This may be the oldest question in Planning but why when things were much more expensive and tedious to build were grand houses and building created and now that things are relativity inexpensive are houses and buildings so bland?
I look around and excluding the new mansions of the very wealthy it seems like all the ornate and intricate houses are in older areas which now tend to be more run down. I always look at crown molding in rooms as an example - 100 years ago when it was harder to produce most molding was intricate and detailed and now that it is easy to make it is bland, unoriginal, and usually press-board.
People say the answer is because developers want to get things up cheaply and quickly to make the most money but I see a few problems with that.
1. Were developers and contractors not motivated by money before Levittown? Was this development the turning point in construction history?
2. Why / when did home owners start accepting non-detailed houses as acceptable? Why do many towns have poorer people in beautiful homes and middle-class people in bland ranch homes?
Please be aware I am not speaking to specific well-off neighborhoods like Boston's Beacon Hill or Saint Paul's Summit Avenue for this question but rather the entire town in general.