Garden City and Suburban Planning

With the Arcadian and Utopian idea continually before him, the average American considers the ideal living conditions to be such as will allow him a maximum of space in an individual home, preferably in the suburbs. Beginning with the town of Pullman, founded in 1880 at Gary, Indiana, there rose in America several privately planned suburban real-estate developments. Following that start, a number of industrial towns like Walpole, Massachusetts, and Overlook County Colony, planned for the General Chemical Company near Wilmington, Delaware, were patterned after Letchworth, the first garden city of England, Tours in France, or Emden in Germany.

During the World War I and shortly afterward a number of industrial villages were planned by the federal government. Three, in particular, deserve mention: Union Park Gardens, Wilmington, Delaware, built for shipworkers; one near Bridgeport, Connecticut, for munitions workers; and Yorkship Village near Camden, New Jersey. These garden cities are so arranged that houses and apartments are convenient to through traffic streets and car lines without being directly on them. Each town has a community center with school, city hall, stores, and recreation areas. Considerable attention is given in all these projects to landscaping, the houses being arranged in irregular building lines along curved roadways, so that the owner of each, on approaching his home, gains a distinctive pictorial impression.

In most garden cities frame houses built in a style derived from a combination of the early New England frame, gable construction, with irregular ground plan, are the rule. Since such houses appear best in combination with elms and maples, the streets are planted with these trees, whose lines carry the impression of the central parkway with its brook over into the residence area. Lawns without fences or hedges lend an air of continuity and friendliness to the community. Obviously, the cost of such houses as described, coupled with high commutation rates, make these developments available to only the high-salaried classes. Underpaid factory workers or people in the seasonal industries, without steady employment, are obliged to live in the abandoned small tenement houses or flats nearer the centers of industry.

After 1929, the federal government allocated funds for two types of housing developments: (1) garden cities for the lower salaried professional class; (2) large apartment-house developments for industrial workers. Of the former, Norris, Tennessee, and Greenbelt, Maryland, are leading examples. Detroit, Cleveland, and New York have begun the construction of a number of community apartment houses like the Karl Marx Apartment in Vienna, which will eventually give to the underprivileged classes rooms renting from six to ten dollars a month. In some cases, trade guilds such as the Stocking Makers' Union in Philadelphia and the Tailors' Union in New York City have undertaken the construction of well-equipped apartments to rent for reasonable rates. These apartments are planned with outside windows. They have good cross ventilation, a modicum of privacy, standardized sanitary and heating equipment. Some have balconies, porches, and roof facilities for sunshine and recreation. In their fireproof construction, the newest types of insulated noiseproof walls and in some cases glass bricks are being used. A comparison of any of these examples with any slum will convince one that only from such surroundings as those provided by these new, clean homes can we hope to gain a healthy democracy, capable of producing an art of refinement and distinction. Cleanliness is next to godliness, and beauty rarely comes from homes of squalor.

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