By Robert M. Fogelson
The necessary American suburbs, with their gracious single-family houses, huge eco-friendly lawns, and leaf-shaded streets, mirrored not just citizens’ desires yet nightmares, not just hopes yet fears: worry of others, of racial minorities and lowincome teams, worry of themselves, worry of the industry, and, especially, worry of switch. those fears, and the restrictive covenants that embodied them, are the topic of Robert M. Fogelson’s interesting new book.As Fogelson unearths, suburban subdividers tried to deal with the deep-seated fears of undesirable switch, specially the encroachment of “undesirable” humans and actions, by way of enforcing quite a lot of regulations at the plenty. those regulations ranged from mandating minimal expenses and architectural kinds for the homes to forbidding the proprietors to promote or hire their estate to any member of a number of racial, ethnic, and non secular teams. those regulations, lots of that are nonetheless in most cases hired, let us know as a lot in regards to the complexities of yank society this present day as approximately its complexities a century in the past.
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Additional resources for Bourgeois Nightmares: Suburbia, 1870-1930
Nichols recalled, ‘‘When I began selling lots at the tagend outskirts of the city [at the turn of the century], I was afraid , – to suggest my present broad building restrictions. ’’ And selling lots was how subdividers made their living. ’’ To make a living, the subdividers had to do more than just cover the costs of buying the land, putting in the streets, installing the utilities, and laying out the lots. They also had to pay property taxes and interest charges. Unless we sell the lots, and sell them quickly, ‘‘the carrying charge will eat us up,’’ Nichols warned his fellow subdividers.
Each of these places was the brainchild of an extremely wealthy businessman—or, in the case of Tuxedo Park and Kenilworth, one of his heirs. But none were commercial enterprises. Lorillard did not become a developer to add to his already huge fortune. Neither did Llewellyn S. Haskell (of Llewellyn Park), Stewart Hartshorn (of Short Hills), or Joseph Sears (of Kenilworth). (For Hartshorn, it was just as well. ) Rather these men used their huge fortunes to build utopian communities for people like themselves.
As a designer, consultant, and writer, Olmsted devoted much of his prodigious energy to trying to ameliorate some of the worst features of America’s cities. ’’ Given the natural tendency of people to ‘‘flock together’’ in cities, a return to the country was out of the question. ’’ But a move to the suburbs was not. For most Americans, Olmsted argued, the suburbs offered the benefits of city life without the congestion, tumult, noise, crime, and vice, and the pleasures of country life without the inconvenience, isolation, and lack of amenities.