When I look around at what you two have got here, well I don’t know. Maybe there are some things you should buy with your heart and not with your head. Maybe those are the things that really count.
- Bill Cole, attorney to Jim Blandings
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
During the fall of 1945, soon after VJ Day, Carroll Sweet visited Philip Klutznick in his Washington office. Sweet had come to Washington, representing Nathan Manilow’s interests, to ask Klutznick’s help in acquiring some of the excess military buildings for peacetime use. Sweet and Manilow had an idea that, if they acquired some of the surplus defense structures available under the Veterans’ Temporary Housing program, they could use them to build a new town for returning veterans, a GI town.
Sweet had a dream. “Here I am, an old man,” he told himself, “who has never done anything for anyone but me — nothing at all for the boys of those three wars whose victories have made my whole life possible.” He had traveled extensively about the country and had seen the palatial estates of the rich. The thought of a town, a great new city of trees and parks, an estate for people, began to jell. He kept thinking, “Can’t anything be done to give those veterans something approximating that kind of living on a scale they can afford?” Gradually, Sweet evolved a scheme for a town, a GI town, which would have the spaciousness and greenery of a park and affordability for all.1
Klutznick turned Manilow’s and Sweet’s housing requests down for two reasons. First, the government’s housing materials could not be sold to private builders, only to public agencies. Second, under no condition would he release these structures for use by returning veterans. The quality was not good enough for these men and their families. Klutznick told Sweet the idea was excellent and sound but his GI community should be well planned and thought out. The materials should be as good as available, and the FPHA structures didn’t meet that standard. “I would be ashamed,” Klutznick told Sweet, “to build a permanent GI village or anything else that way. If you and Nathan Manilow want to build a GI town, make it one worthy of the men who served the country so well.”2
Manilow’s construction firm had already begun to address the issue of the returning veteran. Chicago was the second largest city in the United States at the end of the war, and many of the millions of discharged veterans would be returning to the region, thus compounding the existing housing shortage. Manilow had begun building Jeffrey Manor on Chicago’s South Side before the war, and now, with peace, the sale and rental of the thirty-one hundred single-family homes and townhomes began to improve. Manilow knew there would be an end to this community and that he would soon need to start another, but there was a problem — a paralyzing shortage of construction materials.
There had been a substantial shortage in almost all construction materials for nongovernmental use for several years, shortages in lumber, bricks, clay sewer pipes, gypsum board and wood lath and cast iron pipe. Most shortages were the result of a lack in manpower (soldiers who didn’t return to their homes), low wages that discouraged new employees, and price controls. Truman announced, in early winter 1945, the appointment of Wilson W. Wyatt as housing expediter and head of the National Housing Administration. Klutznick’s Federal Public Housing Authority was grouped together with the Federal Housing Administration and the Federal Home Loan Bank Administration under the National Housing Administrator. As housing expediter, Wyatt could determine price adjustments and priority ratings in the building industry and also exert a strong influence on wages.
Wyatt proposed to handle the housing shortage as if it were a war production job, and in February of 1946 he announced his program. It was a lengthy list of prohibitions that would restrict commercial and industrial construction in favor of residential construction. It would channel scarce building materials to housing units that would cost six thousand dollars or less or would rent for fifty dollars a month or less. The program would increase the supply of building materials through subsidies to producers, increase prices and wages, use surplus war plants, provide some government underwriting of the risks and guarantee a market for a struggling prefabricated housing industry. Most important, it would restore the liberal financing terms that FHA gave to builders of war housing. This program was immediately attacked and debated. Opposition to the subsidy plan was especially strong.3
The government and private builders and their associations campaigned with confusing and contradictory announcements as to how much housing was really needed. In January 1946 Truman said, “We urgently need about five million additional homes — now.” The National Association of Home Builders, in which Manilow and Sweet were deeply involved, issued an estimate that 1.5 million new housing units “would relieve the extreme pressure.” Almost everyone had some number that fell between these two figures. Wyatt’s program was not as fulfilling as it would first appear. The 1.2 million housing units proposed, more than were built during the entire decade of the 1930s, would also include temporary housing (trailers and other non-permanent types of housing) and the rehabilitation of existing residential structures. These rehabs would not contribute to a long-term solution but did inflate the numbers. The remaining housing units would come from new housing, but only about half of those units started in 1946 would be available for occupancy in that year. As a result, the housing the government proposed would still fall seriously short of the demand. Even though Wyatt’s forecast for 1947 of 1.5 million units relied more on permanent construction, his figures had to rely on an unproved prefabrication industry to help meet the goal. The real problem was not the number of units but the availability of materials to build the homes — materials that were still under the firm control of the government.
Fortune magazine conducted a survey in early 1946 and found that the American people believed that the government would need to step in to help ease the housing shortage. Americans supported home building by the government, lending money at low interest rates directly to people for the construction of their own homes, the control of building materials for low and medium priced houses, and the government’s control of rents. Many of these beliefs were the result of fifteen years of social conditioning that fixed a belief in the altruistic and nurturing nature of the government.
Shortly after his first meeting with Klutznick, Carroll Sweet returned to Washington, this time with Manilow. They told Klutznick they were planning to build a new town out of quality materials as soon as the materials became available. Manilow and Sweet believed Klutznick would be a great asset in their efforts to build this new town, especially with his experience in materials, sources, and acquisitions. Would he join them? Klutznick had been offered a number of other postwar opportunities in New York and back home in Omaha. Their offer would need careful consideration and certain requirements would need to be met before he could even think of accepting it.
Klutznick indicated that he might be interested if the town were not just another housing project or suburban development. He explained to them the most important aspect of such a venture was the planning of the town itself. The planning would require locating housing areas, commercial areas, industrial sites, parks, and other community services. It would require new utilities and roads, a good water supply, and well-designed storm and sanitary drainage systems. Klutznick also told them that for this town to become successful it must be more than a collection of houses, the new town must be incorporated. The residents must create new public institutions to govern and manage the new town or village and fully participate in the decisions that affect the community and its future. This conversation, as reported by Klutznick and a bit self-servingly, seemed almost a lecture — one that Nathan Manilow surely didn’t need. Manilow, being only nine years older than Klutznick, had far more experience in private home and community building than Klutznick had experience with the federal government.
It is also not hard to imagine that Sweet and, more important, Manilow offered the position to Klutznick for his influence and ability to acquire the building materials they needed for the community and his FHA contacts. These may, in fact, have been primary reasons in asking him to join them. It was not his experience in construction management and knowledge of Cook County politics and zoning approvals which had them travel almost a thousand miles to offer him a job.
This value of community planning was, however, a fundamental belief for Klutznick. It was based on his wartime experience and the experience the federal government and he, as an administrator, had had with the three Greenbelt towns planned and built in the 1930s. It is important to note that, even ten years after their construction, there were few supporters within the Truman administration for these experimental communities built under Roosevelt.4
The new community that Klutznick described for Sweet and Manilow was a manifestation of planning concepts and designs for communities aggressively designed and built between 1900 and 1939 — communities that shared many of the same planners, visionaries, and theorists. Even more revealing is that many of these new communities could trace their lineage back to the Chicago area of 1869. Five great planners would be the grandfathers for Park Forest — whose careers extended over almost one hundred years of planning for human settlements. They were Frederick Law Olmsted, Ebenezer Howard, Henry Wright, Clarence B. Stein, and Elbert Peets. All five, through their visions for new towns, would build on one another’s work in an effort to create better and more successful places for people to live.
In 1868 Emery E. Childs, a Chicago developer, asked the noted American landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and his firm, Olmsted, Vaux and Company, to design a “suburban village” on his sixteen hundred-acre property twelve miles west of Chicago. The plan for Riverside was revolutionary in its concept and breadth and unlike anything else in country. Olmsted and Vaux created a residential community along the banks of the Des Plains River, with a hierarchical plan of lot sizes, separated by generous open spaces and parks. Not having been designed to the current trend of the time, the grid pattern of streets in mid-American cities, Riverside’s residential roads curve in generous sweeps and meet with soft tangents at well-landscaped intersections. The only portions of the village which did not curve were the business streets that paralleled the Burlington Railroad. “In the highways,” said Olmsted, “celerity will be of less importance than the comfort and convenience of movement . . . we should recommend the general adoption, in the design of your roads, of gracefully-curved lines, generous spaces, and the absence of sharp corners, the idea being to suggest and imply leisure, contemplativeness and happy tranquility.”5
Although its early days were financially troubled, the village’s overall design is a testament to the genius of the concept and the thoroughness of the execution. The automobile, thirty years in the future when the plan was at last completed, has not destroyed the village. Garages are placed in the rear of the lot, driveways are narrow, and the streets not overly wide. The design is still an example of melding the plan to the topography of the land. Riverside changed one of the fundamental concepts of town design more than any other American community: the integration into the standard grid pattern of streets curving streets with deep residential setbacks. Olmsted wrote that a well-designed suburb is “the most attractive, the most refined and the most soundly wholesome form of domestic life, and the best application of the arts of civilization to which mankind has yet attained.”6 The completeness of Riverside cannot be overlooked. It has stood unchanged in both plan and substance while, during the last hundred years, the area around it has grown, suffered, and deteriorated. The village’s strongest defenders are the current residents.
In 1869, as Riverside was being planned and built, a young Englishman set out from his London home looking for opportunities in the western United States. Nineteen year old Ebenezer Howard and two friends moved to Nebraska, tried farming, were quickly disillusioned, and within a few months Howard moved on to Chicago, where he lived for ten years.
It was here in the Midwest of the United States that many of the most important ideas for twentieth-century town planning were initially formed. According to Howard, his stay in Chicago had a great influence on his life. It gave him a fuller and broader outlook on social and religious issues than if he had stayed in England. His time in Chicago helped to direct him: “greatly in the direction of perfect freedom of thought: and associated with this, a very deep sense of responsibility, and a clear perception that all values, to be rightly estimated, must be assessed mainly by their influence on the spiritual elements in our nature.”7
Howard, court reporter by profession and land reformer by vocation, had by the end of the nineteenth century authored theories for radically reforming the community planning process. Those theories culminated in the Garden Cities movement. His experience in Chicago helped to account for the Americanism in his makeup. He believed in the American process of thought and action and that from it evolved the ideal to the real. This was contrary to his belief that in England the process went from the concrete to the abstract. This shifting of the creative process toward the ideal remained with Howard all his life. He became a stimulant and inspiration to the Garden Cities movement, and, as Dugald MacFadyen notes in his 1933 biography of Howard, “If Chicago did not fill his pockets with gold it did something better: it fitted him for world citizenship.”8
Howard’s own thoughts on nineteenth-century American city planning are unknown because he wrote little of his experiences in Chicago but his inquisitive mind would not have allowed the efforts of Childs, Olmsted, and the Riverside community to pass unnoticed. It is not hard to imagine Howard visiting the Riverside development and that the impression it made stayed with him for almost twenty-five years, gestating.
The Chicago region continued to expand during the late nineteenth century, starting soon after the Great Fire in October of 1871. There was, even then, concern about the sprawl of development. One result was that Chicago and Cook County began a program of buying up swamplands, woodlands, and farmlands and setting them aside as permanent parklands. The Cook County Forest Preserve system was to have a fundamental impact on Howard’s theory for Garden Cities and the use of parklands and farmlands as buffers between communities.
In his seminal book Garden Cities of Tomorrow Howard proposed dramatic changes in city planning. Initially published in 1898 and called Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform, it was republished in 1902 with the new name. Howard proposed that it was “universally agreed to by all men” that people must be stopped from relocating into the already crowded urban areas and cities. His theory was simple: “Town and country must be married, and out of this joyous union will spring new hope, a new life, a new civilization.” He believed people must be given opportunities to find better surroundings in which to live and to enjoy nature and be a part of it. This new village concept and its advantages would be a draw, or, as Howard called it, “a magnet,” attracting those believers to this new life. These town-country magnets would be called Garden Cities.
The Garden City was not the idle whimsy of a Victorian romantic but a well-thought-out analysis of what would be needed to plan, build, and occupy this new form of community living. Howard developed conceptual plans and details showing how the various relationships among land uses would work. He first presented his plan in diagrammatic form: a circular design with concentric land uses spreading outward from the garden and civic core. This radiating pattern may indicate how much of an impact Mrs. Cora Richmond, a well-known Christian Science lecturer, had on Howard after he met her in Chicago in 1876. Richmond, reputed to be a seer, told Howard that she saw his future as, “ in the centre of a series of circles working at something which will be a great service to humanity.”9 He would use her prophecy in his theories.
The Garden City’s diagrammatic plan had radiating roads, like spokes, which bisected the town into wards and neighborhoods. These roads interconnected the rings of development which expanded outward from the center. Commercial interests were in the first ring outside the public core, and industrial uses were closest to the railroad. Residential neighborhoods were behind the commercial areas. In the surrounding buffers were farms, woodlands, pastures and some institutional uses. Town planning had never had this form of analysis and structure before. This “unique combination of proposals” separates Howard’s ideas from all others previously offered.
The Garden City, as envisioned by Howard, is a town-country community with specific characteristics.
1. Larger than a village, substantially self-supporting, and separated from other towns by a large agricultural zone. This is not just a town “in” the country but one which is a complementary part of the country.
2. Directly accessible to railroads.
3. Limited in size to property of not more than an “area of 6,000 acres, which is presently purely agricultural, and has been obtained by purchase in the open market.” This land will be divided into a central core of 1,000 acres for a town of 30,000 people and the remaining 5,000 agricultural acres will house 2,000 people. This agricultural zone will act as buffer and control the growth of the village center.
4. Land occupied through leases and not sold to the occupants. The entire community’s acreage will be “legally vested in the names of four gentlemen of responsible position and of undoubted probity and honor, who hold it in trust.”
5. Managed through controlled planning. All aspects of the community will be planned before the start of construction and to allow for later adjustments as needed under municipal control.
6. Divided into equal districts or wards of 5,000 people each. Each will be a complete town within itself. (This element of Howard’s proposal will later lead to the neighborhood concept in community planning.)
7. Designed to be spacious. In addition to the suggested 145 acres for a central public park, ample lands will be available for a town hall, public library, museum, theaters, concert hall, hospitals, schools, churches, swimming pools, and public markets. Howard’s concern was for public facilities and for housing. His proposal would be for all people, not just a select few. There will be “ample sites for homes . . . ample space for roads . . . so wide and spacious that sunlight and air may freely circulate, and in which trees, shrubs and grass give the town a semi-rural appearance.”
8. Planned so as to include the expectation of the outward expansion of industry from the older Central City into the Garden City. These industries will be located along the periphery of the town and will include factories, warehouses, dairies, and other clean industrial facilities. These industries will be both municipal and private in ownership.
9. Planned for a maximum population size of 32,000. When reached, another town center will be selected, and the additional regional growth would transfer and continue there. This new town center will, like its parent, be buffered from the old town center and grow to its predesigned size. In time these towns will encircle and support the old Central City. Howard was one of the first to understand and propose the concept of the “satellite town.”10
Howard’s ideas first took tenuous hold in the British planning fraternity. Others who shared his ideas soon joined his planning and reform group. In 1902, after an extensive search to find a suitable property, a site was found that met Howard’s criteria for the construction of a Garden City. The site proved to be a third smaller than the prescribed 6,000 acres but in all other aspects excellent. The property was the Letchworth Estate, located 35 miles north of London in Hertfordshire and on a branch of the Great Northern Railway.
Growth was exceedingly slow during Letchworth’s first ten years. The town continually faced financial problems, which added to the difficulties of paying for even this limited growth. By 1919 the town had grown to only ten thousand people, but Howard would not be deterred. He believed so strongly in his Garden Cities’ concept that he began another community, Welwyn, about twelve miles south of Letchworth. Even though many of the same economic problems beset this new town, Welwyn’s planning benefited from what had happened at Letchworth. Welwyn’s population also grew slowly, and by 1930 eight thousand people were living in almost twenty-five hundred dwelling units.
What was significant about the planning of these two villages was the strong character of the street pattern that radiates outward from the central core. Outward rings of roads, serving primarily residential neighborhoods, encircle the town center. Each village was anchored on the rail line to London. Both were placed with respect to the specifics of the site, high ground at the core, and existing roads to neighboring villages. Welwyn was highly structured and the commercial core built to surround generous open parklands decorated with fountains, flowerbeds, and colonnades of linden trees. A strong axial alignment of the roads led into and out of the village.
The principal planners for Letchworth were Raymond Unwin and his partner, Barry Parker. Unwin wrote in his pamphlet Nothing Gained by Overcrowding that large, open space areas could be preserved in the centers of residential “superblocks” without adversely affecting the density and cost per lot or unit. His innovative planning ideas also included cul-de-sac streets and architectural control over the exterior design of speculatively built dwellings. Letchworth’s residential density is, in its densest areas, twelve houses to the acre and its overall average density is five units to the acre. Unwin even proposed children’s playgrounds. By today’s standards these design elements do not seem profound, yet at the turn of the nineteenth century they were revolutionary. Significant changes were to alter the final plans over the years, and many of the stronger components of the initial plan have been lost; the radial plan still exists, but the center of Letchworth is a park, not the grand public buildings that Unwin showed in his initial plans.
Simple as these beginnings were, the new towns, Riverside, Letchworth and Welwyn, were to have a profound impact on the concept of town planning in the United States. Lewis Mumford, the most influential urban writer and critic of the last seventy-five years, would later write, “At the beginning of the twentieth century two great inventions took form before our eyes: the aeroplane and the Garden City, both harbingers of a new age.”11
Mumford also points out, in his essay “The Ideal Form of the Modern City,” that Howard offered two other contributions to the form of the modern community. The first is a logical and organized division of the Garden City into six wards or neighborhood units. This division of the new town would predate the concept as it developed in the United States by almost a generation. This “self-contained” aspect of planning would be the backbone of planning for the latter half of the twentieth century. The second and possibly most important element was that these communities are never completely self-contained. They would need to be connected by rapid transportation and that the interconnections of these Garden Cities would in fact allow facilities and resources of each to be more easily supplemented by the others. By this, then, the communities would have the benefits of the larger and older “social cities” without the problems of the congested metropolis.12
Immediately after the World War I, and throughout the dynamic 1920s, Americans were rapidly building and expanding. The efforts and concepts of Ebenezer Howard and Raymond Unwin were being restudied and applied. Among the persons intensely involved as planners and architects in the new field of town planning were two New Yorkers, Henry Wright and Clarence B. Stein. Their work on the design and construction of low-cost housing and better land-use planning, championed by their friend Mumford, was to revolutionize American community planning.
The conceptual planning by Wright and Stein and essays on urban planning and social reform by Mumford led to their formation of the Regional Planning Association of America, in 1923. This nongovernmental group, never more than twenty members, extensively analyzed and discussed the state of planning and development in the country for ten years. It was within this group that progressive communities such as Sunnyside Gardens and Radburn were conceived, designed, and built. Within this intellectual environment ideas were cross-fertilized. The group’s members could move between tasks and ideas without losing their ultimate focus of building balanced communities, reducing the urban and residential community to human scale, and establishing communities with a balanced social program. This, they hoped, would lay the foundation for ever-widening theories of national, continental, and global community planning.
This background and the efforts of one of the members, Alexander Bing (himself an experienced real estate operator), led to the creation of the private City Housing Corporation. This corporation’s goal was to design and build the first Garden City in America, based on the Howard English model.13 Correspondence between Howard and Bing, in the mid-1920s, showed their mutual interest in “launching a Garden City” in the United States, but Howard died before their goal could be mutually undertaken.14
The City Housing Corporation’s first venture in community planning began with Sunnyside Gardens, in Queens, New York. The site was a seventy-seven-acre parcel of land acquired from the Long Island Railroad — close to Manhattan and only a fifteen-minute trip, by subway, to the Forty-second Street center of New York. Built continuously from 1924 to 1928, Sunnyside Gardens ultimately had 1,202 family units laid out in a uniform pattern of growth and organization. Using the existing network of streets, the plan evolved as a series of 200- by 900- foot residential superblocks. Two- and three-story brick apartment buildings were built facing the street and laid out to enclose an interconnected open-space park. These blocks, ten in all, were to change the standard urban pattern of development within a typical neighborhood. Not encumbered with traditional lot lines, separate housing structures, alleys, and disconnected spaces, these new residential blocks closed off the street from intruding into the large private, commonly held, landscaped open spaces. Changes were continually made, as the development grew and evolved, to these interior spaces and their use.
The intrusion of the automobile, during this thriving economic period, was also beginning to become apparent. Sunnyside’s early plans did not take into full account the automobile and its growing popularity. As the community grew, a garage was built at the perimeter, almost thousand feet from the farthest unit. Later, a heated garage was constructed nearer to the neighborhood but proved to be too expensive to maintain with only tenant and resident support. It was later determined that the simpler and more convenient the structure, the more successful it would be. In the last phases of construction the residential buildings were turned inward and away from the existing rows of apartments, which faced the community. These courts opened out and directly accessed the street, a harbinger of the eventual parking court.
Lewis Mumford, Sunnyside Garden’s most well-known resident for eleven years, says of the housing block and design: “It has been framed to the human scale and its gardens and courts kept that friendly air as, year by year, the newcomers improved in the art of gardening and the plane trees and poplars continued to grow. . . So, though our means were modest, we contrived to live in an environment where space, sunlight, order, color — these essential ingredients for either life or art — were constantly present, silently molding all of us.”15
Luckily, the land was left zoned as industrial. This resulted in a freer design that allowed the specific type of community and aesthetic objectives desired by the planners. The varied heights and sizes of the Sunnyside’s buildings were in violation of the existing residential zoning ordinances. Specific heights and the massing of buildings, if the site had been rezoned as residential, would have had to have been designed to meet those ordinances and codes. Flexibility and creativity would have been lost.
The residential units themselves were a mixture of two- and three- bedroom structures, two and three stories high. Most units were exposed to the sun and fresh air on three and, in some layouts, four sides. They were stacked “flats” which entered from the street side, and the first-floor units had direct access to the courtyard and gardens inside the block. The second-floor units were designed with a porch that extended the unit and living space into the courtyard. The buildings had cellars or basements that, because of the designer’s insistence, expanded the amount of personal storage space for the residents.
The 1920s brought on one of the greatest housing booms in U.S. history. The post-World War I depression and low numbers of homes built during the war only exacerbated the problem. The 1920s saw great changes in the character and look of America:
— Annual housing production accelerated from 449,000 units in 1921 to 937,000 units in 1925.
— For the entire period from 1921 to 1928 production totaled 6.3 million units, an annual average of 785,000 units.
— The nonfarm population increased 2.2 percent annually from 1921 to 1928.
— Immigration, while somewhat curtailed, still continued with 707,000 immigrants arriving in 1924.
— Average household size dropped from 4.20 to 4.00 persons.
— The average nonfarm income rose 22 percent from 1920 to 1928.
— Automobile ownership rose from 6.8 million in 1921 to 17.5 million in 1928.
The 1920s were not known for social reforms, but concepts and advances in housing made prior to World War I at the state and local level were extended and refined. These areas included building and housing codes, city planning legislation, and zoning ordinances. The federal government actively supported these actions. Local zoning was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Euclid case, and other federal agencies promoted the use of model statutes for city planning, zoning, and building codes.
Sunnyside Gardens, far too small to be considered a Garden City, was designed with the hope that it could create a setting in which a “democratic community” could grow. It was, in fact, a study of what a portion of an American Garden City could be. The City Housing Corporation provided the land, buildings, and equipment that supported community gatherings and activities. It encouraged a community association which was more effective than the separate “block” organizations that had evolved in other neighborhoods. When the difficult times of the Depression hit, this association provided a cohesiveness for the residents not found outside Sunnyside. Unfortunately, as time passed, and in the face of the economic problems facing the tenants, the community could not withstand the slow erosion of its unity and eventually lost much of the vitality that separated it from others. Even the difficult times of the Depression, however, could not destroy the beauty of Sunnyside Gardens.16
In 1927 the City Housing Corporation, after the early success of Sunnyside Gardens, believed it was now time to fulfill its dream and build a complete Garden City along the specific instructions of Ebenezer Howard. The corporation, after looking at many potential sites, settled on a location in New Jersey. It purchased two square miles of raw farmland located in the Borough of Fairlawn, near Patterson, and called the new community Radburn. The land lay on a branch of the Erie Railroad and was near a new highway which was to lead to the new bridge being built across the Hudson River into New York.
The planners, Clarence Stein and Henry Wright, separated the site into three distinct “neighborhoods” of about eight thousand to ten thousand people each — a goal that, when reached, would meet the size specified by Howard for a Garden City, thirty thousand inhabitants. Even though there would be a minimal greenbelt separating Radburn from other encroaching developments, they believed that their community would be able to stand alone and not be lost within the adjacent growth. Unfortunately, industry did not find the limited industrial lands in Radburn as desirable as other areas of the region. This eventually resulted in the village becoming a bedroom community to New York City and northern New Jersey and not the job center it was hoped to have been.
The concept of the “superblock,” championed almost thirty years earlier by Raymond Unwin, at last found a home in Radburn. These superblocks of housing were interconnected by streets and walks, all leading to an extensive list of recreational, business and retail facilities. The plan, according to Stein, was based on the concept of overlapping circles, each a half-mile radius, with an elementary school fixing the center. The high school would be placed where these overlapping circles met. Each neighborhood would have its own shopping center, and the ultimate plan was to include athletic fields, tennis courts, and an extensive system of parks and open-space areas. The residential areas would be interconnected by overpasses and underpasses to separate pedestrians and automobiles. These separation structures worked so well that there was only one serious accident, a broken arm, during the first twenty years of their use.
The radical change which began with Riverside and continued with Radburn was the departure from the traditional grid lotting patterns. The plans for Radburn developed a system of streets which used the cul-de-sac and parking court as the primary residential device for clustering homes. These clustered homes would face the court for direct access from the street but also permit access to the interweaving open space that connected the whole village. It was this dual frontage that set this community apart from the usual street and alley suburban form of the times.
The homes, initially detached and then attached as the market showed its acceptance for this new style, were away from the main roads. Children, moving through the village, were not forced to cross major streets on grade but used the under- and overpasses. Footpaths connected the different residential clusters and most sidewalks were not directly attached to the street. The planners understood, even in the late 1920s, the impact that the automobile would have on the quality of the residential neighborhood. It was their desire to reduce its affect on the residents. Benton MacKaye, one of the Regional Planning Association’s founders, remarked, “Radburn was the first town to be planned on the assumption that through motor traffic must be completely separated from the communal aspects of the environment.” Maintaining this goal was important to the both the safety as well as the beauty of the community.17
A critical difference between Radburn and other later new communities was that Radburn was not constrained by the more restrictive zoning ordinances developed during the 1930s and 1940s. These ordinances would have set minimums on lot sizes, densities, street widths, and setbacks, all which would have challenged the innovative aspects of the plan for Radburn. Even with all of its creativity, it still took considerable efforts to convince the county assessor of the village’s merits.
These planning elements — the superblock, the innovative street system, the common lands, the separation of pedestrians and vehicular traffic, and the dual home frontage — all contributed to the orientation of the village away from the street and toward the common parklands and walkways. This concept was adopted by later twentieth-century planners as a fundamental element of their new towns.
Unfortunately, Radburn was never completed, and it did not become a Garden City. The first families moved into Radburn just five months before the October 1929 economic collapse of Wall Street. The City Housing Corporation, through no fault of its own, was forced into bankruptcy. Only a small portion of the overall plan was completed, and when the residential market finally came back after World War II, it was too late for the plan to be resurrected. The dream for a complete new town, a Garden City for thirty thousand people, was destroyed by the Depression. The events of that time demonstrate how difficult it is to bring a new town to fruition. There are so many unknowns: changes in the national economy, vagaries in the residential market, and the high costs of building and maintaining the infrastructure. Yet even the limited success of the Radburn neighborhood plan provided a significant advance in community planning.
Clarence Stein reflected later that the keys to successful housing developments for those of limited incomes were defined by Sunnyside Gardens and Radburn:
1. Low cost land, adequate in size and easily developed.
2. Transportation to take people easily to working places in relatively short time.
3. Continuous large scale building of complete sections with installations of utilities and streets paralleling construction of buildings, the building to be followed immediately by marketing and use.
4. Rapid development so as to minimize carrying charges [of land and costs].
5. Simple standardized units.
6. Grouping [of structures] for unity and variety of appearance and to add to the feeling of spaciousness given by the open areas.
7. Limited interest rate on capital investment.18
These seven fundamentals are no different today than they were seventy years ago. Low cost land, or the financial basis for the community, establishes the starting point for all later cost determinations. Costs may increase depending on what the market may bear, but the starting point has always been the initial investment in the cost of the land.
Transportation, specifically the railroad in the 1920s, and later the automobile, establishes the marketability of the property, along with its affordability. Ease of access and nearness to job centers fix in the minds of the buyer the relationship of the community to the region. Remote and inaccessible locations had a difficult time becoming successful, regardless of the price.
Continuous and rapid building of complete neighborhoods almost goes hand in hand with the success of a community. The economies of scale in a continuous construction schedule allow the builder to buy greater quantities of materials at better prices and to employ workers in an assembly-line fashion. This helps to meet the real demand for affordable public housing in a timely manner. The competition is also forced to meet the same goals and demands of the buyers. High production counts and high sales and occupancies also reduce the carrying costs for the builder. These savings are passed immediately on to the buyer. In a competitive market this can significantly reduce the cost of the house.
Standardization in not always received in a favorable light and there is a perception that it leads to monotony and lower quality. The reverse is often the case. Standardization reduces the cost of architectural design fees and engineering costs and is directly related to the final cost of the building. The architect’s fee can result in one structure, a custom design, or a thousand buildings, all of which share the same initial fee. The economies of scale will win out. It is the talent of the architect that determines the final design of the structure and there is seldom a direct connection between the fee and the quality of the design.
The overall plan of the community is the most critical component affecting the quality of the residential village or new town. Placement of the roads and structures is paramount to the spaciousness, ease of access, and circulation into and out of the community. It is this interaction of the physical elements of the plan with the amenities which add to the improved livability that new residents demand from the builder.
Finally, the cost of money, or the interest paid on borrowed money throughout the process, is critical to ensure success. It is not only the buyer of the house who pays interest on his home loan, but every subcontractor pays some form of interest on the costs of goods, materials, and services. If interest rates are high, the cost is magnified throughout the construction process and results in the home price rising. Rising rates also cast a pall on the future cost of the home and can reduce buyer demand. A lower interest rate allows the home price to remain stable which permits the builder to see farther into the future to develop a long-term marketing strategy.
The Radburn plan, according to Stein, accomplished the important objectives of being safer, more orderly and convenient. The community was spacious and peaceful and it brought people physically closer to nature. What is more important, it cost less per unit than other types of development with an equivalent amount of open space. Stein suggested, as a final point, that conveniently placed and varied industry is an essential requirement of a New Town. The timing of industrial development must be synchronized with that of the building of homes and community development.19 It was also about this time that the English phrase Garden City began to be Americanized to New Town; unfortunately, more than name was lost in the translation.
In the spring of 1933, four years after the development of Radburn was stopped, Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated. As he held up his hand to swear to the American people his fealty as their new President, more than ten million American workers were unemployed, great numbers were homeless, and many were on the verge of losing their homes. That same year, in Germany, Adolph Hitler was appointed chancellor by President von Hindenburg.
One element of Roosevelt’s New Deal, the legacy of which extends even into the twenty-first century, attempted to create jobs through massive and extensive public works projects. Roosevelt succeeded in creating jobs that were, for the most part, temporary and transitory. These jobs only existed during the life of the government program and ended when the need or the program disappeared. Two notable exceptions created jobs that were both permanent and continuing. The greatest and biggest was the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the second and smaller program was called the “Greenbelt Towns.”
The TVA, an extensive system of dams, lakes, and electric power production plants along the Tennessee River, required new communities be built to house construction workers and administrative staffs for these facilities. The “satellite town,” as it would be known, is best seen in the village of Norris, Tennessee. Designed as a community for the TVA personnel working on the Norris Dam near Knoxville, it would never achieve its independence as a fully planned and self-sustaining town. Planned by Tracy Augur, it follows many of the Howard-Wright concepts and principles and is an excellent example of structure and organizational innovation. Unfortunately, even though these TVA new towns contributed to the early planning efforts of American Garden Cities, they were remote and had little impact on existing regional conditions.
The basic ideas of circulation, land use, density and social justice which evolved during the planning of Sunnyside Gardens and Radburn became public policy within the concepts of the Greenbelt communities. All government projects of that time needed justification, and therefore the purposes for the Greenbelt communities were officially stated:
1. To give useful work to men on unemployment relief.
2. To demonstrate in practice the soundness of planning and operating towns according to certain Garden City principles.
3. To provide low-rent housing in healthful surroundings, both physical and social, for families that are in the low-income bracket.20
Unfortunately, these guiding principles were short lived, flawed in concept, and overly costly for the benefits they produced.
Four Greenbelt communities were authorized in 1935 under legislation passed as the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act and National Industrial Recovery Act. The functions of the Greenbelt towns — which included Greenbelt, Maryland; Greenhills, Ohio; Greendale, Wisconsin; and Greenbrook, New Jersey — were prescribed through an executive order by the president. The last of the four, Greenbrook, was dropped due to legal issues and local objections which arose during the planning. Henry S. Churchill, a leading architect and planner of the time, noted that it was “stopped by injunction proceedings brought by the Liberty League at the behest of an irate local magnate” who wanted “no wops or polacks” near his prerevolutionary manor. The notion of the Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) movement, took shape under many guises, long before the heady environmental days of the 1980s.21
Roosevelt placed Rexford Guy Tugwell, a member of his inner circle, or “brain trust,” and a true believer in the Garden City idea, in charge of the Resettlement Administration. Tugwell taught economics at Columbia University when he was selected by Roosevelt as an assistant secretary of agriculture and would coauthor the Agricultural Adjustment Act. It was under his authority the Greenbelt Communities would be designed and built. Their creation, due to the usual federal reorganizations, later found a home within another agency formed within the Resettlement Administration, the Suburban Resettlement Division.
Tugwell had been very interested in the concept of the satellite city regardless of its social impacts. “My idea,” he wrote in 1935, “is to just outside centers of population, pick up cheap land, build a whole community and entice people into it. Then go back into the cities and tear down whole slums and make parks of them.” The Suburban Resettlement Bureau was set up in a mansion on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C.22
Tugwell rejected the concept of individualism and believed that Americans shared a “cooperative mentality.” He proposed a collectivist economic policy which he believed could be achieved through planning and public control of the economy. It was his belief that the idea of the Greenbelt Community was closer to the habits and aspirations of the American people. He was blunt and, at times, tactless in the presentation of his gospel and soon became a target of the press and a political liability for Roosevelt. He left the administration after one year but steadfastly remained a loyal supporter of the president. Tugwell’s important legacy focused on the strength of suburban resettlement areas which he thought were more consistent with the current trends in American growth. Tugwell initially proposed that twenty-five Greenbelt towns be built close to existing urban employment, yet only three were built. It was in this decade and during the worst economic time the country had ever known to that point in its history that some of the best and most creative talents in community and residential planning were hired and brought to Washington to design and develop these communities.23
Henry Churchill wrote an article for The New Republic in June 1936 announcing the concept of the Greenbelt town to the general public. In it he presented the New Deal’s utopian idea on a level which was foreign to most Americans:
It is a social experiment of the first magnitude, and may well set new patterns not only for housing but for city government, for these towns are to be self-governing, starting free of bonded debt, and without the possibility of speculating in land or over expanding. No land or houses can be sold; the ultimate sizes of the communities are definitely set. . . . these towns must not be allowed to be defeated by real-estate foxery, double crossing and indifference — the indifference of those most vitally concerned, the people who will benefit by them, the landless and dispossessed, the constant victims of peculative greed, all of us, that is.24
Ten years later in his book The City Is the People, Churchill would continue to espouse his strong held belief in the benevolence of government and the continued ownership of land by government: “With municipal ownership of land . . . Possession [is] under long term lease, ‘due process’ could apply as well to the value of the lease and to the structure as to land held in fee, brokers could still make money buying and selling and leasing; the city’s fiscal problem could be much simplified and the problem of ‘unearned increment’ [speculation] could be much more readily adjusted.”
With the land owned by the municipality, long term planning could be more easily accomplished because one body had complete control of density, use distribution, and eventually the disposition of the structures on the land. Churchill blatantly placed the belief before the American public that “urban redevelopment purchase and subsidy should be a first step towards municipal ownership of all the land.”25
Greenbelt, Maryland, is located approximately thirteen miles northeast of the nation’s Capital. Now, sixty years later, the community is engulfed within the growth that has occurred in and around Washington, D.C., but in 1935 it was in a sparsely settled area of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Purchased at the time by the Federal Government for an average of ninety dollars per acre, the thirty-three hundred acres were poor, overly farmed land with little agricultural value. Even today much of the land purchased remains a buffer against the pressing growth in the area.
The design team, headed by town planner Hale Walker and chief architects Douglas D. Ellington and R. J. Wadsworth, divided the site into five residential “superblocks” that followed the hilly topography. The community was served by two parallel crescent shaped loop roads that wrap the dominant hill and provide good access to all areas of the community. Each of the internal residential superblocks take their conceptual lead from Sunnyside and Radburn. The clusters of buildings do not align with or front on these main loop roads but face inward toward the open-space areas. The residential clusters are separated by extensive greenways and open areas that are interconnected by walkways and lineal parks. Overall, the plan is shaped like a crescent moon that embraces the hill.
The majority of the buildings are four- to eight-unit row houses. Two-family houses (duplexes) a few apartment units were also built. The open areas are not as well defined as they were at Radburn, and, even though the park areas are extensive, they do not create an intimate and enclosed feeling; much of the open space just bleeds away. The primary focus of the town is the community center, which is cradled in the inside arc of the moon. Here are located the administrative offices, swimming center, athletic fields, marketplace, schools, library, and entertainment center.
The first residents of Greenbelt moved into the homes as they became available between October 1937 and the summer of 1938. These residents were selected because of their incomes and existing housing situation. They were also selected for their ability to pay the rents established for these first units. The result of this selection process was a very young population: fathers and mothers were typically under the age of thirty and most had small children who were under school age.
Greenbelt went through two growth phases. The first was the initial settlement by the Resettlement Administration, and the second, about two years later, was during the “Defense” period, when the country began to gear up for the possibility of war. The second growth spurt was hastily built and detracts from the original construction. Greenbelt, by the end of the 1940s, would house almost seventy-five hundred people.
Greenbelt, like Radburn, also failed to meet the goals of Howard’s Garden City. There was no industry, no job center. This was intentional on the part of the government planners, but it is unfortunate that, even with the almost unlimited funding of the federal government, a sincere effort at the creation of a total community was not attempted. Today, almost seventy years later, most of the residents still commute into Washington.
The second of the Greenbelt communities, Greenhills, was located eleven miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio, on a hilly and wooded 5,930-acre property. The community’s plan placed the 676 residential units around the community center and school complex. These facilities were interconnected to the rest of the community by trails and greenways. Like Greenbelt, the residential units were predominantly apartments and row houses. Only twenty-four detached homes were built. Unlike Greenbelt, where most of the units were oriented inward and surrounded by roads, Greenhills faced many of its residential units outward toward the open lands of the property. Considering the exposure of the property and the ridges, many of these homes have direct views into open space. Again, the community harkens back to the Garden City, with its surrounding and separating greenbelt, but fails to live up to the dream of an integrated industrial, commercial, and residential village. The community had a severe lack of good regional access, especially a railroad, and no employment or industrial center. In some respects it is nothing more than a well-designed subdivision.
The Resettlement Administration, in 1936, purchased 3,510 acres eight miles southwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the construction of the third Greenbelt community, Greendale. It was designed to provide low-rent homes for families with modest incomes. The Milwaukee area was considered for one of these communities because it had, since the early twenties, a deep involvement in public housing programs that provided single-family dwellings. In 1934 the city played host to an international tour of housing experts, including Americans Henry Wright and Ernest J. Bohn and the English Garden City planner Sir Raymond Unwin. Unwin expressed his opinion, during the course of the conference, that “this tendency to move out [of the city] is very healthy and I think there is infinite more danger in trying to bolster up a desire to live in the city center than doing a little too much to live on the [city’s] outside . . . To me, the desirable life is to live in a one family house with a garden.” It is surprising to hear the “American Dream,” even in the 1930s, being voiced by an Englishman.26
It was here, at Greendale, that planners Jacob Crane and the noted landscape architect Elbert Peets, created the smallest yet, considered by many, the best of the Greenbelt communities. Initially, only about 385 acres were used to develop 750 potential residential units. The plan included 370 group- or twin -type units and 380 single-family designs. Its size and large greenbelt buffer allowed the community to grow within itself and create a living village.
To assure the planners of the market for the homes, residents in and around Milwaukee were surveyed extensively about their incomes and housing requirements. Social amenities they would like see built were listed and even the extent of commercial facilities they would patronize were tabulated. Unfortunately, the surveys overlooked attitudes about living in an isolated housing project. Elbert Peets later noted that, even with all the survey data available to the planners, they usually relied on federal guidelines and their own professional experience and not on the survey of potential future residents.27
Greendale was initially subdivided into five neighborhoods that surrounded the elementary school and town center. The residential size and scale was smaller than the other Greenbelt towns. There were only a few row houses. Most homes were singles and duplexes, which reflected the preferences gathered in the surveys. Some neighborhoods were also subdivided into conventional lots, with fewer interior properties held in common ownership. Most streets and cul-de-sacs had less than twenty-four units facing the street. These subneighborhoods were oriented to have direct access to the open-space buffers and greenways. The streets were designed to direct through-traffic away from the residential areas; only those autos having business on a residential street or cul-de-sac should be within that quarter. Pedestrian paths were also separated from the roadways and led to the school and town administration building. Peets and Crane also included a recommendation for a collective farm on the surrounding greenbelt with all the farmers employed on a salary basis with a share of the profit.28
There was a fundamental flaw in the execution of all the Greenbelt plans: the land was federally owned and their entire marketing strategy was toward renters. It was not until 1949, after extensive lobbying by the residents and twelve years after the start of Greendale that Congress voted to sell it and the other Greenbelt communities to private enterprise, with preferential purchase rights for nonprofit or limited-dividend groups of either veterans or tenants. Even these meager efforts at “property ownership” failed to maintain the communities. Eventually Greenbelt, Maryland was sold to private developers, sliced into pieces by freeways, and its physical integrity erased.
Greendale was able to maintain the integrity of the original plan because a group of Milwaukee businessmen formed a public spirited investment group to purchase most of the town. Later, in 1953, the Milwaukee Community Development Corporation acquired an additional twenty-three hundred acres of vacant land, the shopping center, and administration building. The Public Housing Administration, the 1950s newest name for the Roosevelt administration’s Federal Public Housing Authority, then sold Greendale’s homes directly to their occupants. Greenhills, Ohio, went through similar machinations, and eventually the remaining open lands were converted to county parks, Army Corps of Engineers “flood control” districts, or they were sold for development.29 The dreams of Tugwell, Churchill, and others for the government control of land and property disappeared with the sale of these developments.
Many reasons have been cited for the failure of these greenbelt communities, but the one that few point to as the best reason was their cost. When Greendale was stopped in the summer of 1937, almost 10.5 million dollars had been spent by the government. If allocated to the real number of units built, 572, the cost per residential unit was $18,350. This was more than five times the current price of a home in that market. Though the village’s roads were paved with good intentions, the product fell far short of its goal: affordable housing.
Greendale owed much of its planning concept to Radburn. The pedestrian scale of the village, the central grouping of its public buildings, and, most directly, its street plan all reflect the planning of Radburn. The concept and execution of the short cul-de-sac, or court, is similar in scope and length. Peets admitted that, in designing the village, he drew from the layouts of Midwestern county seats, European Renaissance marketplaces, and the reconstruction of Williamsburg, Virginia.30
One other element of planning sets Greendale apart from Greenhills and Greenbelt: the form of housing proposed and built. Most planners of the time agreed that attached housing, the row house, was the only affordable type of housing for moderate incomes. Experts referred to a detached house as “sentimental without much to recommend it.” At Greendale, Elbert Peets disagreed. He felt that the detached house was far superior to the traditional eastern style of the row house. He thought each house should stand apart, with its own fenced yard around it. It was his merging of the concept of the detached house with the defined cul-de-sac that set Greendale apart from the other Greenbelt towns.31
All three — Greenbelt, Maryland; Greendale, Wisconsin; and Greenhills, Ohio — were under the watchful guardianship of the federal government. They were incomplete, and, eventually, adjacent development precluded their expansion. Although the three communities had basic health and safety services, some commercial facilities, and more parks than most comparable communities, they lacked one fundamental common to most other small towns: they were not operated and managed by the residents. Eventually, there was a natural tendency by the residents not to care as much as they would if they were in charge.
Fifteen years later Tugwell wrote, “We were doomed to failure from the start.” He couldn’t accept the facts that these new towns were failures due to conception or planning techniques; they were failures of “character.” He continued to believe that the participants had neither the commitment nor the self-discipline to make these communities work. He blamed the press and what he called the “pulpit.” These New Deal towns should have set the standard by which postwar communities were to be built, but they resulted in a collection of squandered opportunities: indifferent bureaucrats, exorbitant costs, and confusing goals. There was also a strange atmosphere about the agency doing the planning. Resettlement, wrote Marquis W. Childs of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was “a cozy conspiracy of good will to remake America on a cleaner, truer, more secure pattern.” But Childs also notes that the effort failed to take the American people into their confidence. It was an attitude of “Trust me, we know what we’re doing.” But those who were resettled by the process did not trust the government. The basic concerns of Americans were self-interest and desire to prove themselves. The needs and desires of the individual and their families could not find a satisfying outlet in these self-contained communities.
The government and its planners failed to consider the essential reason that contributed to the failure of these new Greenbelt towns: the residents were transients and renters who lacked private ownership, responsibility, and the power to control their own properties. The social engineering beliefs of the New Deal planners neglected to give the residents the control they needed in their daily lives. As such, these communities floundered, and it would not be until the early 1950s that the residents could buy the homes they lived in. It was only then that these communities acquired a significant life and purpose of their own.
These communities were somewhat isolated and, as the government proceeded, hardly anything was done to fold these new towns into the fabric of the region. There was little if any involvement by local governments and counties. These new communities were forced into the local culture and were intended to house what many were to consider outsiders. The need for a regional conscience, as voiced by Howard in his Garden Cities and Mumford and others in Radburn, was never seen as a priority and may have been seen by Washington as a nuisance or hindrance. As Clarence Stein, the architect and patriarch of American new towns, later said: “You can’t plan a new town by itself. It’s part of a regional problem. We have no administrative way to develop regions.”32
It is safe to assume that Philip Klutznick was aware of the problems that these Greenbelt towns had faced. They had been, after numerous reorganizations, under the control of the Federal Public Housing Authority, an agency he directed, since February 1942. With his knowledge of the Greenbelt towns and their problems, it is understandable why Klutznick took such a strong position on the two issues of community incorporation and property management. In these two issues he was to prove himself prescient. In a memorandum written in July 1946, soon after joining the team that was to build Park Forest, he voiced his concerns about management of property acquisitions:
In our original concept of an integrated city, we always envision the ownership and control of a band of surrounding land. It seems foolhardy to add the value that our program will add to the surrounding territory without participating therein. In our recent planning, we seem to have lost sight of this objective. It is, of course, desirable to project a complete utilization of the land which we presently have under control. However, some thought should be given to methods and means to protect ourselves against a huge enrichment of abutting owners without participation on our part in the benefit.33
Klutznick also would require that the new community be incorporated and form its own government as soon as possible. The town must have legal standing in the region and obligate the residents to be responsible for the future of the village; they would not be tenants on a government-sponsored resettlement project.
In the United States between 1900 and 1939, concurrently with the English Garden Cities, many new communities were being planned and built. The Country Club District in Kansas City, with its seminal shopping district, began modestly in 1907. Forest Hills Gardens on Long Island, child of the philanthropic Russell Sage Foundation, started in 1909. By October 1910 Shaker Heights, just east of downtown Cleveland, had extended itself across some six and a half miles of rolling land and had incorporated.
Many of the new towns were subsidized by industrial growth and the need for employee housing. The Kohler Company moved their factory into the countryside near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and developed Kohler Village. The Goodyear Company in Akron, Ohio, and the Norton Company in Worcester, Massachusetts, also undertook suburban residential communities for their workers. These new towns were similar to the mill towns of almost one hundred years earlier, but there was a difference. Most privately built communities were land ventures built to create housing not only for their workers but for others in the community as well.
Lewis Mumford would define, in 1938, almost exactly what would be required to meet the needs of new towns. Writing in his The Culture of Cities he said that:
“. . . The garden city can take form, in other words, only when our political and economic institutions are directed toward regional rehabilitation. What is important to recognize is that these new principles of urban development, as demonstrated by Sir Ebenezer Howard and his associates, are universal ones: they point toward balanced urban communities within balanced regions: on one hand, a wider diffusion of the instruments and processes of a high human culture, and on the other the infusion into the city of the life-sustaining environment and life-directed interests of the countryside.”34
The experience that was gained in community design in the United States prior to World War II formed the foundation for the Park Forest village plan. Park Forest was the first real opportunity to pull together the three basic ideas of modern postwar community planning. Noted by Clarence Stein in his book, Toward New Towns for America, the three fundamental concepts were the Garden City, the Radburn Idea and a new term presented by Stein, the Neighborhood Unit. Each of these elements created a new vernacular of design and planning which, when combined, formed the ideal of the New Town.
Peets expanded this list to include the “multicellular city” as the model for his planning. It created “a new texture for the dispersion of the urban population, a texture which preserves much of the countryside, conforms to the best principles of regional traffic circulation, keeps land open for the gradual movement of industry, and groups the people into neighborhoods having a stimulating autonomy in many social ways without giving up the sound foundation of participation in the industrial and economic life of the urban region.”35 Park Forest was the child of these planning concepts and a direct blood relative of these communities and the grandchild of Chicago’s own Riverside. It is also possibly the only child of this parentage to mature and grow old.
The most obvious difference between the Greenbelt communities and Park Forest was that Park Forest was built by private developers with the intention to sell the housing to the residents. The most important change from the planning of the prewar era was that Park Forest would become an entity onto itself. It would be incorporated, and the residents would control their fortunes, something the government did not grant to the residents of the Greenbelt towns. Its conception and birth would be special.