Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Brief History of the St. Louis Suburbs

I found this piece, by Toby Weiss of B.E.L.T., quite sensible and clearly written.

A snippet:

At the start of the 20th century, people were already leaking into St. Louis County, following the street car lines that ran out through Normandy, Maplewood, University City, Webster Groves and Kirkwood. Today, we call these communities inner-ring suburbs, but they were originally referred to as Streetcar Suburbs, and these lines would not have been developed without a financial incentive to do so.

If you pay attention to our inner ring suburbs, it is easy to observe that they closely match the density and layout of the City neighborhoods they grew from. Take a trip across the City/County border and you may have difficulty knowing when you've crossed over without the aid of a boundary marker. These new communities naturally mimicked City neighborhood layouts and architecture because that was the norm up to that point.

The suburban layouts that cause the most Urbanist derision were eventually created by two key events: The 1944 G.I. Bill and the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956. The former granted federal subsidies for returning war veterans to buy new homes, while the latter created an interstate highway system that made it easier to get to the new communities created by the former. Both of these bills were created out of the necessity of bolstering a post-war economy and dealing with an unprecedented population explosion.

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