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An English basement is an apartment on the lowest floor of a building, generally a townhouse or brownstone, which is partially below and partially above ground level and which has its own separate entrance from the rest of the building.
English basements are often rented out separately from the main dwelling, either by a single landlord who owns both portions of the building or by a tenant of the building who sub-lets the English basement. English basements are most common in larger, older cities like London, New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C..
In other cities, such as Chicago and San Francisco, this space is referred to as a "garden apartment".. The phrase "English basement" is an Americanism. In the United Kingdom, this style of apartment is known as a "garden flat". The origin of the term "English basement" appears to be recent, having occurred with the recent gentrification of many older neighborhoods in the inner cities. It appears that Realtors and upper middle class professionals feel uneasy about having to admit that living space exists in the basement of a building - formerly space occupied by a kitchen, the servant's dining room, and wood storage, and perhaps, in the recent past, working class tenants - so they have attempted to give the lower level legitimacy by calling it an "English basement". Some people refer to it as the "garden level". Building codes in most cities betray both phrases, stating that any floor partly below grade-level is simply a "basement" and a floor more than 50% below grade-level is a "cellar".
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