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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 historian and architect, she portrays housewives and politicians as well as designers and builders making the decisions that have generated America’s diverse suburbs. Residents have sought home, nature, and community in suburbia. Developers have cherished different dreams, seeking profit from economies of scale and increased suburban densities, while lobbying local and federal government to reduce the risk of real estate speculation. Encompassing environmental controversies as well as the complexities of race, gender, and class, Hayden’s fascinating account will forever alter how we think about the communities we build and inhabit.
“Hayden provides a panoramic view of the contemporary suburban scene, culminating in her outstanding final chapters on the possible futures of suburbia. . . . [her] vision of a more responsible pattern of suburbia provides a beacon of hope shining from within the wreckage of the past. . . . Hayden has not only reframed the debate over development; she has also written the new textbook for suburban studies.” —American Quarterly
“Building Suburbia will become the standard work on the suburban landscape in the United States.” —Ann Forsyth, author of Constructing Suburbs
“Important. . . . More than a necessary read. . . . Inviting and lucid. . . . Often surprising. . . . [Hayden] shows us that it was not inevitable that our space turned out quite this way.” —Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Newsweek.com
“Hayden tours us through the familiar landscape of American suburbia and, with great verve, makes it more foreign—much more diverse, complex, and important.” —Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers’ Republic
“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.” —Setha M. Low, author of Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America
“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
“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-street patterns. The end of the history is now, when the government and private corporations anxiously 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