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Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  249 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
A lively history of the contested landscapes where the majority of Americans now live, Building Suburbia chronicles two centuries in the birth and development of America’s metropolitan regions.

From rustic cottages reached by steamboat to big box stores at the exit ramps of eight-lane highways, Dolores Hayden defines seven eras of suburban development since 1820. An urban h
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Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 9th 2004 by Vintage (first published 2003)
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Samuel
Apr 02, 2014 Samuel rated it really liked it
Dolores Hayden’s Building Suburbia: Greenfields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000 chronicles “180 years of metropolitan development in the United States” that addresses “the general reader…from the perspective of an urban landscape historian” (xi). Although the book is well documented with endnotes—many of which cite secondary sources such as Warner, Longstreth, Stilgoe, etc.—the overall synthetic presentation is lucid enough to appeal to more than just the scholar of suburban landscapes. Hayden succe ...more
blue-collar mind
Mar 12, 2011 blue-collar mind rated it really liked it
I could give you some excellent examples of my suburban cred-I'll give you two:
I would ride my bike to y tiny side or back yard, and just leave it laying there til i wanted to ride it again.
I had no idea how to take a bus until I was a teenager and then still got confused.

Lucky for me, my urban mother moved me to the city when I was a teenager and I escaped its grown-up clutches. Maybe because of that, I go back to that suburb and find sweet things to muse about almost every time.

Suburbia has i
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Cat
Aug 22, 2007 Cat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: soccer moms with masters degrees.



Building Suburbia is a capable synthesis of historical and recent scholarship on the development of the suburbs in America. Hayden, a professor of architecture and urbanism and professor of American Studies at Yale, knows what she is talking about. It was clear to me that this book is written for a general, rather then specialized audience.
Hayden's writting style is easy to understand, and she provides multiple in text illustrations and photographs to illuminate the text. The book tracks the his
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Ian
Jun 08, 2013 Ian rated it did not like it
At times interesting history of the changing pattern of suburban and rural development in the United States punctuated by bloated diction and terribly misguided substories. In particular the hamhanded effort to paint much of urban development as a racist plot against minorities. That part is bad enough, but the sophomoric feminist rant against male driven family structures... allegedly perpetuated by modern suburbs... that is tactlessly slapped onto the text sends the book from the realm of bein ...more
Daniel
Jul 17, 2014 Daniel rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
The academic writing style is not my favorite style. This is definitely written in that style. The book does do a good job of explaining the history of and development of the rural and suburban life style and I enjoyed those parts. I however couldn't get over the random feminist rants and odd ideas about race and the urban environments. I am obviously not the target audience for this book.

Reads more like a doctorate dissertation than a readable history book. I gave it two stars because the hist
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Wade
Jun 21, 2014 Wade rated it it was amazing
One of the best books anywhere on anything. Then you take the fact that we all fascinated with where humans live and how we came to this odd suburban arrangement and you really see her strength. The intelligent time lines leading from the 1800s to modern mcmansion is impressive and her chapter on sitcom suburbs is brilliant including the communist red aspect of Levitttown. Hayden writes quick and crisp and lays out segments you'll want to quote later. Her closing chapters talk poignantly about h ...more
Tracy
Sep 13, 2008 Tracy rated it liked it
Shelves: urban-form
Hayden does a good job of systematically describing the history of the suburb. Of particular value is her inclusion of periods prior to WWII, in contrast to many who see the beginning of the 'burbs in the post-war construction boom. Much of the discussion focuses on the stories of particular examples of the types of suburban pattern she describes. The examples make for interesting reading, but lack something in terms of generality.

Of course, the book almost deserves three stars for a single sent
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Pam
Jun 26, 2014 Pam rated it liked it
Hayden. talks about the importance of preserving our existing built environment, understanding the history of suburbs, and realizing the socio-economic impacts of our actions. She acknowledges efforts to achieve these goals through planners, architects, historians, etc. but completely neglects the field of historic preservation (until the last 5 pages of the book) despite the fact that preservationists often approach the issues she discusses from the holistic approach she claims is sorely needed ...more
Gordon Howard
Mar 29, 2013 Gordon Howard rated it it was amazing
Excellent book that combines a concise history of suburbia in the U.S. and its different stages, leading to a last chapter with meaningful actions to take. Dolores Hayden is a former professor of mine from UCLA almost three decades ago, and her analysis of the built environment in the U.S. is the most complete and thoughtful that I have found.
Kuva
Sep 04, 2014 Kuva rated it really liked it
Very engaging, and a good companion piece/update to "Crabgrass Frontier." It covers much of the same ground but goes off in some additional directions and emphasizes the the cultural aspects of the suburbs (critiques and advertisements) a bit more than the legal/economic analysis that Kenneth Jackson provides.
Linda Stewart
Jun 12, 2009 Linda Stewart rated it it was amazing
Hayden explains the seven historical periods of suburbia. Her discussion of the cult of domesticity for women and the single-home ownership for men and the influences of Beecher on suburban "home missionaries" is fascinating. The historical roots of suburbia are helpful to understand the present configurations of suburban systems, particularly the gendering of suburban landscapes.
Halle
Mar 24, 2008 Halle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished
If you've ever been curious about how we've built this massive society and life around suburbs, this book is for you. It's a historical description of suburbs from their conception until now, including the author's thoughts on the future of the suburb.

I found this book fascinating and fun to read!
Gisela
Mar 07, 2011 Gisela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll write a review as it's unlikely I'll finish, not because the book is bad, but because I keep getting mad. It's a succinct history of the development of suburbia and the political and economic factors that created it. My complaint is that it's a little too brief for me, I would have enjoyed more detail.
Michael
eh
she's right, taxes and politics need to be reformed for true suburban reform to occur. so once we solve this energy thing, and cut the demand for it's use in cars and move that demand to neighborhoods and houses and cities, we'll be cool.
Kim
Dec 11, 2010 Kim rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting perspective on suburban sprawl, particularly because it makes the point that it is not a new phenomenon. Depressing to learn how manipulated the housing market has been since time immemorial. A little too much "tell" not "show" but decent nevertheless.
Jama
Aug 07, 2010 Jama rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-planning
While I found the first few chapters disjointed, and I wished the author would lend her interpretations to the many many historical examples she gave, the book ended up being very informative and interesting.
Natasha
Apr 25, 2009 Natasha rated it it was amazing
so far: excellent.
A history of Real Estate Land Development and it's perverse effects on America due to poor policy.
Margaret Wilkening
Apr 07, 2012 Margaret Wilkening rated it really liked it
Excellent overview of the forces of suburbanization. Not only does Hayden offer an in depth historical analysis, she offers a view of future policy.
Bill
Aug 03, 2011 Bill added it
An excellent synopsis of how we got these cancerous "little houses made of ticky tacky" metastasizing all those hydrocarbons away from city centers.
Andrew
Jul 24, 2009 Andrew rated it really liked it
A great look at the surprising history of suburban growth in the US, with a narrative style that captures the story in perfect detail.
Laura Taylor
Nov 17, 2013 Laura Taylor rated it it was amazing
Best book describing the rise of suburbia (and exurbia) as a lifestyle and a cultural landscape. It is as good a read as you'll find in any book.
Aaronwilcher
For the general audience. Hayden is the seminal contemporary scholar on community in the built environment, the Jane Jacobs of her generation.
Sarah
Sarah rated it liked it
Aug 07, 2008
Sabra
Sabra rated it really liked it
Feb 10, 2008
Anda Ocibella
Anda Ocibella rated it it was amazing
Nov 27, 2014
Katherine
Katherine rated it liked it
May 01, 2008
Liz P
Liz P rated it really liked it
Oct 05, 2007
Amber Moore
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Feb 07, 2017
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Dec 10, 2007
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Jan 10, 2015
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“By 2000, Americans had built almost twice as much retail space per citizen as any other country in the world: over nineteen square feet per person. Most of it was in malls. ” 3 likes
“Since the Leeburg Pike [at Tyson's Corner] carries six to eight lanes of fast-moving traffic and the mall lacks an obvious pedestrian entrance, I decided to negotiate the street in my car rather than on foot. This is a problem planners call the 'drive to lunch syndrome,' typical of edge nodes where nothing is planned in advance and all the development takes place in isolated 'pods'.” 2 likes
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