tv Twentieth Century Suburbs CSPAN February 5, 2017 11:55am-1:00pm EST
live from noon to three clock p.m. eastern today on book tv on c-span2. >> you're watching american history tv. 48 hours of american history programming every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. >> on lectures in history, james madison university professor evan friss teaches a class about the evolution of the suburbs from the early 1900s until the present. he talks about how changes to home loan policy come of houses, and the rise of automobiles helped great an alternative to urban living. his class is about an hour. mr. friss: today we are talking about the suburbs. how many of you grew up in the suburbs? almost all of you.
what kind of adjectives would you use to describe the suburbs? >> proud. mr. friss: perhaps an unusual choice. >> like being from nowhere. mr. friss: good. other descriptions, characterizations? >> safe. >> a utopia. mr. friss: a utopia. >> family oriented. mr. friss: family oriented. nicolas, were you going to say something? drew? >> i love this. mr. friss: good. some people, utopia, maybe this is a different generation. i thought people were going to
say lame and boring, which is why i picked this very lame typeface. i thought we would start with an image of contemporary suburbia. this is an engagement shoot. the young couple, take into the suburban street for their engagement. people get married they take , engagement photos. this went around the internet for a while and lots of people, including myself, left it. what is so weird about that? why does this image -- what is the disconnect? >> you would think it should be a scenic place like the woods, not a neighborhood. mr. friss: someplace may be scenic or natural. >> usually has a romantic feel, not random cars everywhere.
mr. friss: romantic. people might take them in nature or the city, places that seem exciting. young couples, we do not usually associate with suburbia. but, what we think about suburbia has changed over time. today we will spend the class thinking about how the notion of a suburb, and it is a notion, what we think about suburbs have changed over time. it depends where we are talking about and who we are asking. we will think about suburbs as a historical construct and what they mean. but i think somebody, maybe nicolas, said it is kind of nowhere. but by definition, it is relative. suburbs only exist, though word suburb is the need for the city.
it is related to the city. it is seen as a nowhere land between the city and rural. we think about culture as maybe being urban or rural. jazz music, hip-hop. those are historically very urban forms of art. and maybe country music or folk art, we think of rural america as having a culture that is very obvious to us, when we would recognize. what is suburban music? suburban art? suburban culture? it can be hard to identify. people who are from the suburbs, maybe not those of us who think they are utopias or drew, who loved growing up there.
but people are often embarrassed to be from the suburbs. i said this because at the beginning of the semester i often ask students where they are from. somebody will say baltimore. and i will say i know baltimore, what neighborhood? and it turns out they live in a podunk town 25 miles outside of baltimore. there are 8 million people who live in new york city. probably 30 million or 40 million people who you ask and they will say they live in new york. no one wants to admit there from new jersey, i guess. [laughter] mr. friss: they do occupy this strange space. we will go back in time and focus on the 20th century and the mid 20th century, in particular. we will have a early prehistory to think about how suburbs came to be. although the word existed all
the way back in the 14th century, the suburban ideal, the concept of suburbia, began in the 19th century. particularly in the second half of the 19th century. it has a lot to do with cities. we talked about in class how cities are growing, becoming more industrialized. over time, cities become associated with chaos, disorder, poor health. as a consequence, people are seeking the calmness of nature as a prescription for better health. people are wanting to escape the city. one of the ways they're are able to do that before they go to the suburbs are with urban parks. here is an example from central park, construction begins a just before the civil war. the idea was, if you cannot live outside the city, at least you could get a taste of the country. so they may live in these its, dirty, crowded city, but they can have the benefit of fresh
air, scenery, florida and fauna, most of which was imported. but nevertheless, seemed very natural. wealthy folk could enjoy the curved path that stood in stark contrast to the gridlike streets of manhattan. as of the 19th century continues and cities become larger and more industrialized, the notion that cities were diseased, filth-ridden, perverted places to live, only grows. some doctors begin to coin medical conditions, one is new york-itis, that makes people morbid and disturbed by virtue of living in the crowded,
chaotic city, with the cacophony, the noise, and all the people. so late in the 19th century, there are a lot of remedies for this. people fleeing the city, maybe farther than central park. there are other natural landmarks. a lot of people are riding bicycles as a way to escape the city. and have some sense of nature outside. so the suburban style take south after the -- takes off after the civil war. a cottage-style house, having fresh air accessible, space, i yard, a garden. some of you mention this notion of suburbs being safe and family-oriented.
that idea begins to take off in popularity, as well. we talked earlier in the clouds, harriet beecher stowe, her sister becomes one of the leading proponents of suburbia, in terms of thinking about these spaces as ideal for family to raise a family and encourage domestic feminism. the suburban aesthetic is seen in a number of ways. we will see one example here from new york. this house was designed by calvert vox -- one of the people that designed central park. this is a big house, 5000 square feet. eight bedrooms, only one bathroom. the idea that epitomized here,
and a lot of suburban architecture was to emphasize nature, and its relationship to nature. they built this house for mr. warren, the treasurer of a railroad company. they built it purposely on the hudson river to take advantage of this beautiful view, the natural splendor. and, situated the house in such a way it was opening up to the riverview. the big parlor rooms inside the house were at the back of the house so they could see the water. there was a big, giant porch on the back where vaux assumed of the residence it spend the summer enjoying the breeze and taking in the breathtaking views. you can see there is a garden, i
yard, emphasizing the space that could be had in the suburbs. a much bigger house and people were living in in the city. one that was supposed to blend in with nature. vaux was concerned about the house not sticking out so much. you can see there are gables that make the house appear very tall. but in the rear, the gables are not there. instead, there is a roof to deemphasize the verticality. there is also a lot of ornamentation. the idea was that these houses could express the emotions of the owners. these window hoods on the first-floor windows, elaborate trim along the gables, as a way to stand out, as a way to have these ornamental flourishes, to
be part of this suburban-style architecture. which was very much intended for wealthier folks who could escape the suburbs. this is interesting to see what the house looks like today. this was a couple years ago. nice-looking house. it was on the market for $285,000. pretty cheap. but it remains a kind of signal of this earlier, impressive era. while some people like vaux where building these suburban-style cottage houses, some wanted to create the first suburban-planned community. one is llewellyn park in new jersey, that sat 12 miles outside new york city. the other, riverside in illinois, which was pretty close, about nine miles from chicago. the idea here was not to create these nice, cottage style homes with their own yard in guarding, but an entire community were
similar folks could come and develop these suburban developments, these neighborhoods. these planned communities. you can see in both of the plans here, there emphasizing nature, the roads are curved. they bring in lots of flora and fauna. in llewellyn park, the lot sizes are quite large and they do not allow fences. the idea, there would be a shared, open space, where any individual owner could roam in this big, public nature grounds. they are kind of interesting examples for several reasons. one of which, in the llewellyn park there is a gatehouse, which they used as a way to promote the idea of privacy, security, these fundamental features of
suburban life that we think of today. but also, they suggest as exclusivity. these were in fact, country homes for very wealthy city people. later in the 19th century we have the origins of streetcar suburbs that had houses that are often a little less elaborate, but interesting, nonetheless. streetcars become popularized in the late 19th century because they become electrified and are able to travel faster. this is an image of pittsburgh. you can see all of the bridges between pittsburgh crossing the rivers around it. these bridges are not carrying automobiles, but rather, pedestrians, railroads, and primarily streetcars. all around pittsburgh, new, suburban streetcar suburbs are
developing. also, squirrel hill, where managers and businessmen can live in these nice, more bucolic spaces, but still manage to get to the city that easily. we think of suburbs primarily as a residential. but they are also industrial suburbs. homestead, pennsylvania, about seven miles outside pittsburgh, is an example of one of these industrial suburbs, and a streetcar suburb that is connected to pittsburgh via this bridge that was erected in 1895. this is not a zoomed in look. what do you find striking about this particular suburb? how does it may be look unusual? >> unlike the others, the streets are very straight and there is no attempt to
incorporate nature. mr. friss: there is a very linear street pattern. they often follow the railroad tracks or streetcar tracks, where development is following transportation. >> it looks like they are close to factories. mr. friss: good, there is a great deal of industry here. this is the homestead steel works which are eventually purchased by andrew carnegie, which became infamous for a labor strike. this is the center of industry. more than half the people living here eventually worked for the steel company. we are not going to spend so much time thinking about these kinds of suburbs. but it is important to remember that manufacturing does often moved to the fringes of cities.
and there are all kinds of different suburbs. i wanted to talk about some of the things that precipitate the modern suburban movement in the mid-1950's. some of that stems from the new deal policies we talked about earlier. in particular, the creation of the homeowners loan corporation, a new deal by product that was trying to help people afford homes. as we discussed a couple weeks back, the great depression produced tremendous homelessness, foreclosures, etc. part of what the new deal wanted to do was create a boom in the construction industry and provide homes for people who needed them. this holc was an effort to provide mortgages for people. in the 19th century, most buyers either built their house, or
they paid cash for it. mortgages were just beginning to become a thing. they were often very short term. you would have to refinance. so that holc offered a longer-term mortgage with a lower monthly payment. one of the interesting things about the holc, they did not want to give out loans that would not be paid back. so they had a very intricate process of assessing neighborhood value. they did not want to give loans to neighborhoods they thought would be in decline. so they created a very detailed system where individual assessors would go to a neighborhood, look at the kind of housing. they would look at how old the housing was, if it was in good shape, to determine if it was a good neighborhood that would hold its value, or a neighborhood that was on decline.
and they made these maps with colors and letters to denote a were the best neighborhoods, and b, c, and d. but as we see from this map from richmond, virginia, the most salient feature in the assessors reports had to do with race. in this case, white neighborhoods tended to be shaded in green or blue, which was the highest ratings. if a neighborhood was populated heavily by african-americans, it was almost always received a d, or red rating. that was certainly the case in this neighborhood we will look at and a minute. which today is randolph. it had an effect on neighboring neighborhoods.
you can see just to the side of this neighborhood is a yellow grouping, that is currently bird park in richmond. the report for this neighborhood said it would have been higher, would have gotten a blue rating, a b rating, but was downgraded because it is next to an african-american neighborhood. and there is a park on this side of the neighborhood. so, african-americans are walking through this neighborhood. thereby, supposedly, devaluing. when the assessors wrote reports like this, in other neighborhoods they included all sorts of detailed information. maybe you cannot see, but under inhabitants, it would often say salaried workers, managerial class, to define the kind of people that worked there, as a way to understand how much money they made, as a way to understand if this neighborhood would become prosperous or maintain itself.
but a neighborhoods dominated by african-americans, the assessor usually just listed negro, and that was enough to designate a red designation. and then there was the term redlining, discriminating against groups by withholding government services, etc. there is been some debate about how much of these ratings mattered in terms of lending practices. but there is no doubt there is certainly a sign of how new deal benefits were being meted out disproportionately. it is perhaps not also a surprise there is a correlation between these maps and poverty rates today. this is an overlay, a map of the original holc map from 1937. areas that she didn't read underneath it -- shaded in red underneath it show a poverty rate.
perhaps the government was good at predicting the future and he's neighborhoods were really in decline. or more likely, the government helped cement the fate of these neighborhoods. so what does it have to do with suburbanization? you notice the areas in red in richmond are at the center, the core of the city. that was often the case. this is a map of chicago. another from cleveland. and finally, in oakland. all of these from 1940, or 1937. you notice the red is that the
city center, the core of the city. the government started to promote by giving loans and incentivizing in other ways, development at the fringes of the city. which happened at the expense of the city center. it also began the process of associating inner cities, city centers, as the neighborhoods of decline. and a, that those neighborhoods of decline where the neighborhoods in which african-americans disproportionately lived. and these ideas would be linked in a way that was -- would be hard to untangle for a very long time. following up on the homeowners --home owners' loan corporation, a bigger and more important new deal association, the fha, becomes a huge part of the
post-war suburban boom that incentivizes suburban building by making home loans much more affordable. and goes even further than the holc in ensuring private loans that will provide long-term loans, with very little down payments. often less than 10% was needed. this similarly operated and a way that promoted discrimination. the fha was more likely to ensure new housing development rather than reconstructing or rehabilitating old development, which meant new housing was likely to be built outside the cities. they were more likely to insure mortgages for single-family houses, the kind that would be very popular in the suburbsl -- suburbs. and appallingly, many that they
subsidize, they promoted the idea of restricted covenant. an agreement that the suburbanites who moved into these neighborhoods would be held to, that made sure they would never sell their house to somebody that was not white. excluding very explicitly african-americans. these covenants would eventually be ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court in 1948 in shelley versus kramer. but discrimination managed to continue in a variety of other ways. these programs are in place before the war. but once the war begins to die down, soldiers are returning home, the g.i. bill is enabling economic growth. we have post-war, suburban boom of that follows world war ii.
during the war, towards the end in 1944, there were about 144,000 new houses built in a single year. by 1950, there would be roughly 2 million houses built in that exact year. by 1950, the rate of suburban growth was more than 10 times that the rate of the city center. these new suburbs were often much less dense. the houses looked very similar, and so did the people. the most famous and largest example of the postwar suburbs was in levittown in long island, 25 miles east of new york city. where abraham levitt and his two
sons buy 2000 acres a potato farm in 1946. and eventually build 70,000 houses. and do so in a way that is reminiscent of mass production. as you can see here. non-unionized workers would go from house to house and do the same task, oftentimes times very minute, over and over again. they really helped revolutionize the building process. as you can see from this aerial image, they had precut lumber that came from the levitt farms. they made these concrete slabs and dump the material out and they would quickly build a house. they were able to build a house at a rate exceeding 150 over. -- a week. the result is that the houses were very affordable because they were built so quickly. the earliest model sold for
$7,900. it is hard to do economic comparisons to today. but it would probably be something like $85,000, $90,000 in today's money. it became very affordable for people in the middle class. people start moving in in 1947 to houses that look like this. it is still standing, but the original cape cod style and floor plan. what do you make of this particular house, compared to other suburban houses? what is interesting? good, it is one floor. it is very basic, it is simple, compact. these cape cod-style houses were only 750 square feet. they only had one bathroom, they were two bedrooms.
these seem pretty small to us and our suburbs today. but at the time, it seemed pretty spacious. and roomy. and had a lot of exciting features for people. most notably, it was your own house. it was detached, it was separate, you had a yard. the house conveyed a sense of family. there were very few private spaces. instead of formal dining rooms, there was a public, much more open kitchen, that was designed so mothers working in the kitchen could look out the front window and watch their children playing in the front lawn. there is no porch, which is often seen as the connection to
the public, the link between the public street and the private house. people hanging out on their porch, a sense of community, things suburbs would be ridiculed as lacking later on. there were no stereotypically male spaces. there are no den, libraries, billiard rooms. in fact, these suburban houses reflect a new male domesticity were men were expected to spend time with their family instead of just hanging out with other male friends. speaking of the community, there are of course, no bars or solutions, -- saloons. at first there were no swimming pools, parks, or playgrounds. eventually those things are built, but it comes much later.
this is only one of the house types. eventually they develop a ranch style. but there are only two kinds of houses that look similar. some people would say it create a lack of diversity in terms of the architecture. suburban architecture tends to look similar, whether it is in long island or somewhere else. perhaps the more important critique is that the people living in levittown all looked fairly similar, as well. in terms of them all being white. by 1960, when 82,000 people are living in this very popular suburban community of levittown , there is not one african-american included, and they are purposely and explicitly excluded.
so, this issue of diversity is one of the critiques of suburbia. but there were many others, even at the time back in the 1940's. and the 1950's and 1960's as they are exploding in popularity. ashley? >> you said something about red linings and restrictive covenants. introduced? i know a lot of white families were selling their homes. mr. friss: good. although restrictive covenants are ruled unconstitutional in 1948, they put a waiting period on it so new communities could create them and they do not negate existing ones. then what happens after those are put in place, there are a
variety of ways, mostly real estate agents, working to make sure african-americans do not purchase any particular neighborhood. the fear was that property values would go down. there are ways of doing this, not just real estate agents steering people in a particular direction, but how you present the community. think about here in virginia. some of you may see suburbs, neighborhoods called the jones plantation. what does that signal to a particular group? i do not know if any of you go pumpkin picking? anybody go pick pumpkins? if you go in town there is a nice place to pick pumpkins that i take my family to every year. but you have to drive through this little suburban development called battlefield state. you drive on confederacy lane.
these are names that signal something to certain people. but what eventually happens, which we are not going to talk about too much today, the city populations decline, and a great impetus for people to move to the suburbs. it is a so-called white flight were neighborhoods are going from white to black. people are trying to defend their neighborhood to make sure they stay white, and do so through all sorts of ways. that is when we have blockbusting and neighborhoods rapidly changing. this is predominantly in the 1950's when you see that as happening much more so. other critiques. while people are boosting suburbia, real estate agents and
banks and mortgage insurers, construction companies -- they are boosting the notion of suburbia and popular television shows are romanticizing a kind of an accessible suburban idea, plenty of people are beginning to question whether or not these are actually utopias. and such great places to live. and part of that critique is about sameness. that there is a mass culture that is developing where people are replicating one another and that there is this concern that the houses all look the same. the pieces look the same. and we will have a very boring culture. ascetical -- that is antithetical to what we want, in terms of culture. there are also unique problems in terms of women.
and the notion of a suburban housewife. and what that does in terms of isolation and female oppression. and women across the country are facing challenges all their own. a get to the idea of housewife, and eventually a suburban housewife, i thought i would show a brief clip from a newsreel of the 1951 mrs. america pageant. what the kindon of housewife -- what mrs. america -- is expected to do. ♪ >> the quest for mrs. america. she has to cook and look. they showed that potatoes have to be peeled. bed making comes next. into the beds go the testers. the best bed by miss new york
city. feels comfortable. but is the body beautiful? that is the well-rounded criteria. the winner is mrs. new york city. beautiful.can be so mrs. america. married women are being rated on how well they can peel potatoes. how well they make beds. as the test.in i'm natural what they are testing for but they are testing the beds. and then they have to look good in a swimsuit to boot, on top of it all. so women in suburbia are facing of what ailing image
suburban housewife should be and what she should do. of the latexample 1940's who lives in a suburb outside new york city -- this woman is talking about how difficult and how busy her life is. she doesn't have a job. not in the typical sense of the up at 6:30 inakes the morning and has three kids. a 4-year-old, 2-year-old and a baby. she dresses the two boys and makes breakfast. goesecond -- the husband to work. cleans downstairs. rates the baby. nurses the baby. make lunch. husband comes home and the kids take a nap. she washes the dishes and nurses the baby again. men's clothes.
dinner for the kids and then she dresses for dinner with her husband has a cocktail with her husband. washes dishes. nurses baby. and it by 11:00 she goes to bed. and in the article, they talk about how they wake up in the middle of the night as well. it is a never ending cycle. this is a lot of work for somebody who wasn't working. and surely, some of you grew up in households where one of your parents stayed home and you probably underappreciated how much they did. my wife stays home with our two boys and her schedule looks something like this, although she doesn't dress up for dinner with me -- i will have to ask her about that. [laughter] these people work really hard and we don't think of it as working but they have tremendous economic value. because if they were working havede the home, someone
to be doing these tasks. of course today, day care is more common but there is real value here. and this photograph symbolizes a weeks worth of her work. so she makes 35 beds. of she washes 750 items glass and china. she prepares 175 pounds of food. laundry in the given week. this photographs for many roles. a driver, seamstress, made, cook. all of these modern appliances that people think -- by the time we get to the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's -- a washing machine and dishwasher,
that it makes life easy but even woman by the mid-60's are spending as much time on housework as they were 50 years earlier. marjorie, part of the extra burden is that she is living in the suburbs and it is isolating. she has to drive her family around all over the place. and cousins and parents and in-laws don't live with them. her neighbors are more distant. she doesn't see people walking in and out of the building. and it could feel and does feel , very isolating. so that is another kind of critique. yet the idea of consumption -- that suburbia is driving american consumption to even greater levels, we have talked about this over and over again in this class about how markers of class and status are not
based on somebody's income but rather based on what they buy and what they consume. what they wear and what they drive. and nothing becomes more class,nt, in terms of then one's home. in terms of achieving the american dream by being a property owner. and that idea is portrayed in this magazine cover from the late 1950's in which a young cover -- a young couple is imagining their future. imagining all their stuff stuck inside of it. and by 1950's, americans buy something like three quarters of all of the appliances in the entire world. one of the more lasting critiques of suburbanization is in terms of the effect on the
environment. because there is a kind of irony here that people are moving to the suburbs to get close to nature. but in the process, they are helping to destroy what might have been more natural landscapes. replaced withng houses and lawns. , gasolineion consumption, energy consumption. all of these things are creating great waste. course, is suburban nature even really nature? to know, if you think back the 11 townhouses in the suburbs you grew up in, people have pieces of rectangular grass, right? what is up with that? in the summer.it
they fertilize it with chemicals. they mow it all the time. what with the grass look like if it was just cap more natural? and of course, the times of grass -- the types of grass that they are growing is not even natural to the area. people are pruning their trees and hedging their lawns to make . perfectly rectangular angles people have bushes. just today on my way to campus, buylked by house a never -- e-house i never noticed before that it has a bush in the shape of a dog. you know, a dog? woof woof? i was about to take a picture but people some he standing in
front of the house and i didn't want to be creepy. but it is weird. everybody pruning their trees. everyone is year, raking their leaves and putting them in plastic bags and then putting them on a truck. is that natural? the guys outside our building machines blowing the everywhere -- it is kind of weird if we think about it. element.ral and of course the areas of critique -- critiques have to do with automobiles. and one of the developments in terms of suburban architecture is, of course, in terms of the garage. the townave noticed buildings in the 1940's didn't have garages. and we talked about automobiles earlier in the class but they are very rare until the 1920's.
people park them may be in stables. it isn't until the 1950's and that garages become integrated into the house. and you can see from this floor plan of a model of the house in 1963, the garage is enormous. theakes up more than 25% of entire square footage of the house. to cars and a whole bunch of junk inside and it becomes a staple of suburban architecture. the dominant garage. the first image we showed in class, the most striking architectural feature of the houses were the protruding garages. they are called snout houses. big they have egg noses -- garages. people are critical of them because they elevate the car and they distance a house from the public and it is often hard to see the front door and the
connection to the people. so, you know, garages are weird. an entire house for just your car. you could drive your car into your house so you don't have to feel the weather or see your neighbors. just drive into your house. this little house. and they are not so little. becomese garages have bigger and bigger as cities have. ashley'sing to question earlier about what is happening in the cities, a lot of people are becoming auto centric and are desiring having a car which is propelling people to move to the suburbs. and some cities, cognitive of this -- are trying to promote automobiles in the city. of ais one famous example residential skyscraper in chicago from 1964 called marina city and it is a little hard to tell but at the bottom of this
giant building is this many 900 space valet to garage, where people could park their cars. way tos was done as a stem white flight and to encourage people in chicago to not move to the suburbs where you could have euro garage. you can have it here in the city, too. this is what it looks like today. they are all backed in by valets and you are not allowed to drive it yourself. it is a striking building but elevating the idea of the car. we have already talked about -- in our last class -- the highway act that creates all of these roads in the mid-1950's. but in terms of their effect on the urban and suburban landscape, we should not forget about that. about the size, gravity and effect of these highways. this is from los angeles, the
eye 10 and 110 exchange. it shows you the immense nature of these highways that are helping to funnel people out of the cities and into the suburbs. accessll allowing them and where these highways were built inside the city or on the periphery was often determined will of aitical certain community. how well-off and affluent a community was. and often times the racial makeup. highways often cut through 's neighborhoods. that happens even down the street here in harrisonburg. of the a photograph street down in downtown harrisonburg in 1957. a neighborhood known as new town, filled with many african-americans.
and harrisburg is not a huge city, it begins to think about suburban eyes in the city. making it more car friendly. the roads. creating retail shopping centers. and you can see the giant hole here that used to be the neighborhood. and if you want to know how beautiful this place is today, it is this wonderful parking lot and shopping center that nobody goes to. and it is kind of ugly. there are these suburbanization elements that creep into the city. are still felt today. every time the city considers some new project, people go to the city council to voice their concern about loss of parking and there is a great concern about how much parking there is. so one of the things that these onhways do is enable planned, scattered bits of the
city spread across. and los angeles is probably the most famous example. in the very distance is downtown l.a., and all of the low-density housing and commercial district leading towards los angeles. reality, l.a. is more dense than other places. but you still get the idea. a more striking example of nevada. a subdivision created in the middle of the desert. 30 these people go grocery shopping? where do they work russian mark where do they play? they have to drive everywhere. and it is completely separate. and of course, to think about the environmental consequences of this is obvious. they the time he get to 1960's, a number of these critiques of suburbia have blossomed enough so that a
number of innovators were trying to do something different. in creating a flurry of new talents like reston, virginia. irvine, california and columbia maryland. started by somebody named james ralph who was concerned about the scroll between baltimore and washington. he created the city of columbia between those two cities. because he was afraid that the current housing represented where people were living and were sprawling from the cities. that these dots would essentially swallow columbia and everything between baltimore and washington would be an un-sprawling, unplanned mess. so he took this opportunity to buy 14,000 acres of land, which was rural, from farmers.
and he decides that he will section off this place to create a new kind of suburbs. withhat explicitly deals the limitations and problems of suburbs. and he secretly buys all of this land and eventually, he comes to the public with creating this new city. and a lot of people were happy to hear that because there were rumors spread that someone was flying all of this land to create a garbage dump for all of baltimore and washington's trash. so people thought this was a better idea. his idea was to create a new city from scratch. and the symbol of this new city is this tree. a people tree. and he has a corny phrase that he wanted to create "a garden to grow people." what are the ingredients of the soil? what do you need to create the
best kind of community, the best kind of people? write downn was to the city into smaller bits and you can see that on this plan here. -- the idea have was to have a town center with a series of nine villages. that people felt more comfortable in small-town america. and the suburbs could be a hybrid of small-town america with villages and their own kind of main street. a shopping center that would also have a bustling downtown with industry and commerce and an urban pull. and he is thinking about existing problems with suburbs. bedroom communities where only people live and he wanted to counter that. he is thinking about suburbs that are all white and he goes to great lengths to create a much more diverse community.
and many other kinds of examples that we will see in a moment. these villages, the blue dot represented a town center. where the community could supposedly come together. so the first village, and this is a rendering of what it might look like, was known as "wild lake." you can see a number of trademark elements. lake.here was a the idea that the suburb was going to respect nature instead of running over. it was also broken down into smaller neighborhoods. each of which had its own elementary school. the understanding that school was at the center of the community and that each neighborhood would coalesce around a particular school. here saysf buildings
churches, but in reality, they created interfaith centers where they actually forbade churches, synagogues and mosques from being created. but instead had the interfaith centers where christians, jewish, muslims and others would worship under the same roof, to hopefully promote a sense of community and understanding. along the same lines, in each of these villages there was a community pool. people were not allowed to have their own pool so they would be forced to swim with other people. own couldn't have their mailbox. instead, community mailboxes so you had to get out into the street and see her neighbors. and think about this sense of community in a real way. and some interesting smaller details -- you can see that they
named the communities and streets after american poets and writers as a way to try to instill creativity and fostering a sense of intellectualism. and columbia, of course, was created in the time of cars but there was a hope it wouldn't be as auto centric. ralph planned -- they are hard to see -- shaded lines which are bike paths which linked schools to the people and community to community. he imagined that would foster another way of moving around this kind of new city. again, an antithesis to the existing suburbs. all of this would combine at the downtown center which would really provide the center of activity, center of culture and the excitement.
but instead of building a traditional downtown with a series of intersecting streets and restaurants and public , in downtown columbia, a relatively new concept at the time, the downtown became essentially a mall. built in 1971, the columbia mall was the 16th mall in the country. galleria atit the the time. but it became emblematic of what new suburbs were going to look like. where commerce was going to be stranged in these structures. the mall. which on one hand is very auto centric. we can see the mall surrounded by a host of parking spaces. and this makes it inaccessible for people who don't have cards theit helps to control people who shop there. but the malls are kind of like
suburbs themselves. be this mixposed to framean -- ucb space geometry on the roof of the mall grid.signals a geometric there are pavers that make you feel like an outdoor plaza. there are little vendors with kiosks where people send you monogrammed sweatshirts or whatever, or a cell phone plan. streetlights, supposed to make it look outside inside. there are birds in these places. i don't have the put them there or they just get in. and you kind of feel like you are outside. but they're not like a city because they imported ficus trees from florida. and everything is controlled.
the natural elements like the waterfall and the trees but everything is planned. there are no homeless people. there are no pornography shops. they are not really urban spaces . a purified notion of what an urban space might be. -- we talk more about all of more about malls as the center of urban culture in the 1980's and eventually that this becomes downtown columbia at the expense of everything else. in what happens in columbia, the 1970's and 1980's, and the mimicked in other places. it remains more racially inclusive than other suburbs but it has become -- many of the progressive elements, the things that try to be less suburban
like -- have gradually moved to become more suburban like. people are building their own pools instead of going to a community pool. correcting fences. the bike path i showed you earlier -- the person on the bicycle was my mom who lives there. and i was standing on the bike path waiting to take a photograph of somebody walking or riding the bike but nobody came. and everyone drives even if they live a mile or half mile from the shopping center. everybody drives. so asked my mom to stage the photograph. and she kindly did. communitynse of hasn't panned out so much. the interface centers and some of the churches, the community's bluetooth fringes of the city. one of the largest synagogues in town decided they didn't want to share space with other religions anymore and built their own very
nice synagogue outside this town, cannibalizing the demand for the interfaith centers. and people are private. even my parents who live there, who are friendly, nice people. their blinds are always drawn. even in the front of their house -- they have these drapes that are permanent. so you can't see out and people can't see in. i was talking to a neighbor recently who live there for 30 years and they only knew the name of one person on the entire block. so some of these things didn't pan out the way ralph had helped . they became more private and corporate and had more sprawl. so we don't have time to discuss the diversification of the suburbs and the politicization of the suburban vote. the rise of mcmansions and gated private communities.
that hasf these change been happening in suburban developments but we can return photo ofur engagement the half developed cul-de-sac here. to think maybe we still decry suburbs as mediocre or lame or boring. but we still very much live in a suburban nation. more than half of americans describe themselves as suburban. and suburbs are changing. malls, strip malls, big-box retailers -- they are beginning to suffer with the rise of e-commerce. maybe we will have self driving cars. who knows? suburbs will surely change. they remain interesting places to study. dios.
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