Garden Cities

Letchworth, Hertfordshire, UK

Letchworth, Hertfordshire, UK

At the end of the 19th century, a new concept in urban planning was initiated in England by Sir Ebenezer Howard. It was coined the “Garden City” and as outlined in his book “Garden Cities of To-morrow” the premise was to design and build a community that was limited in size and population, included parks and open space as well as industry for employment and was surrounded by a permanent “greenbelt” of agricultural or forested land. It was also intended to be a respite for the blue collar workers who were living in cramped, polluted quarters within urban areas. Once the population exceeded 32,000 a new Garden City would be built with the same criteria and eventually a cluster of them would form. Letchworth and Welwyn were two garden cities built in the UK applying Howard’s ideas.

The Garden City concept was utilized by the Resettlement Administration agency created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program which was instituted during the Depression. Three towns were planned and built by the Federal Government in the 1930’s: Greenbelt, Maryland, Greenhills, Ohio and Greendale, Wisconsin. They were meant to provide housing and community to displaced farmers from the dust bowl and poor working families. All contained affordable housing, strong community centers and attempted self sufficiency. They were meant to combine the best of both worlds: city and nature. And of course they were surrounded by a greenbelt which doesn’t exist anymore. See Urban Sprawl, Conurbation, and Urban Growth Boundaries.

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