© 2012 Cindy Frank

New Deal Utopias

Images of New Deal Utopias, including Greenbelt MD, just down the road from College Park, are featured on this New York Times Blog.

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/

A brief History of Greenbelt as told by guest blogger, Lucinda Philumalee.

As a historic preservation student at the University of Maryland, the nearby city of Greenbelt, Maryland is a local treasure.  Located just outside the Capital Beltway, Greenbelt is home to professors and students alike.  It serves as an example of early-to-mid 1900s cutting edge urban design.

The history of Greenbelt predates its actual establishment.  In response to the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act of 1935.  This provided five billion dollars in funding for public works projects, which supported the Resettlement Administration of 1935.  The Resettlement Administration was headed by Roosevelt’s advisor Rexford Guy Tugwell who developed the concept for Greenbelt, Maryland as well as its sister towns, Greendale, Wisconsin and Greenhills, Ohio.

The three planned cities were inspired by the Garden City Movement, which influenced American urban design in the early twentieth century. It was an approach to urban planning developed by Ebeneezer Howard in 1898.  Howard’s notion was to move the poor out to the countryside in order to reconnect with nature, while incorporating the use of green belts, agriculture, industry, housing, commercial and cultural places to spur the economy.

The Garden City Movement was applied to Greenbelt in several ways.  Topography was a factor in the site selection and design of Greenbelt in that the original city was formed by a crescent shaped piece of land with major roads on either side. Apartments and houses were constructed between the major roads.  Entrances to residences were comprised of one to a courtyard and one for vehicular access.  These concepts of walk-ability and courtyard living were popular because it provided a feeling of safety during a tumultuous period.

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