For almost two centuries Americans have been moving to the suburbs in search of affordable family housing, unspoiled nature, and small-town sociability--only to find that their leafy new neighborhoods are part of the growing metropolitan sprawl. It is to this contested cultural landscape, where most Americans now live, that Dolores Hayden draws our attention.
From nineteenth-century utopian communities and elite picturesque enclaves to early twentieth-century streetcar subdivisions and owner-built tracts to the vast postwar sitcom suburbs and the subsidized malls and office parks that followed (on a scale that earlier builders could never have imagined), Hayden reveals the cultural and economic patterns that have brought us to the present. She explores the interplay of natural and built environments, the complex antagonisms between real-estate developers and suburban residents, the hidden role of federal government, and the religious and ideological overtones of the “American dream” embedded in the suburbs. Hayden asks hard questions about who has benefited from the suburban building process and about “smart” growth and “green” building. And she makes a strong case for the revitalization of existing neighborhoods in place of unchecked new growth on rural fringes.
Few readers will see our ubiquitous suburbs in the same way again.
"Dolores Hayden is a unique urban pathfinder. She hunts down the relationships among popular aspirations, big urban players, and the everyday experience of domestic life. In this book she traces the history of our suburban metropolises, guiding the reader through seven easily recognized on-the-setreet patterns. The end of the history is the now when the government and private corporations anxously push to maintain our cities of consumption. And yes, she has found a way leading from this dead end."
--Sam Bass Warner, Jr., author of Streetcar Suburbs
"Building Suburbia embraces the human desires that underlie two centuries of American suburban landscapes, even as it explains the myriad problems that ensued. It is only with this complex understanding that we, like Hayden herself, can imagine better patterns of suburban development, more equitable, sustainable, congenial, and beautiful."
--Gwendolyn Wright, author of Building the Dream: A Social History of Housing in America
"We think of suburbs as standardized places. Dolores Hayden shows us, for the first time, the remarkable diversity of suburban environments that Americans have produced over two centuries. Lucid, original, and abundantly illustrated, Building Suburbia is that delightful rarity: a scholarly book with a critical perspective and wide appeal."
--Richard Harris, author of Unplanned Suburbs: Toronto’s American Tragedy, 1900-1950
"Building Suburbia is compelling and beautifully written. It reads like a novel and at the same time offers an insightful social and political history of the rise of the suburbs in the United States. Hayden redefines the American Dream and critiques the rise of segregated housing and the isolated communities characteristic of the suburban landscape. There is no other book quite like this one because of its accessibility and breadth of scholarship. It will attract a wide audience as well as academic acclaim. Great work."
--Setha Low, author of Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Hapiness in Fortress America
"Bringing together several decades of research on suburban development, including Hayden's own, Building Suburbia will become the standard work on the suburban landscape the United States. At a time when debates about suburbia are dominated by smart growth and new urbanism, Hayden's important book provides both a much needed historical perspective and a vision of a future in which the suburbs are reused and not abandoned."
--Ann Forsyth, author of Constructing Suburbs: Competing Voices in a Debate Over Urban Growth
“With its wealth of illustrations and combined scholarly and anecdotal writing, Dolores Hayden’s Building Suburbia not only provides a brilliant a new understanding of suburban form--past, present and future--but also treats the reader to a delightfully opinionated assessment of today’s housing arrangements. Hayden’s persuasive plea for preserving and improving existing suburbs is right on target for the 21st century”
--Eugenie L. Birch, Dept. of City and Regional Planning, Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylnavia
"Whereas most successful guides make the foreign more familiar, Dolores Hayden tours us through the familiar landscape of American suburbia and, with great verve, makes it more foreign--much more diverse, complex, and important. Ordinary suburban homes, neighborhoods, and communities suddenly yield new insights into our past values--and future possibilities."
--Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America