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

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  212 ratings  ·  28 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
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
Wade
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
blue-collar mind
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 23, 2007 Cat rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
Pam
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
Daniel
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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Tracy
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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Ian
Totally fails to anticipate the present; incorrectly analyzes trends of the 1990s.
Linda Stewart
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.
Gordon Howard
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.
Gisela
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.
Halle
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!
Kim
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.
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.
Jama
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.
Margaret Wilkening
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.
Aaronwilcher
For the general audience. Hayden is the seminal contemporary scholar on community in the built environment, the Jane Jacobs of her generation.
Laura Taylor
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.
Andrew
A great look at the surprising history of suburban growth in the US, with a narrative style that captures the story in perfect detail.
Natasha
so far: excellent.
A history of Real Estate Land Development and it's perverse effects on America due to poor policy.
Jenny
eh. I read this "for fun." not the definition of fun. But not bad if it was mandatory reading.
Anthony Schein
an excellent history of urban planning and suburban sprawl, with a nice feminist twist.
Jamie
For those interesting in suburbia and urban planning issues.
Christine
Excellent history of US urban/suburban development, very readable.
Rachael Richardson
A comprehensive history of the evolution of the suburbs.
Jeremy
Easy to read and fruitful.
Oana
Oana marked it as to-read
Feb 25, 2015
Meredith
Meredith marked it as to-read
Feb 19, 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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