The Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize is awarded annually to the publication that has made the most significant contribution to the study of the vernacular architecture and landscapes of North America. This year’s Cummings Prize committee included Betsy Cromley, Chair; Ritchie Garrison; and Tom Hubka. Our charge was to look for the publication that best exemplifies the spirit of the award—a work based on primary research that emphasizes fieldwork, that breaks new ground in interpretation or methodology and that contributes generally to the intellectual vitality of vernacular studies in North America.
In Baltimore’s Alley Houses, Hayward traces Baltimore’s little known history of housing for the urban working class through a series of chapters documenting the modest dwellings of successive immigrant groups: Irish, Germans, Bohemians, and African-Americans. She uses a range of sources including historical documents, literature, and fieldwork. Her concentration on the builders, developers, immigrant loan networks, and working class owners/renters is a model for understanding the complexities of American urban housing. Well written and thoroughly illustrated with plans and rare historic photographs, the book is an ideal blend of architectural and social/cultural history about a neglected area of common housing. Mary Ellen Hayward’s book is an important contribution to the history of American urban vernacular housing.
Chair, Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize Committee