows and doors. They were usually two stories without basements, and living areas were usually on the main level with sleeping rooms above. These changes made units available at different sizes and prices…with smaller, more affordable center units with single garages, and larger end units with more light, only two shared walls, double garages and higher price tags.

As new styles developed, some garages tucked under the units. That made three levels again, more like the more vertical historic rowhouses. In the 2000's some rowhouse styles started building heated basement garages under the shared buildings, with common access but spaces separated with walls for each unit…combining the original rowhouse look of no garages with the convenience of a heated attached garage with private storage.


Another style which also developed was the one-level townhome. As the mega-townhouse complexes were built to appeal to first-time homebuyers, this style had greater appeal to empty nesters…who were often looking for re-arranged space rather than less space. Some have basements, some don't…some are lined up like rowhouses but some are more creatively spaced and designed to feel like single family homes. Even if you share walls, you may not see your neighbor's driveway. Some current side-by-side townhome listings built in the 1990's and 2000's have over 5,000 square feet and cost $1-3M!

Townhouses have been around for centuries, and there is now a wide range of styles and sizes available…with some complexes small and some huge. Townhouses appeal to buyers for different reasons. Sometimes the appeal is cost savings, but another big draw is freedom from maintenance and snow/lawn care…which translates to greater freedom to travel or have multiple homes in different locations.

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Results -


Written By

I love what I do! Highly insightful, analytical and creative, there is nothing I love more than helping you find the right solution for your real estate transition. My mission is to serve my clients with honesty and integrity, exceeding their expectations in service and support… and to help others by donating a portion of every transaction to Habitat for Humanity.
1 Response

Subscribe to Our Newsletter for Market Updates & Mid-Century Modern Listings

Our weekly HomesMSP Update includes current local market information and a curated list of mid-century modern properties for sale, plus posts from an inspector, a lender, a stager, info about neighborhoods, life in the Twin Cities… even recipes!


Blog Categories


Sharon and John Hensrud

About Us

The HomesMSP Team is committed to meeting you where you are and listening… really listening to understand you so we can use our extensive knowledge of the market and local neighborhoods to give you personalized service.