tv Lectures in History 20th Century Suburbs CSPAN December 7, 2020 9:57am-11:03am EST
with any types of content restrictions. and we act accordingly. watch "the communicators" tonight at 8:00 eastern on c-span2. you're watching american history tv. every weekend on c-span3, explore our nation's past. c-span3, created by america's cable television companies as a public service, and brought to you today by your television provider. and now on lectures in history, it's james madison university professor evan friss. he teaches a class about the evolution of the suburbs from the early 1900s to present day and 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. >> so today we're talking about
the suburbs. 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? >> proud. >> nathaniel, i can't hear you. >> proud. >> proud, okay. perhaps an unusual choice. nicholas? >> it's like being from nowhere. >> like being from nowhere. good. other descriptions, characterizations? >> safe. >> safe. k cassidy. >> utopia. >> emily? >> family-oriented. >> nicholas, were you going to say something? drew? >> i loved it.
>> 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 typeface. i thought we would start with an image of contemporary suburbia. this is an engagement shoot, a young couple who have taken to the suburban street for their engagement -- you know, people get married and they take engagement photos, and 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? >> usually the pictures are of a scenic place, like outside in
the woods or something, and this is, like, in a neighborhood. >> okay, so somewhere maybe scenic or natural. emily? >> usually has more of a romantic feel to it, not just random cars parked everywhere. >> 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, and what they mean. but i think somebody, maybe it was nicholas, i'm not sure, said it's kind of nowhere.
but by definition, it's relative. suburbs only exist, the word suburb is beneath the city. it's related to the city. it's seen as a kind of nowhere's 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 that 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, maybe not those of us who think they're utopia, or drew who loved growing up there, 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. and i'll say, oh, i know baltimore well. what neighborhood? and it turns out they live in some podunk town 25 miles outside of baltimore. 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 and they say 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. we'll do early pre-history to think about how suburbs came to be. and although the word existed all the way back in the 14th century, the suburban ideal, the concept of suburbia really began in the 19th century, particularly in the second half of the 19th century. it has a lot to do with cities, and we've talked in class about how cities are growing, becoming more industrialized and over time cities become associated with chaos, disorder, poor health. and as a consequence, people are seeking the tonics of nature as a prescription for better help and people want to escape the city. and one of the ways they were able to do that before they built suburbs are with urban parks. here's an example of 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 dirty cities, but they could have the benefit of fresh air, scenery, flora, most of which was imported, but nevertheless, seemed 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. in fact, some doctors even begin to coin medical conditions. one is new york-itis, 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 19th 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 really takes off after the civil war and people begin to emphasize having a detached home, a cottage-style house, having fresh air, accessible,
space, a yard, a garden. and some of you mentioned this 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 aesthetic is seen in a number of ways. we'll see just one example here from a house in newberg, new york, and this house was designed by 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 is 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 treasury of some railroad company, the treasurer of a railroad company. they build it purposefully right on the hudson river to take advantage of this beautiful view, the natural splendor, and situated the house in a way that it was opening up to the river view. 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 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 did he-emphasize the verticalality. the idea was that this could express the notions of the owners, there's 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 subu suburban-style architecture, which was very much intended for wealthier folks who would 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. 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, lewellen 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 curved, they bring in lots of flora and in lewellen park the lots are quite large and they don't allow fences. 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 lewellen park there's a gate house, which they
used as a way to promote 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 and these were homes for wealthy city home. later we have the origins of street car suburbs that have houses that are often a little less elaborate, but interesting, nonetheless. and street cars 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 street cars. and so all around pittsburgh new suburban street car suburbs, as they call them, are developing. some, like squirrel hill, where managers and businessmen can live in these nice spaces, but still manage to get to the city pretty easily. we think of suburbs primarily, of course, as residential, but they're also industrial suburbs and homestead, pennsylvania, which is about seven miles outside of pittsburgh, is an example of one of these industrial suburbs and a street car 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. so there's a linear street pattern, and if you notice, they often follow the railroad tracks or street car tracks, where development is following transportation. >> it 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 and it becomes infamous for a labor strike. but, yeah, this is a center of industry, and it 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 kind of suburbs, but it's important to remember that
manufacturing often does move to the fringes of the cities and that there are all kinds of different suburbs. 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 homeowners loan corporation, the holc, a new deal byproduct 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, 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 neighbor, they would look at the kind of housing, they had 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 that 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 we'll look at in a minute, which today is randolph, and it had 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 gotten a blue rating, a b rating, but was downgraded because it's next to an african-american neighborhood and there's a park on this side of the c-4 neighborhood, so african-americans are walking through this neighborhood, thereby supposedly devaluing it. and when the assessors wrote reports like this, in other neighborhoods they included all sorts of detailed information. and maybe you can't see, but under in has been tenit would define the 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. but in neighborhoods that were 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 they're certainly a sign of how new deal benefits were being meted out disproportionately. and it's not 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 area shaded in red, they're areas 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 it 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 ways, 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 linkedin 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, ensuring private loans that will provide loans with very little downpayments, 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 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 the neighborhoods would be held to that would ensure that they never sold their house to somebody who was not white, excluding very ex spliplicitly african-americans. these covenants would eventually be ruled unconstitutional by the supreme court in 1948 in shelly 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 much 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 long island, about 25 miles east of new york
city, where abraham levett and his sons buy 2,000 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, non-unionized workers would go from house to house and do the same task, oftentimes very minute, over and over again, and they really helped revolutionize the building process. so as you can see from this ariel image, they had pre-cut lumber that came from the 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 $7,900. it's hard to do kind of economic comparisons to today, but it would probably be something like $85,000, $90,000 in today's money. so they became very affordable for many people in 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 is interesting? >> one floor. >> good, it's one floor. emily? >> it's very basic.
>> it's basic, simple, compact. these cape cod style houses were only 750 square feet, they only have one bathroom, they're two bedroom. so 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 look out the front window and watch their children playing in the front
lawn. there's a porch, which is often seen as a connection to the public of what makes the link between the public street and the private house, people 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 stereotypically male spaces, there's no den, library, billiard room, and these houses reflect 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 kinds 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 looks similar whether it's in long island or somewhere else. but perhaps the more important critique is that the people living there 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, 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. >> i have a question. you had said something about red lining and restrictive covenants. when was block busting introduced? because i know during that time a lot of white families were selling their homes. >> good. so although restrictive covenants are ruled unconstitutional in 1948, they sort of put a waiting period on it so a lot of 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 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, 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 go pick pumpkins? well, if you go in town here, there's a great little nice place to pick pumpkins that i take my family to every year.
you have to drive through this little suburban development and it's called battlefield estates and 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 decline as there's a great impetus for people to move to the suburbs, and there's a so-called white flight where neighborhoods are going from white to black, and people are trying to 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, banks, mortgage insurers, construction companies are boosting the notion of suburbia, while popular television shows are r romanticizing, people are beginning to question whether 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 the houses all look the same, the pieces all look the same, and we're going to have this very boring culture that is antithetical to, perhaps, what we want, especially in terms of
culture. there's 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 would show a brief clip from a news roo newsreel 1951 mrs. america pageant. so pay attention what miss america is expected to do. >> a quest for mrs. america. she's got to cook, as well as look. 32 married lovelies show they know potatoes have to be peeled. the cooking contest goes to mrs. new york city with a cheese casserole.
bed making comes next. into the beds go the testers. the best bed is by mrs. new york city. 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. duncan. yes, wife can be beautiful. >> so mrs. america, the married women, they're being rated on how well they can peel potatoes, how well they make beds. 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. she's talking about just how difficult and how busy her life is. 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 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a baby. she wakes up at 6:30, she dresses the two boys, makes breakfast, the husband goes to work, washes dishes, cleans downstairs, kids are out playing. bathes the baby, cleans upstairs, nurses the baby. makes lunch, makes lunch for the kids. husband comes home, kids take a nap, she washes the dishes, nurses the baby, wakes up the
kids, gardens. 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, nurses the baby. the 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 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'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. so she makes in a given week 35 beds and she washes 750 items of glass and china. she washes 400 pieces of silverware. she prepares 175 pounds of food. she does 250 pieces of laundry in a given week. and in the article accompanying this photograph, she talks about her many roles. she's a driver, a seamstress, a made, a cook, a nurse, and her husband's glamour girl. and she has all of these modern appliances and people think now, by the time we get to the '40s
and even more so the '50s and '60s, that a washing machine and a dishwasher makes life easy. but, in fact, women, even in the mid-'60s are mendispending as m time on housework as they were 50 years earlier. but for marjorie, part of the extra burden is that she's living in the suburbs and it's isolating. she has to drive her family around all over the place. her aunts, her cousins or parents or in-laws don't live with them. her neighbors are more distant. she doesn't see people walking in and out of the building. 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 consumption, that suburbia is driving american consumption to even greater levels. and 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. and 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. and by the 1950s, americans buy something like three-quarters of all 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 are 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, which are being bulldozed, topsoil is being replaced with houses and lawns. air pollution, gasoline consumption, energy consumption, trash, all of these things are creating great waste. and of course is suburban nature even really nature? you know, if you think back to those houses, 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 fertilize it with chemicals, they mow it all the time. what would the grass look like if it was just kept more natural? and of course the kinds of grass that are growing are not even native to the area, so it's kind of strange. and people are pruning their trees and 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, a little dog, like woof. that's 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 it's weird, everybody pruning their trees. this time of the year, everyone is raking their leaves and then putting them in plastic bags and then putting them on a truck. is that natural? or the guys outside our building with their machines blowing all the leaves everywhere. it's kind of weird, if we think about it, this natural element. and 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 buildings in the 1940s didn't have garages and we've 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's really not until the '50s and '60s that garages become integrated into the house. and 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. and 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 the suburban houses were these protruding garages. they're called snout houses, like they had big noses, bick garages. and people are critical of them because they elevate the car,
but they also distance the house from the public. it's often hard to see the front door and the connection to the people. so garages are weird. they're an entire house just for your car. you can drive your car into your house so you don't have to feel the weather or any of your neighbors. you just drive into your house, in this little house just for the garage. and they're not so little. and these garages have become bigger and bigger, even as the cities have. and 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 having 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. this is a famous example of a residential skyscraper in
chicago from 1964 called marina city, and it's a little hard to tell, but at the bottom of this giant building is this many-store tall 900 space valeted garage where people could park their cars. and 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's 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. and 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 a fluent a community was and oftentimes the racial makeup where highways often cut through neighborhoods filled with people of color. that happened down the street here in harrisonburg.
a neighborhood known as new town, filled with many african-americans, and harrisonburg not a huge city, becomes to think about suburbanizing the city, making it more car friendly, widening the roads and creating retail centers. and you can see the giant hole is what used to be that neighborhood. and if you want to know how beautiful this place looks today, it's this wonderful parking lot and shopping center that nobody goes to and it's 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 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 these things -- one of the things that these highways
do is enable sprawl, which is unplanned, scattered bits of the city that are spread across. and 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, or 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? they have to drive everywhere and it's completely separate. and 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 had blossomed enough that a number of innovators were trying to do something different and created a series of new towns, like irvine, california, and columbia in maryland, which was started by a guy named james rouse who was particularly concerned about sprawl between baltimore and washington. and he created the city of columbia in between these two cities because he was afraid that the current housing, and 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. and so he took this opportunity to buy 14,000 acres of land, which was then pretty rural, from farmers in small tracts and
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 subur. one that deals with the limitations, the problems of existing suburbs. he secretly buys all of this land. there was rumors being spread that someone was buying all of the land to create a garbage pump. so people thought this was perhaps a better idea. so resourouse wanted to create city from scratch, and he had a symbol, a people tree, he had a corny phrase, he wanted a garden
to grow people. what are the ingredients of the soil? what do you need to create the best kind of community and 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 a town center, a downtown, but a series of nine villages that people felt more comfortable in small town america. and the suburb could be a hybrid, their own main street shobing center. there was industry, commerce, and an urban pulse. and he is thinking about existing problems with suburbs that are bedroom communities are only people live and he wants to counter that with industry and
commerce. he is thinks about suburbs that go to great length. and many other kinds of examples. and each of those villages the blue dots 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 trade more elements here. there is a lake, and the idea that they would respect nature instead of run over it. it is also broken down into several smaller neighborhoods. the understanding was that school was at the center of community, and that each of these neighborhoods would coalesce around a particular
psychological. this set of buildings here says churches. but they created what they called interfaith accecenters. they forbade churches from being built, but there was interfaith centers where christians, jews, muslims and others would worship around the same roof to promote a sense of community and understanding. along the same lines, there was a community pool, but people could not have their own pool, so they would be forced to go swim with other people. you had to get out on to the street and see your neighbors and think about this sense of community in a very real way.
and some interesting smaller details. you see they named the communities, the streets after american poets and writers as a way to try to instill creativity. and columbia was of course created in this time of cars, there is also a hope that it is not as auto centric. there are bike paths that link the they're fostered and the existing suburbs, and that all of this could combine with the kind of downtown center that would really provide the center
of activity and culture. and the excitement. but instead of building a traditional downtown with a series of intersecting streets, and restaurants, and public kind of guilts in downtown columbia, which is a relatively new concept at the time, it became a mall. built in 1971 it was only the 16th mall in the country. but it became emblemmatic of what new suburbs were going to look like. where congress could be insulated in strange structures. the small which, of course, on the one hand is very auto centric. you see it surrounded by a mote of parking spaces. and this makes it inaccessible
for people who don't have cars, but the malls are like a mix of urban -- the space frame geometry on the roof of the small signaling an urban geo metric rib. there are vendors, are you know, a a kiosk and stuff. street lights, you know, to make it look outside but they're inside. spl there is always birdis, you can feel like you're outside, they're not really like a city,
because they have fie discucus from florida. and everything is controlled. natural elements like the water fall and the stretrees, but it all plans and controlled. there's private security, no homeless people, no pornography shops, no bars, they're not really urban spaces but a very purr if ied notion of what an urban space might be we're going to talk about malls as the center of urban culture, but it becomes a downtown of columbia at the expense of everything else and what as after this ends up being mimicked in many other places. it is racially include sieve,
but it is many of it's progressive elements. they are moving to become more suburban like. people are building their own pools instead of going to the community pool. electing fences, the bike path that i showed you earlier, the person on the bicycle is was my mom who lives there. i was on the bike path waiting to stake a photograph of someone walking or riding their bike, but nobody came. everybody drives even if they're only a mile or half mile to the shopping center. everyone drives. so i asked my mom to stage the photograph, and she kindly did. but people are -- the sense of community has not panned out. the interfaith centers, the churches moved to fringes of the city. the synagogue decided it it
didn't want to share space any more and built their own very nice synagogue outside of town. cannibalizing the demand for the interfaith centers. and people are private, even my parents who live there who are very friendly nice people, their blinds are always drawn. they just have drape that's are permanent. you can't see how and people can't see in. i was talking to a neighbor recently who lived there for 30 years who said he only knew the name of one person on his block. so some of these didn't pan out quite the way that rouse hoped as columbia has become more private, more corporatizecorpor.
the rise of the mcmansions, gating private communities, and all of this change that has been happening in suh buburban development, and the half developed cul-de-sac here. maybe they are still mediocre, lame, boring, but we still live in a suburban notion. more than half of americans describe themselves as suburban. and it is changing, strip malls, big box retailers, beginning to suffer with the rise of e-commerce. maybe we'll have safe driving cars, who knows, they will surly change as they have before but they remain interesting places
to study. so adios. >> tonight on "the communicators" a chief policy offerer amy peikoff. >> we believe it is the best approach when you're talking about hate speech, so called misinformation, anything else to address those problems with more speech, not with any types of content restrictions. and we act accordingly. >> watch "the communicators" tonight at 8:00 eastern. >> you're watching "american history tv" every weekend on c-span 3 explore our nation's past. created by america's cable
television companies and brought to you today by your television provider. >> located about 25 miles north of philadelphia, levittown, pennsylvania was home to single family developments. often depicted at the quintessential americans, they could not prohibit private owners from selling to african-americans. next on reel america, crisis in levittown, pa. it explores a man moving sboog a neighborhood and they are met with violent rock throwing crowds.