Greenbelt Ponders A Suburban Experiment, 75 Years On | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : Metro Connection

Greenbelt Ponders A Suburban Experiment, 75 Years On

Play associated audio
This year is the 75th anniversary of Greenbelt, Md., a town built by the Federal Resettlement Administration, as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal.
Emily Friedman
This year is the 75th anniversary of Greenbelt, Md., a town built by the Federal Resettlement Administration, as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal.

A big suburban house on a rolling green lawn holds a special place in the American psyche. But big homes aren't always synonymous with suburbia. In Greenbelt, Md. many of the homes here are much different from what we've come to expect of the 'burbs.

The town--now city--was established 75 years ago as part of President Roosevelt's New Deal. The plan was to design and build a model suburb. It would be affordable, neighborly, and importantly, building it would create thousands of jobs.

"Unlike most small towns, Greenbelt did not evolve from a town square," says Megan Searing Young, curator of the Greenbelt museum. "Every bit of it was preconceived."

The homes are arranged so that the front of the house faces other houses, rather than the street. There were dozens of playgrounds, tennis courts, a pool, which, for the 1930s, was pretty fancy, and a system of sidewalks that made it possible to walk just about anywhere, without crossing the street.

There was an intensive selection process to narrow down who would be allowed to rent these homes from the federal government. There were 880 homes built, and approximately 5,000 applications.

The selection committee was looking for young families, and the size of home people could rent, was determined by the number of people in the family. No one had more or less than they needed; in fact, if a family had another kid, they were required to upgrade.

The houses, apart from a few with additions, remain exactly the same size today as when they were built. Young says they remain popular because many people know the history, and enjoy being part of "this experiment in a new way of living".


[Music: "The Green Leaves of Summer (Karaoke Version)" by Karaoke Star Explosion from Twin Karaoke: 60s Country Vol. 5]

Photos: Greenbelt, MD

NPR

Comedian Andrea Martin: 'I Don't Think Age Has Anything To Do With It'

Now in her late 60s, Martin says she's still "excited and enthusiastic" about her work and doesn't have any intention of retiring. She published a memoir in September called Lady Parts.
NPR

Nutmeg Spice Has A Secret Story That Isn't So Nice

Nutmeg is a feel-good holiday spice. But it once caused serious bloodshed and may have even been a reason the Dutch were willing to part with Manhattan in the 1600s.
WAMU 88.5

Special Prosecutors Should Handle Civilian Shootings By Police, Holmes Norton Says

Norton says mayors and governors could stem anger over civilian shootings by police by appointing special prosecutors to handle them.
NPR

Facebook Finds That Not All Users Want To Review Their Year

The social media giant's "Year in Review" app has upset some who prefer to forget 2014's unpleasant memories.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.