tv Twentieth Century Suburbs CSPAN September 1, 2017 10:33am-11:40am EDT
america. we're the only country in the history of the world that was created and defined by an idea. therefore, in order to keep the republican as franklin enjoined us to do, we must know those ideas, we must understand those ideas, we must buy into those ideas and we must live those out. join our live conversation with mr. metaxes live sunday at noon eastern on book tv on c-span 2. now, on lectures in history, it's james madison university profess professor evan friss. he talks about how changes to home loan policies, the mass production of houses and the rise of automobiles helped
create an alternative to urban living. his class is about an hour. how many of you grew up in the suburbs? okay. almost all of you. and what kind of adjectives would you use to describe the suburbs? >> i can't hear you. >> proud. >> proud. okay. perhaps an unusual choice. nicolas. >> like being from nowhere. >> like being from nowhere. good. other descriptions? characterization? >> safe. >> safe. good. as lexie points out. cassidy. >> utopia. >> a utopia. emily? >> family oriented. >> family oriented. >> nicolas, were you going to say something? no. drew?
>> i loved it. >> okay. good. i mean, 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 type face. and i thought we'd start with an image of contemporary suburbia which is this is an engagement shoot. a young couple who have taken to the suburban street for their -- you know people get married. they take engagement photos. and this was -- this went around the internet for a while. and lots of people including myself laughed at it. so what's so weird about that? why does this image seem -- what's the disconnect? allie? >> usually engagement pictures
are at like i don't know at a scenic place like outside like in the woods or something and this is like in a neighborhood. >> okay. so somewhere maybe scenic or natural. >> usually have a more romantic feel to it, not just random cars parked everywhere. >> okay, romantic. people might take them in nature or the city, places where it seems exciting. young couples we don't usually associate with suburbia. but what we think about suburbia has changed over time and today, we're going to spend the class thinking about how the notion of a suburb, and it is, of course, a notion what, we think about suburbs have changed over time. it depends where we're talking about and who we're asking. but we're going to think about
suburbs as a kind of historical construct. but i think somebody maybe it was nicolas, i'm not sure, said it's kind of nowhere. but by definition, it's relative. right? suburbs only exist -- the word suburb is beneath the city. it's related to the city. it's seen as a kind of nowhere land between city and rural. i was thinking about this the other day. you know, we think about culture as maybe being urban or rural, jazz music, hip-hop, those are historically very urban kind of forms of art. and maybe country music or folk art, we think about rural america as having a very a culture that's very obvious to us and one we would recognize. but what is suburban music? suburban art? suburban culture?
these kinds of things? it can be hard to identify and people who are from the suburbs may be not those of us who think they're utopians or drew who loves growing up there, but you know, people are often embarrassed to be from suburbs and i say this because at the beginning of the semester, i often ask students where they're from and somebody will say baltimore. i'll say oh, i know baltimore. well, what neighborhood? and it turns out they live in some podunk town you know, 25 miles outside of baltimore. or you know, there are 8 million people who live in new york city but probably 30 million or 40 million people who you ask where they live they would say in new york. nobody wants to admit they're from new jersey i guess but they do occupy this kind of strange space. so we're going to go back all
the way in time. we're going to focus on the 20th century and the mid 20th century in particular but we'll do some early prehistory to think about how suburbs came to be. and much of although the word existed all the way back in the 14th country century, the concept of suburbia really began in the 19th century, particularly in the second half of the 19th century. and it has a lot to do with cities and we've talked about how cities are growing and over time they become associated with chaos, disorder, poor health. and as a consequence, people are seeking the tonics of nature as a kind of prescription for better health, people are wanting to escape the city. and one of the ways they're able to do that before they build suburbs are with urban parks and here's an example. from central park, construction begins just before the civil
war. and the idea was if you can't live outside of the city, at least you could get a taste of the country. so they may live in these kind of squalid dirty, crowded city. but they can have the benefit of fresh air, scenery, flora and fauna, most of which was imported but nevertheless, seed very natural and wealthy folk could enjoy the curved paths that stood in stark contrast to the grid like streets of manhattan. and as 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. and in fact, some doctors even begin to coin medical conditions, one is new yorkitis that affects people who live in
new york who become morbid and disturbed by virtue of just living in the crowded chaotic city with the cacophony, the noise, and all of the people. and so late in the 1th century, there are a lot of remedies for this, new parks, people fleeing the city, maybe farther than central park but other parks or 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 kind of style kind of takes off after the civil war and people begin to emphasize having a detached hope, an cottage style house, having fresh air, accessible space, a yard, a garden. and some of you mentioned had
notion of suburbs being safe and family oriented. and that idea begins to take off in popularity, as well. we talked about earlier in the class harriet beecher stow the famous author, her sister actually becomes one of the leading proponents of suburbia in terms of thinking about these spaces as ideal for family to raise a family and to encourage a kind of domestic feminism. and the suburban as they tick is seen in a number of ways. we'll see one example here from a house in newburg, new york. this house was designed by calvert vox who is one of the two people who designed central park. so there's a lot of overlapping
themes here. this is a big house, 5,000 square feet. eight bedrooms. only one bathroom. and the idea that's epitomized here but in also a lot of early suburban architecture was to emphasize nature and its relationship to nature. so they built this house for mr. warren who was the treasure riff some railroad company. the treasurer of a railroad company. they built it purposefully right on the hudson river to take advantage of this beautiful view, the natural splendor, and situate the house in a way that it was opening up to the riverview. the big parlor rooms inside the house were in the back of the house so that they could see the water. there was a big giant porch on the back where they assumed, vox
assumed that the residents would spend their summer enjoying the breeze and taking in the breathtaking view. and you can also see, of course, there's a garden, a yard. emphasizing the space that could be had in the suburbs. a much bigger house than most people were living in the city and one that was supposed to blend in with nature. so vox was very concerned about not having the house stick out so much. even though it was large, so you'll notice that the front of the house has these gables that make the house appear very tall but in the rear, those gables are not there, but instead, there's a kind of hipped roof to deemphasize the verticality. and there was also a lot of ornamentation and the idea was that these houses could express
the emotions of the owners, there are 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 was going to be part of this suburban style architecture. which was very much intended for wealthier folks who could escape the suburbs. this is just kind of 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. so while some people like vox were building these suburban cottage style houses, others were thinking about creating the first suburban planned communities. and a couple of examples, one, llewellyn park in new jersey which sat just about 12 miles outside new york city and the
other riverside in illinois which was pretty close, about nine miles from chicago. and the idea here was not just to create these nice cottage style homes with their own yard and garden, but to create an entire community where similar kinds of folk could come and develop these suburban developments. these neighborhoods, these planned communities. and you can see in both of the plans here again, they're emphasizing nature. the roads are all cuffed. they bring in lots of flora and fauna. in llewellyn park, the lot sizes are quite large and they don't allow fences and so the idea was there was going to be this shared open space where any individual owner could kind of roam in this big public nature ground. and they're kind of interesting examples for several reasons but one of which you'll also notice in the llewellyn park, there's a
gate house which they used as a way to appropriate the idea of privacy, security, these kind of fundamental features of suburban life that we think of today but also of course, to suggest 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 have houses that are often a little lessee lab rat but interesting nonetheless. and streetcars become popularized in the late 19th century because they become electrified and they're able to travel much faster. this is an image of pittsburgh and you can see all of the bridges between pittsburgh crossing the rivers around it. and these bridges are not carrying automobiles but rather
pedestrians, railroads but primarily streetcars. and so all around pittsburgh, new suburban streetcar suburbs as they called them are developing, some tony suburbs like squirrel hill were managers and businessmen can live in these nice more bucolic spaces but still manage to get to the city pretty easily. we think of suburbs primarily, of course, as residential but they're also in industrial suburbs and homestead, pennsylvania, which is about seven miles outside of pittsburgh is an example of one of these industrial suburbs and a streetcar suburb that's connected to pittsburgh via this bridge that was erected in 1895. so this is not a zoomed in look here, but what do you find striking about this particular suburb? how does it maybe look? unusual.
greg? >> unlike the other ones, all the streets are very straight and there's no attempt to incorporate nature. >> good. there's very rectilinear street pattern, linear street pattern. if you notice, they often follow the railroad tracks or streetcar track where development is following transportation. yeah. >> looks like there's factories close to the suburbs, too. >> good. so there's a great deal of industry here. this is the homestead steel works that are eventually purchased by andrew carnegie, becomes famous or infamous for a labor strike. but yeah, this is a center of industry and kind of becomes a company town where more than half of the people living here eventually work for the steel
company. so we're not going to spend so much time thinking about these kinds of suburbs but it's important to remember that manufacturing often does move to the fringes of the cities and but i want to talk about some of the things that really precipitate the modern suburban movement in the mid-1950s and some of that stems from the new deal policies that we talked about earlier. and in particular, the creation of the homeowner's loan corporation. the holc, a new deal by-product that was trying to help people afford homes. as we discussed a couple of weeks back, the great depression, of course, produced
tremendous homelessness, foreclosures, et cetera. and part of what the new deal wanted to do was to create a boom in the construction industry and also provide homes for people who needed them. so 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. and mortgages were just beginning to become a thing but they were often very short term. you would have to refinance and so the holc promoted a longer term mortgage with therefore a lower monthly payment. but one of the interesting things about the holc is, is, of course, they didn't want to give out loans that weren't going to be paid back. so they had a very intricate process of assessing neighborhoods. values and they didn't want to give loans to neighborhoods that they thought would be in decline. so they created a very detailed
system where individual assessors would go to a neighborhood and they would look at the kind of housing, they would look at how old the housing is, whether it was in good shape to try to determine if it was a really good neighborhood that was going to hold its value or a neighborhood that was on decline. and they made these maps with colors and letters to denote a was -- a were the best neighborhoods, then b, c, and d. but as we'll see from this example of a 1937 map from richmond, virginia, the most salient feature in the assessor's reports had to do with race. and in this case, white neighborhoods tended to be shaded in green or blue, which were the highest ratings and if a neighborhood was populated heavily by african-americans, it would almost always receive a d or red rating.
and that was certainly the case in this neighborhood that weigh look at in a minute which today is randolph. and it had an effect even on neighboring neighborhoods. you can see just to the side of this neighborhood is a yellow grouping. that's currently bird park in richmond. and the reports for this neighborhood say that it would have been higher, it would have got. a b rating, but was downgraded because it's next to after african-american neighborhood and there's a park on this side of the c4 neighborhood. so african-americans are walking through this neighborhood. thereby supposedly devaluing them. and when the assessor's wrote reports like this in other neighborhoods, they included all sorts of detailed information. and maybe you can't see, but under inhabitants often it would
say salaried workers, managerial class, to define the kind of people who worked there, as a way to understand how much money they made as a way to understand if this neighborhood was going to become prosperous or at least maintain itself. but in neighborhoods dominated by african-americans the assessor usually just listed negro and that was enough to warrant a red designation. and this is the part of the origin of the term known as red lining which came to mean discriminating against certain minority groups in terms of providing services, financial services, government services, et cetera. now, there's been some debate about how much these ratings actually mattered in terms of lending practices. but there's no doubt that there's certainly a sign of how new deal benefits were being meted out disproportionately and
perhaps it's not also a surprise that there's a correlation between these maps and poverty rates today. this is an overlay, a map of the original holc map from 1937. and the areas shaded in red underneath it are areas that are -- that experience more than 20% poverty rate. and perhaps the government was simply good at predicting the future and these neighborhoods were really in decline or more likely, the government helped cement the fate of these neighborhoods. so what does this have to do with suburbanization? you'll notice that the areas in red in richmond tended to be at the center, at the core of the city, and 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 like richmond. and you'll notice that the red is at the city center, the core of the city. and so the government started to promote by giving loans and incentivizing in other way development at the fringes of the city. which happened at the expense of the city center. and it also began the process of associating inner cities, city centers as the neighborhoods of decline and similarly, that those neighborhoods of decline were the neighborhoods in which african-americans disproportionately lived. and these ideas would become linked in a way that was hard to -- that would be hard to untangle for a very long time.
following up on the homeowners loan corporation, another even bigger and more important new deal program known as the fha, the federal housing administration, which 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 providing insuring private loans that will provide very long-term loans with very little down payments, often less than 10% was needed. and this similarly operated in a way that promoted discrimination. so the fha would often, was more likely to insure new housing development rather than reconstructing or rehabilitating old development which, of course, meant new housing was more likely to be built outside of the cities.
they were more likely to insure mortgages for single family houses, the kind that would be very popular in the suburbs. and perhaps most appallingly in many of the new suburbs that the fha subsidized in a way, they promoted the idea of restrictive covenants. agreements that the suburbanites who moved into these neighborhoods would be held to that made sure they would never sell their house to somebody who was not white. excluding very explicitly african-americans. these covenants would eventually be ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court in 1948 in shelley versus cramer. but discrimination managed to continue in a variety of other ways. so these programs are in place
before the war but once the war begins to die down, soldiers are returning home. the gi bill is enabling all sorts of economic growth. we have really post-war suburban boom that follows world war ii. and during the war towards the end of the war 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. and by 1950, the rate of suburban growth was more than ten times that the rate of the city center. so these new suburbs were often must less dense before, often the houses looked very similar and so did the people. and the most famous and largest example of these post-war suburbs was in levittown in long
island, about 25 miles east of new york city. where abraham levitt and his two sons buy 4,000 acres of potato farms in 1946 and eventually build 17,000 houses and do so in a way that's reminiscent of mass production. as you can see here. nonunionized workers would go from house to house and do the same task, oftentimes very you know, minute over and over again. and they really helped revolutionize the building process. so as you can see from this aerial edge they had precut lumber that came from the levity farms. and they made these concrete slabs, 60 feet apart and they dumped all the materials out, and they would quickly build a house.
very, very quickly. they were able to build houses at a rate exceeding 150 a week. and the result was that the houses were very affordable since they were built so quickly. the earliest model sold for $7900. and it's hard to do kind of economic comparisons to today, but would probably be something like $85,000, $90,000 in today's money. so they became very affordable for many people any the middle class and people start moving in in 1947. to houses that look like this. this is one that's still standing. but the original cape cod style and floor plan. so what do you make of this particular house? compared to other suburban houses? what's interesting?
>> good, it's one floor. emily? >> really basic. >> it's very basic. it's simple. it's compact. good. these cape cod style houses were only 750 square feet. they only have one bathroom. they're two bedroom. these seem pretty small to us in our suburbs today but at the time, seemed pretty spacious and roomy and had a lot of exciting features for people. most notably, of course, 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 just a public much more open kitchen that was
designed so that mothers working in the kitchen could lock -- look out the front window and watch their children playing in the front lawn. there's no porch, which is often seen as the kind of connection to the public of what makes the link between the public street and the private house, right? hanging out on their porch. a sense of community, things that suburbs would be ridiculed as lacking later on. and there were no sort of stereotypical male spaces. there's no den, library, billiard room. and in fact, these kind of suburban houses reflect a new male domesticity where men were more likely to be 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 saloons where men or other people are hanging out. and at first, there weren't any swimming pools, parks or playgrounds. this was really all about the house. eventually some of those things are built but that comes much later. there's also, of course, this is only one of the house types, eventually they develop a ranch style. but there are basically only two types of houses, they all look very similar and some people would suggest help create a lack of diversity in terms of the architecture, suburban architecture indeed tends to look similar whether it's in long island or somewhere else. but perhaps the more -- the more important critique is that the people living in levittown all looked fairly similar, as well. at least in terms of them all being white.
by 1960, when 82,000 people are living in this very popular suburban community of levittown, there's not one african-american included. and they are purposefully and explicitly excluded. so this issue of diversity is, of course, one of the critiques of suburbia. but there were many others, even at the time back in the 1940s as they're starting out and the 50s and '60s as they're exploding in popularity. ashley? >> yeah, i had a question. you had said something about red lining and restrictive covenants. but when was like block busting introduced? i know during that type, a lot of white families were selling their homes. >> good. so although restrictive covenants are ruled unconstitutional in 1948, a lot -- they sort of put a waiting period on it so a lot of
communities, new communities are able to actually create them and they don't negate existing ones and then what happens, of course, even after those are put in place, there are a variety of ways mostly real estate agents that are working to make sure that african-americans don't purchase in a particular neighborhood because the fear was that have property values would go down. and there are all sorts of ways of doing this not only real estate agents steering people in a particular direction but how you present the community, think about even here in virginia, you know, some of you may see suburbs, neighborhoods that are called you know, the jones plantation. what does that signal to a particular group? or i don't know if any of you ever go pumpkin picking. anybody ever go pick pumpkins?
yes. if you go in town here there's a great little nice place to pick pumpkins that i take my family to every year but you have to drive through this little suburban very many. -- suburban development and it's called battlefield estates an you drive on confederacy lane. these are names that signal something to certain people. but what eventually happens which we're not going to talk about too much today, of course, is that the city populations declined as a great impetus for people it move to the suburbs and families are beginning, the so-called white flight, where neighborhoods are going from white to black. and people are trying to so-called defend their neighborhoods to make sure that they stay white, and do so through all sorts of ways and that's when we have block busting and neighborhoods rapidly changing is predominantly in the '50s when
you start to see that as happening much more so. but good question. so other critiques, while people are boosting suburbia, real estate agents, developers, banks, mortgage insurers, construction companies are boosting the notion of suburbia while popular television shows are romanticizing a kind of almost inaccessible suburban idea. plenty of people are beginning to question whether or not these are actually utopias. and great places to live. and part of that critique is, of course, about sameness. that there's this mass culture that's developing where people are replicating one another and that there's this concern that houses all look the same. the pieces all look the same and we're going to have this very boring staid culture that is
antithetical to perhaps what we want especially in terms of culture. there's some 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 whether in cities, suburbs or rural areas of course, are facing challenges all their own. but to get to this idea of a housewife and eventually a suburban housewife, i thought i'd show a brief clip from a news reel of the 1951 mrs. america pageant. so pay attention what the kind of housewife, what miss america, is expected to do. >> a quest for mrs. america. she's got to cook as well as look.
32 married lovelys show they know potatoes have to be peeled. the cooking contest to new york city with the cheese casserole and then bed making comes next. into the beds go the testers. the best beds by mrs. new york city. hmm, feels comfortable. but it's the body beautiful that's the criterion for the well rounded mrs. america. ♪ the winner is mrs. new york city. mrs. maynard duncan. yes, wife can be beautiful. >> so you know, mrs. america, the married women being rated on how well they can peel potatoes, how well they make beds, and the men come in as the test -- i don't know what they're testing for but they're testing the bed. and then of course, they have to
look good in a swimsuit to boot. on top of it all. and so women in suburbia are facing this prevailing image of what a suburban housewife should be and has to do. and their lives are quite challenging. this is one example of a woman marjorie from the late 1940s who lives in a suburb about 20 miles outside new york city. and she's talking about just how difficult and how busy her life is, right? she doesn't have a job in the typical sense of the word, but her schedule -- she wakes up at 6:30 in the morning. she has three kids, a four year old, a two year old and a baby. she wakes up at 6:30. she dresses the two boys, makes breakfast. her husband goes to work. washes dishes, cleans downstairs. the kids are out playing. bathe the baby, cleans upstairs, nurses the baby, makes lunch, makes lunch for the kids. husband comes home, the kids
take a nap. she washes the dishes, nurses the baby, wakes up the kids, gardens, mends clothes, fixes a snack, dinner for the kids, gives them baths, then she dresses for dinner with her husband. has a cocktail with her husband, makes dinner for her husband, washes dishes, nurse baby, kids go to sleep, and at 11:00 she goes to bed. in the article she talks about how they wake up in the middle of the night, too. it's a never-ending cycle. this is a lot of work for somebody who is not working, and surely some of you grew up in households where one of your parents stayed home and probably under-appreciated 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 to dipper with me. i'm going to have to ask her
about that. but, you know, these people are working really, really hard, and we don't think of them as working, but of course they have tremendous economic value. because if they were working outside the home, somebody would have to be doing these tasks. today, of course, daycare is more common, but there's real value here. and this photograph is symbolizing one week's worth of her work. they assembled. so she makes in a given week 35 beds and she washes 750 items of glass and china, 400 pieces of silverware, she prepares 175 pounds of food, she does 250 pieces of laundry, in a given week. in the article accompanying this photograph, she talks about her many roles. she's a driver, a seamstress, a maid, a cook, a nurse, and her husband's glamour girl. and she has all of
these modern appliances. people think now by the time we get to the '40s and even more so the '50s and '60s that a washing machine and dishwasher makes life easy, but, in fact, women even by the mid '60s are spending just as much time on housework as they were 50 years earlier. but for marjorie, part of the extra burden is she is living in the suburbs and it is isolating. she has to drive her family around all over the place. her aunts, her cousins, her parents, her in-laws don't live with them. her neighbors are more distant. she doesn't see people, you know, walking in and out of the building, and it can feel and does feel for her very isolating. so that's another, of course, kind of critique. yet another is the idea of sun consumption that suburbia is
driving american consumption to even greater levels. we've talked about over and over again in this class how markers of class and status aren't based on somebody's income but rather based on what they buy, what they consume, what they wear, what they drive. nothing becomes more important in terms of class than one's home and in terms of achieving the so-called american dream by being a property owner. and that idea is portrayed in this magazine cover from the late 1950s in which a young couple is imagining their future, imagining a ranch home and imagining all of the stuff stuck inside of it, all of the appliances. by the 1950s, 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 its effect on the environment. there's a kind of irony here that people moving to the suburbs to get close to nature, but in the process, of course, they're helping to destroy it, what might have been more natural landscapes are being bull dozed, topsoil is being replaced with houses and lawns. air pollution, gasoline consumption, energy consumption, trash, all of these things are creating great waste. of course, is suburban nature even really nature? you know, if you think back to
those houses and many of the suburbs you grew up in, people have little pieces of rectangular grass, right? what's up with that? and they water it in the summer, they fertilizer with chemicals, they mow it all the time. what would the grass look like if it was just kept more natural? of course, the kinds of grass that we're growing are not even native to the area. so it is kind of, you know, strange, and people are pruning their trees and, you know, hedging their lawns to make these perfectly rectangular angles. people have bushes. just today on my way to campus i walked by a house, i never noticed it before, but it had a bush in the shape of a dog. you know, a little dog, like woof-woof.
it is a bush. i was about to take a picture and include it, but people saw me standing in front of their house and i didn't want to be creepy. but, you know, it is weird. everybody pruning their trees. this time of the year everyone is raking their leaves, right, and putting them in plastic bags and then putting them on a truck. is that natural? the guys outside our building here with their machines, you know, blowing all of the leaves everywhere, it is kind of weird if we think about it. this natural element. of course, a lot of the environmental 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. you may have noticed the levittown buildings in the 1940s
didn't have garages. we talked about automobiles earlier in the class, but they're very rare until the 1920s. people are parking them maybe in stables. by the '30s and '40s we begin to have driveways, but it is not until the '50s and '60s that garages become integrated into the house. you can see from this floor plan of a model of a house in 1963, the garage is enormous. it takes up more than 25% of the entire square footage of the whole house. it can fit two cars and a whole bunch of junk inside. this becomes a staple of suburban architecture, these dominant garages. you may remember the first image we showed in class, the most striking architectural feature of those suburban houses were these protruding garages. they're called kind of pejoritively snout houses.
like they have big noses and big garages. people are critical of them because they elevate the house but distance the house from the public. it is often hard to see the front door and the connection to the people. so, you know, garages are weird, right? they're an entire house just for your car. you can drive your car into your house so you don't have to be -- feel the weather or see any of your neighbors. you just drive into your house, in this little house just for the garage, and they're not so little. these garages have become bigger and bigger even as the cities have. sort of alluding to ashley's question earlier about what's happening in the cities, a lot of people are becoming auto-centric and desiring to have a car which is propelling people to move to the suburbs, and some cities cognizant of this are trying to promote auto-mobility within the city and create garages.
this is a famous example of a residential skyscraper in chicago from 1964 called marina city. it is a little hard to tell, but at the bottom of this giant building is this many-story tall, 900 space valeted garage where people could park their cars. this was done as a way to stem white flight and to encourage people in chicago to not move to the suburbs where you can have your own garage. you can have it here in the city, too. you can see this is what it looks like today. they're all backed in by valets, you're not allowed to drive it yourself. it is a very striking building, but certainly elevating the idea, of course, of the car. we've already talked about in our last class the highway act that creates all of these roads
in the mid 1950s, but in terms of their effect on the urban and suburban landscape we should not forget about that. just think about the size, the gravity, the effect of these highways. this is from los angeles, the i-10 and the 110 exchange. just shows you the immense nature of these highways that are helping to funnel people out of cities into the suburbs, but still allowing them access. where these highways were built inside the city or on the periphery was often determined by the political will of a certain community, how well off and affluent the community was, and oftentimes the racial makeups where highways often cut through neighborhoods filled with people of color. that happened down the street even here in harrisonburg. this is a photograph of east
gate street in downtown harrisonburg in 1957. a neighborhood known as newtown, filled with many african-americans, and it is not, of course, a huge city, but still a city that begins to think about suburbanizing the city, making it more car friendly, widening the roads, creating retail shopping centers. you can see the giant hole here is what used to be that neighborhood. if you want to know how beautiful this place looks today, it is this wonderful parking lot and shopping center that nobody goes to. it is kind of ugly. but there are these suburbanization elements that creep into the city, and remnants of it are still felt today. every time the city continues and considers some new project, people always go to city council
to voice their concern about loss of parking and there's a great concern about how much parking there is. so one of the things that these highways do is enable sprawl, which is unplanned, scattered bits of the city that are spread across. los angeles is probably the most famous example. you can see in the very, very distance is downtown l.a., and all of this low density housing and commercial districts leading towards los angeles. in reality, l.a. is more dense than many other places, but you still get the idea. perhaps even a more striking example from nevada, a subdivision created in the middle of the desert. where do these people go grocery shopping? where do they work? where do they play? you know, they have to drive everywhere, and it is completely separate. of course, to think about the
environmental consequences of this is obvious. so there were a number -- by the time we get to the '60s, a lot of these critiques of suburbia have blossomed enough that a number of innovators were trying to do something different and created a series of new towns like reston in virginia, irvine in california, and columbia in maryland, which was started by a guy named james ralph that was particularly concerned about sprawl between baltimore and washington. he created the city of columbia in between these two cities because he was afraid that the current housing in these dots represented essentially where people were living and sprawling from the city, that these dots would eventually swallow columbia, that everything between baltimore and washington would be an ugly, sprawling, unplanned mess. so he took this opportunity to buy 14,000 acres of land which
was then pretty rural, some farmers in small tracts and, you know, milking cows and picnic lunches, and he decides he's going to section off this place to create a new kind of suburb, one that explicitly deals with the limitations, the problems of existing suburbs. # he secretly buys all of this land and eventually comes to the public, that he's going to create this new city. a lot of people were happy to hear that because there were rumors being spread that somebody was buying all of the land to create a garbage dump for all of baltimore and washington's trash. people thought this was perhaps a better idea. so ralph, this guy, his idea was to create a new city from scratch, and the symbol of the new city is this tree, a people tree. he had this kind of 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, to create the best kind of people? his solution was to break down the city into smaller bits. you can see that on this plan here. the idea was to have a town center, some kind of downtown, but to have a series of nine villages, that people felt more comfortable in small town america, and the suburb could be a kind of hybrid of small town america with the villages and their own little main street, shopping center, but also have a kind of bustling downtown with industry, with commerce, with an urban pulse. he's thinking about existing problems with suburbs that are bedroom communities where only
people live, and he wants to counter that with industry and commerce. he's thinking about suburbs that are all white, and he goes to great lengths to create a much more diverse community. many, many other kinds of examples that we'll see in a moment. in each of these villages, the blue dots represented a town center where the community could supposedly come together. so the first village -- and this was a rendering of what it might look like -- was known as wild lake. you could see a number of kind of trademark elements here. one, there was a lake, and the idea that this suburb was going to respect nature instead of run over it. it was also broken down into several smaller neighborhoods, each of which had its own elementary school. the understanding was that school was at the center of community and that each of these
neighborhoods would coalesce around a particular school. this set of buildings here says churches, but in reality they created what they called instead interfaith centers where they actually forbade churches, synagogues and mosques from being created, but instead had these interfaith centers where christians, jews, 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 but people weren't allowed to have their own pool, so they would be forced to go swim with other people. they couldn't have fences. nobody had their own mailbox. instead there were community mailboxes. so you had to get out into the street and see your neighbors
and think about this sense of community in a very real way. some interesting smaller details, you can see falkner ridge -- they named the communities and the streets after american poets and writers as a way to try to instill creativity and foster a sense of intellectualism. columbia, of course, was created in this time of cars, but there was also the hope that it wouldn't be as auto-centric. ralph's plans -- they're hard to see. all these shaded lines which are bike paths that link the schools to the people and community to community, that he imagined would foster another way of moving around this kind of new city, again, an antithesis to the existing suburbs and that all of this would combine with the kind of
downtown center that would really provide the center of activity, the center of culture and the excitement. but instead of building a traditional downtown with a series of intersecting streets and restaurants and public kind of facilities in downtown columbia, which was a relatively new concept at the time, the downtown became essentially a mall. built in 1971, the columbia p pal -- pal was only the 16th mall in the country. they called it a galleria at the time, but it became emblemattic of what new suburbs were going to look like, where commerce was going to be insulated in these kind of strange structures, the mall, which of course on the one hand is very autocentric. you can see the mall surrounded by a moat of parking spaces.
this makes it, of course, inaccessible for people who don't have cars. it helps control the kind of people who shop there. but the malls are kind of like suburbs themselves. they're supposed to be this mix of urban. you can see here the space framed geometry on the roof of the mall signals this kind of urban geometric grid. there are brick pavers that make it feel like an outdoor plaza. there are shadows coming in. there are little vendors, you know, kiosks and stuff where people sell you monogrammed sweat shirts or whatever or cellphone plans, streetlights, you know, supposed to make it look outside that are inside. there's always birds in these places. i don't know if they put them there or they just get in, you know, but there are birds.
you can kind of feel like you're outside, but they're not really like a city because they have these -- you know, they imported in this case ficus trees from florida, and of course everything is controlled. there are these natural elements like the waterfall and the trees, but everything is planned and controlled. there's private security. there are no homeless people. there's no graffiti. there are no bars. there are no pornography shops. these are not really urban spaces but are very purified notions of what an urban space might be. we're going to talk more about malls as a center of urban culture in the 1980s eventually, but the mall becomes the kind of, of course, downtown of columbia at the expense of everything else. what happens in columbia after this in the '70s and '80s ends up being mimicked in many other places. it remains much more racially
inclusive than many other suburbs, but it has become -- many of its progressive elements, the things trying to be less suburban-like, have gradually become more suburban like. people are building their own pools instead of going to the community pool, erecting fences. the bike that 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 their bike, but nobody came. and everybody drives. even if they live a mile or a half mile from the shopping center. everybody drives. so i asked my mom to stage the photograph and she kindly did. but people are in the sense of community, hasn't really panned out so much. the interfaith centers, some of the churches, communities moved to the fringes of the city.
one of the largest, if not the largest synagogue in town decided it didn't want to share its space with other religions anymore and built its own very nice synagogue, but outside of town, cannibalizing the demand for these interfaith centers. people are private. even my parents who live there, who are very friendly, nice people, their blinds are always drawn even in the front of their house they don't have blinds, they have these drapes that are permanent so you can't see out and people can't see in. i was talking to one neighbor recently who lived there for 30 years. he said he only knew the name of one person on his entire block. so some of these things didn't pan out quite the way that ralph had necessarily hoped as columbia has become more private, more corporatized, and it even has some more sprawl. we don't really have time to discuss the development in the
last couple of decades, the diversification of the suburbs, the politicization of the suburban vote, the rise of mcmansions, gating private communities and all of this kind of change that's been happening in suburban development, but we can sort of return back to our, you know, engagement photo at 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 are beginning to suffer with the rise of e-commerce. maybe we'll have self-driving cars, who knows. suburbs will surely change as
they have before, but they remain interesting places to study. so adios. sunday on afterwards radio host mark levin on the expansion of the federal government and what country must do to move back to what the founders intended in his book "rediscovering americanism." he's interviewed by former south carolina senator jim demint. >> and we reached the point where we can't get back. and we now are overwhelmed in the culture and politics in the media with the progressionivism notion, of the smothering of individualism, has it become so entrenched in our institution
that there's no way to rip it out. i say this, we have to do everything we can to confront it, to debate it, to explain to our fellow citizens what's taking place. we simply have no choice. >> watch afterwords, sunday at 9:00 eastern on c-span 2's book tv. >> when you think about a one day festival, the national book festival, and you have over 100 authors from children's authors, illustrators, graphic novelists, all of these different authors they are there all day over 100,000 people come in and celebrate books and reading, you can't have a better time, i think, and i'm a little prejudiced because i'm a librarian, but i have to tell you any reader or anybody that wants to get inspired, the book festival is the perfect place.
>> book tv's live all day come begins saturday at 10:00 a.m. with authors including pulitzer prize winning authors david mccullough and thomas friedman, former secretary of state condoleezza rice and best selling authors michael lewis and j.d. vance. the national book festival saturday starting at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span 2's book tv. >> next on lectures in history, virginia commonwealth university professor karen rader teaches a class on mid-20th century educational films to teach students about nuclear warfare and science. during the cold war policymakers feared the u.s. population was following behind the soviet union in science education. the class also includes a look at animated programs, created by noted hollywood director frank capra in the 1950s. this is about 45 minutes.