|Title||Halfway to Everywhere: A Portrait of America's First-Tier Suburbs|
|Publisher||Urban Land Institute|
|Published Place||Washington, D.C.|
Halfway to Everywhere: A Portrait of America's First-Tier Suburbs
By William H. Hudnut III
In his latest book, Hudnut paints a picture of the older, first-tier suburbs in which many of the nation's most critical issues—education reform, immigration and diversity, economic restructuring, neighborhood planning, and social exclusion—are played out on a daily basis. He focuses on the unique and substantial assets of these close-in communities and highlights the enthusiasm and commitment of the people who live, work, and play there.
Drawing on actual examples from communities throughout America, Hudnut describes the strategies and solutions that have been implemented successfully by first-tier suburbs to revitalize themselves. These include a variety of policies and programs that nurture human capital, provide committed leadership, unleash the power of faith-based institutions, improve housing opportunities, work with community development corporations, preserve historic structures, promote economic development, and recognize the importance of urban design.
America Hits the Road
In the 17th and 18th centuries, suburban development occurred along America's paths, dirt roads, canals, and waterways. The 19th century witnessed further dispersion from the central city due to the advent of railroads and streetcars. By the turn of that century, the automobile had been invented in Europe, and in 1903, Henry Ford founded his company and began producing the Model T Ultimately, cars led to the demise of trains and streetcars (and horses!) as America's main meansof travel. General Motors helped the process along considerably by buying up streetcar companies and replacing the electric trolleys with buses. Railroad commuting dwindled, with the exception of the Boston-Washington corridor and a handful of other cities, like Chicago. Con-currently, highways and parkways began to appear over the landscape. Woodward Avenue was built to connect Detroit and Pontiac, creating suburbs in between: Highland Park, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Berkeley, Royal Oak, and Birmingham, all inner ring communities
today. Around New York City, the Long Island Parkway (1906 1911), the Hutchinson River Parkway (1928), and the Cross County Parkway (1931) were built as continuing manifestations of the suburban seeking culture. Bridges spanned rivers, connecting Philadelphia with Camden
(1926), and New York with New Jersey (1933).
Between 1910 and 1930, auto registrations rose from one car for every 201 persons in America, to one car per 5.3. There had been five cars in 1895, 21.3 million in 1928.1 The automobile created a revolution in American living styles, which occasioned dramatic changes in the urban form. As people started commuting to work by car from a bed : )om suburb, congestion increased in the central city, taxpayers were faced with huge infrastructure bills, and the deconcentration that had teen initiated by railroads and trolleys was accelerated.' Henry Ford = edicted, "The city is doomed. We shall solve the city problem by leav-
Chevy Chase, Maryland
While the automobile revolution spurred suburban growth, the shift to cars was seamless. Consider Chevy Chase, Maryland, on the northwest border of Washington, D.C., as an example. It began in the 1890s undercareful guidance of Senator Francis Newlands as an exclusive, post- Victorian planned suburban community remote (five miles at the time) from the city. With its winding, tree lined streets, its "lawn culture," and its colonial, Tudor, and Norman Revival culture," and its colonial, Tudor, and Norman Revival architectural styles, Chevy Chase blossomed in the first quarter of the 20th century as an electric streetcar suburb served by the Rock Creek Railway, and came to be known as the "premier" suburb of the nation's capital.'
In 1928, Newlands's daughter Janet and her husband conceived the idea of building for the automobile in an undeveloped section of Chevy Chase. They created what became known as "the Hamlet," a unique automobile oriented development which, according to historians Elizabeth Lampl and Kimberly Williams, clearly reflected "20th century trends in suburban design that were attributable to the impact of the private automobile.i5 Nearly every house had a built in garage. The brick walled, slate roofed homes, in the style of early American architecture, surrounded a central courtyard, where the original landscaping has unfortunately yielded to asphalt. The Chevy Chase Railway made its last run in 1935, and even though the Capital Transit Company offered bus service over the former streetcar route, more and more Chevy Chase residents were switching to cars.6 Before 1929, the conversion of the streetcar suburb to an automobile suburb was complete.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the "widening gyre"7 of land development expanded. The new suburbs of the 1920s were not oriented to fixed rail systems like the older ones. The automobile could go anywhere that roads permitted, so land use became much more diffuse-more like a spiderweb than the spokes of a wheel. Population decentralized as the American middle class pursued lower density development and larger lot sizes in greenfields that had hitherto been unreachable.