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Chatham Village

Chatham Village: Pittsburgh's Garden City

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Chatham Village
    Book Description:

    Chatham Village, located in the heart of Pittsburgh, is an urban oasis that combines Georgian colonial revival architecture with generous greenspaces, recreation facilities, surrounding woodlands, and many other elements that make living there a unique experience. Founded in 1932, it has gained international recognition as an outstanding example of the American Garden City planning movement and was named a National Historic Landmark in 2005.Chatham Village was the brainchild of Charles F. Lewis, then director of the Buhl Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based charitable trust. Lewis sought an alternative to the substandard housing that plagued low-income families in the city. He hired the New York-based team of Clarence S. Stein and Henry Wright, followers of Ebenezer Howard's utopian Garden City movement, which sought to combine the best of urban and suburban living environments by connecting individuals to each other and to nature.Angelique Bamberg provides the first book-length study of Chatham Village, in which she establishes its historical significance to urban planning and reveals the complex development process, social significance, and breakthrough construction and landscaping techniques that shaped this idyllic community. She also relates the design of Chatham Village to the work of other pioneers in urban planning, including Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., landscape architect John Nolen, and the Regional Planning Association of America, and considers the different ways that Chatham Village and the later New Urbanist movement address a common set of issues. Above all, Bamberg finds that Chatham Village's continued viability and vibrance confirms its distinction as a model for planned housing and urban-based community living.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-8070-4
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. one The Architects of a Solution
    (pp. 1-26)

    In the year of the stock market crash that precipitated the Great Depression, a fledgling foundation in Pittsburgh undertook a bold new mission: to revolutionize American residential development. The Buhl Foundation’s emphasis on privately produced, for-profit housing resisted the leftward movement of the 1930s political economy, as increasing rates of unemployment and housing foreclosure ushered in a groundswell of support for government-provided services—including, eventually, public housing. By building a brand new, privately financed community according to the most progressive planning ideas of the day, the Buhl Foundation sought to provide a model for socially and environmentally responsible capitalism at...

  2. two Precedent and Process
    (pp. 27-70)

    Chatham Village has its antecedents in the garden city movement, instigated by Ebenezer Howard at end of the nineteenth century. A parliamentary clerk in London, then the world’s largest city, Howard saw all around him the pathological consequences of the Industrial Revolution. Lured by comparatively high wages, people streamed to the city in search of factory jobs, but urban pollution and high costs kept them living in cramped and crowded slums. Britain’s nineteenth-century industrialized cities juxtaposed the squalor of the laboring classes alongside the opulence of the elite. Howard observed firsthand how cities abounded with opportunities for jobs, culture, and...

  3. three Design for a Modern Village
    (pp. 71-104)

    The Buhl Foundation broke ground for the first phase of Chatham Village in spring 1931, and the first 129 houses were completed the next year. Great publicity surrounded the community during construction, and on Chatham Village’s opening day, twenty thousand people waited in line to see the houses in their as-yet unlandscaped grounds. The project enjoyed an occupancy rate of above 99 percent in its first year and immediately returned a profit to the Buhl Foundation. Charles Lewis confidently attributed the development’s success to the thoroughness of economic, site planning, sociological, and architectural studies performed over the course of two...

  4. four The Social Life of a Planned Community
    (pp. 105-132)

    Just as the Buhl Foundation and its consultants planned the Chatham Village site to yield a societal and economic return, so too did they meticulously research and plan the social life of the neighborhood in order to bring about an ideal—and therefore a satisfied and profitable—community. Having created a demonstration in residential community design, the foundation maintained firm control over the community’s management, maintenance, demo four graphics, and social life to ensure the attractiveness of the buildings and grounds, the stability of the resident community, and, above all, the security of its own investment. The first step in...

  5. five A Demonstration, Not a Revolution
    (pp. 133-164)

    In 1955, Charles Lewis declared that the Buhl Foundation’s objectives for Chatham Village “have been fully realized.” ¹ Lewis’s claim was in some regards an overstatement, but Chatham Village was extraordinarily successful: high occupancy rates, low tenant turnover, and long waiting lists for units have been steady characteristics of the community since the day it opened in 1932. Through economic depression, war, and inflation, the community continued to bring the Buhl Foundation a stable annual return in excess of 4 percent until it was sold to its tenants in 1960. Catherine Bauer lauded Chatham Village as “probably the best example...

  6. six Preservation and Planning for a New Urbanism
    (pp. 165-190)

    Chatham Village did not have to revolutionize American housing in order to set a powerful example. In the words of Clarence Stein, a planned community “leaves a record of human ideals and purposes that may last beyond its time.”¹ Beyond its purpose as a Depression-era housing demonstration, Chatham Village – along with other planned communities – has much to teach us about the application of plan and the lessons we have learned about building better places planned communities embody the experiments we have tried planning theories to the realities of city life. Taken together, planned communities embody the experiments we have tried...