Coming to Columbia, S.C.: #UHA2018

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Urban History Association. Born in Cincinnati amidst the systematic disinvestment in the nation’s cities and the “greed is good” coda of Wall Street, the UHA could have become a dour professional organization hosting the occasional pedantic and scolding conference–after all, one could argue the nation has mistreated its cities for decades (if not from its founding). Yet, as someone who has been attending since 2010, the UHA conference is anything but intemperate, boring, or insufferable. It’s incredibly suffrable, in fact. I’d argue it’s eminently enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a passionate affair. People have plenty to say, none of it boilerplate. Sure, on occasion as a profession we can be a bit “jargony.” When the conference was in Las Vegas, I tried to lay a prop bet on the over/under for the number of times the phrase “built environment” would be used. Needless to say, the first problem came when the casino asked me what I meant by “built environment” at which I point, looking around I, arms akimbo, said, “you know … the built environment.” Understandably, all bets were off. The larger point is the UHA always delivers impassioned, informed, and insightful discussions about the world’s cities and suburbs. Here’s a link to the program for the UHA’s 9th Biennial Conference: Cities at the Crossroads. You’ll find vastly more detail about registration, tours, and of course, the main event, the panels.

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Eckerds Drug sign, Main Street, Columbia, South Carolina, photograph by John Margolies, 1979, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

For all you social media types, the organization will be using the hashtag #UHA2018. In the words of Pusha T, “If you know, you know.” Please do tweet from, about, and at the conference with this hashtag. Don’t let an inability to attend stop you from entering the fray; we welcome comments from our urban diaspora as well as the proverbial peanut gallery (I’m looking at you Dinesh D’Souza). The Alumni Center at the conference will dedicate two screens to broadcasting #UHA2018 which will enable everyone in proximity to watch the hashtag in real time. In other words, in addition to your innumerable twitter followers, your tweets will have an analog audience. In all seriousness, we want to foster debate and an exchange of ideas in Columbia and in the internet ether. The cloud envelops us, let’s envelop it.

If you are attending, we’ve listed the social events and their locations below. Also if you haven’t had a chance to dig into the history of Columbia S.C., why not check out our January Metro of the Month, Columbia. Jessica Elfenbein (University of South Carolina) and Robin Waites (Historic Columbia; see her in our Member of the Week column tomorrow!) put together a murder’s row of contributors: Sid Bedingfield, Lydia Brandt, Thomas Brown, Jill Found, Robert Greene, and John Sherrer. The posts touch on issues from the past and present including an overview of Columbia’s history, the “problem of Confederate Memorials,” a history of Jack, an enslaved person at South Carolina College, a short history of the Congaree National Park, an accounting of the critical role played by the Black press in Columbia, and the rise of the city’s mid-century modern architecture. We’ve provided links to each of their pieces below as well. We hope to see all of you there in person, and if you can’t bring your corporeal body to Columbia, your twitter persona will do. Welcome to #UHA2018 everyone!

John Sherrer: Capital on the Congaree: A Bibliography for Columbia, S.C.

Robert Greene: Congaree National Park: Gateway to a Historical Legacy

Sid Bedingfield: Printing the Good Fight: The Importance of Black Newspapers in Columbia, S.C.

Thomas J. Brown: The Problem of Confederate Memorials

Lydia Mattice Brandt: The City Bureaucracy Built: Columbia’s Mid-Century Moment

Jill Found: Jack at South Carolina College: Remembering Enslaved People in Columbia

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The African American History Monument, completed in 2001 on the state capitol grounds in Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina,  photography by Carol M. Highsmith, May 7, 2017, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

UHA Social Events

Thursday, October 18:

5:00-7:00 PM – OPENING RECEPTION. University of South Carolina President’s House (on the University of South Carolina Horseshoe).

Friday, October 19:

6:15-7:15 AM – RUNNING TOUR: “Historic Columbia.” Departs from in front of the Hilton Columbia Center; no pre-registration required.

5:15-6:45 PM – RECEPTION. Hunter-Gatherer Brewery at the Curtiss-Wright Hangar (1402 Jim Hamilton Boulevard). Free buses will depart from in front of the Hilton Columbia Center to the Reception and Gala Banquet beginning at 5:00 pm.

7:00-9:00 PM – GALA BANQUET, AWARDS, AND PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. City Roots (1005 Airport Blvd., across the street from the Hunter-Gatherer Brewery). Free buses will depart from in front of the Hilton Columbia Center to the Reception and Gala Banquet beginning at 5:00 pm.

Saturday, October 20: 6:00-7:00 PM – RECEPTION. Richland Library (1431 Assembly Street).

 

Featured image (at top): Gateway to the mansion known as the “Robert Mills House” in Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, May 7, 2017, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

 

The Metropole Bookshelf: Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD by Max Felker-Kantor

The Metropole Bookshelf is an opportunity for authors of forthcoming or recently published books to let the UHA community know about their new work in the field.

By Max Felker-Kantor

Felker-Kantor, Max. Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

“A strong, visible police force is one of our best crime-fighting tools,” said Los Angeles’s liberal African American mayor, Tom Bradley, in 1990. “I want to give them the personnel to escalate our attack.” In remarks delivered alongside his proposed budget for the year, Bradley committed the city to providing the department with the resources to effectively combat crime and violence.

Support for the police among policymakers, both liberal and conservative, led to a profound expansion of police power and authority in Los Angeles and American cities more broadly after the 1960s. Yet, in the years after the 1965 Watts uprising, liberals in Los Angeles, none more so than Bradley who was elected in 1973 on a platform of police reform, also hoped to rein in the police department.

Policing Los Angeles is the first history to explore Bradley’s effort to bring greater political oversight to the LAPD while at the same time promoting fair and equitable policing, a framework I call liberal law and order. This approach to reform, however, did not lead to fundamental structural changes to the department or challenge the underlying support for the police. As a result, city officials enabled the police department to enhance its autonomy, power, and lack of accountability.

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A Los Angeles police officer, armed with a shotgun, searches bag of African-American woman while another woman holding baby watches, August 14, 1965, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As Policing Los Angeles shows, well-intentioned reforms rarely resulted in fundamental change to the structure of the LAPD, to the expansive police power in urban politics, or to greater police accountability and transparency. The police, in short, play a crucial role in ensuring they remained a powerful partisan entity in Los Angeles, routinely carving out new areas of discretionary authority in response to demands for reform.

But the story told in Policing Los Angeles is more than one of liberal politics and police power. African American and Latino/a residents and activists recognized the threat of an unfettered police power that operated as an occupying force in the city’s communities of color, and they routinely mobilized against it. In the decades after Watts, they resisted the LAPD’s effort to discipline them by protesting police brutality and demanding greater police accountability.

While many residents of color supported liberal reforms based on ensuring procedurally fair policing, anti–police abuse activists pushed further in their demand that the power of the LAPD be not only reined in but in some cases dismantled entirely. In doing so, activists exposed the racism at the heart of police power, the limits of liberal reforms, and proposed alternatives to get-tough policing.

In following the stories of activists through extensive archival materials, Policing Los Angeles reveals how anti–police abuse movements extended well into the 1970s and beyond. Although activists did not achieve the fundamental changes to the LAPD that many desired, they created the conditions for reform following the 1992 Los Angeles uprising and the subsequent Rampart Scandal, which led to a federal consent decree and oversight of the department.

max-90Dr. Max Felker-Kantor is an American historian who specializes in twentieth century American and African American history with a focus on race, politics, and social movements. He is particularly interested in the policies and institutions of urban law enforcement and criminal justice systems since World War II. His articles have been published in the Journal of Urban History, Journal of Civil and Human Rights, and Boom California. He currently teaches American and African American history at Ball State University. Dr. Feker-Kantor’s book, Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD will be published in the Justice, Power, and Politics series at the University of North Carolina Press in this fall.

The Metropole Bookshelf: Timothy Lombardo’s Blue Collar Conservatism

The Metropole Bookshelf is an opportunity for authors of forthcoming or recently published books to let the UHA community know about their new work in the field.

By Timothy J. Lombardo

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Timothy J. Lombardo. 2018. Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 328 pp. 10 photos. ISBN: 978-0-8122-5054-1. $37.50. Hardcover.

Frank Rizzo embarked on his first campaign for mayor of Philadelphia in 1971. Promising “law and order” and running as the self-proclaimed “toughest cop in America,” his campaign focused on turning out voters from Philadelphia’s white ethnic, blue-collar neighborhoods. With a month before the election Rizzo campaigned heavily in South Philadelphia, where he had been born and raised. During a stop at a neighborhood tavern, a campaign reporter asked the bar’s patrons what they liked about Rizzo. One replied that the city needed “an 11th grade dropout” to straighten things out. “He’ll win because he isn’t a Ph.D.,” he continued. “He’s one of us. Rizzo came up the hard way.”

Frank Rizzo went on to win the election and serve two terms as the mayor of Philadelphia, becoming the first former police commissioner elected mayor of a major American city. As police commissioner, Rizzo earned a national reputation for his tough stance on crime, the heavy-handed tactics of his police force, and his openly hostile treatment of civil rights activists. Although Rizzo was a Democrat, he maintained his base of support by opposing public housing, school desegregation, affirmative action and other liberal programs that he and his supporters deemed unearned advantages for nonwhites.

Rizzo was perhaps the archetypal example of late twentieth-century urban, white ethnic, populist conservatism and the quintessential “backlash” politician of the 1960s and 1970s. He is rightly remembered as one the most controversial figures in the city’s history. Yet his white ethnic, blue-collar supporters never wavered in their support of the tough-talking former cop they called “one of us.”

Blue-Collar Conservatism tells the story of Frank Rizzo’s white ethnic, blue-collar supporters and their evolving politics in the long postwar era. It focuses on the working- and middle-class white Philadelphians that fought the integration of their children’s schools, their neighborhoods, and their workplaces while clamoring for “law and order.” It locates their “blue-collar conservatism” in a mutually reinforcing promotion of law-and-order conservatism and selective rejection of welfare liberalism. In Frank Rizzo they found a champion and defender of their blue-collar traditions and institutions. They responded not only to his forceful rhetoric, but also his up-from-the-streets “one of us” populism.

The standard explanation for the rise of working-class anti-liberalism in the 1960s and 1970s has relied on a familiar narrative of racial backlash. This focus, while not inaccurate, has obscured the importance of class ideologies and identities in this political history. Blue-Collar Conservatism shows how Frank Rizzo’s supporters attempted to use class identity and blue-collar discourses to obfuscate the racial politics of modern liberal policymaking. The result was the establishment of a populist variant of modern conservatism shaped by the racial upheavals of midcentury urban America, but imbued with blue-collar identity politics.

The context for this political development is the urban crisis of the 1960s and 1970s. The upheaval that led to high rates of unemployment, shrinking city tax bases, fiscal shortfalls, rising crime and, most dramatically, waves of urban uprisings, produced the spatial and political realignments that shaped modern American political culture. Blue-collar whites in Philadelphia and throughout the country were caught up in the many transformations wrought by the urban crisis. Blue-Collar Conservatism shows how their political transformation sprang from both the economic instabilities of a changing era and their responses to a shifting racial order.

In the end, Blue-Collar Conservatism offers a nuanced social and political history of a pivotal period in modern America, set in one of its most dynamic cities. It uses Frank Rizzo, his supporters, and his city to explore how white working-class engagement with the politics of the urban crisis led to one of the least understood but most significant developments in modern American political history. The book ultimately shows how urban blue-collar whites joined the conservative movement that reached fruition in the 1980s and reshaped it into a coalition that backed populist politicians from Frank Rizzo to Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.

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Timothy J. Lombardo is a Philadelphia native and an Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Alabama. His work has appeared in The Journal of Social History, The Journal of Urban History, The Journal of American History, and The Washington Post. Blue-Collar Conservatism is his first book. Follow him on Twitter @TimLombard0

Member of the Week: Jessica Elfenbein

unnamedJessica Elfenbein

Professor of History

University of South Carolina

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest? 

I’m working on a community study of a now-disappeared place called Ferguson, SC. In the decades following Reconstruction, Chicago lumbermen Benjamin F. Ferguson (1840-1905) and Francis Beidler (1854-1924) made their way to South Carolina, acquired–at bargain prices–significant land (eventually totaling more than 200,000 acres), and began Santee River Cypress Lumber Company (SRCLC). The forest products the company generated were part of an international flow of commodities and helped make personal fortunes, national taste in home furnishings, and the town of Ferguson, South Carolina itself. Built out of the swamp as headquarters for SRCLC (one of the South’s largest lumber enterprises), Ferguson thrived as a company town for more than a quarter century. At its peak as many as 2,500 people from around the world lived and worked there, including local farmers who recast themselves as industrial workers, lumber experts who relocated from the North and Midwest, and Greek and Italian immigrants recruited by labor agents at Ellis Island.

Abandoned by SRCLC in the late 1910s, two decades later Ferguson became part of a New Deal rural electrification and public works project. The damning of the Santee River to build Lakes Marion and Moultrie, then the largest land clearance project on record, required the labor of 12,670 workers and caused the dislocation of 901 African American families. Lake Marion became the final resting place for the town of Ferguson which has now been submerged along the southwestern shore of South Carolina’s largest lake for more than 70 years.

Collaborative work on a Historic Resource Survey for Congaree National Park led me to this topic. The unexpected ties between largely rural South Carolina and cities like Chicago and NYC in the production of commodities, human capital, and philanthropy are fascinating. I am also interested in the environmental and communal costs of this infrastructure project.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

After 10 years working in university administration, I returned to the faculty last year. I’m teaching Urban History, Public History, and the American History Survey. Next semester I’ll teach our undergraduate historical methods course for the first time. I have always liked the symbiosis of teaching and research. This semester my students and I are researching the residents of Ferguson in 1910 and following their moves to and from the lumber town.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

I’m just starting Brian McCammack’s Landscapes of Hope: Nature and the Great Migration in Chicago. His reconceptualization of the Great Migration looks fantastic.

Recently I have been reading a lot about logging, the history of the lumber industry, and company towns.

My most recent article (with Elise Hagesfeld) is “Philanthropic Funds in Baltimore” in Hammack and Smith, eds., American Philanthropic Foundations: Regional Difference and Change, Indiana University Press, 2018.

What advice do you have for young scholars preparing themselves for a career related to urban history or urban studies?

Invite yourself to the party! Historians have so much of value to add to all kinds of urban and civic projects. My experience is that if you expect to be invited you will miss out. Instead you need to know what’s going on in the places in which you have interest and then find ways to get involved. This is especially true for those of us who study urban topics. Our work is relevant but it’s on us to demonstrate our worth. Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst that will happen is that you’ll end up exactly where you started. A little moxie and a lot of imagination are tools young scholars need. Flexibility helps, too.

Were there any places or local businesses that you discovered in Columbia, and might not have otherwise, through serving on the Local Arrangments Committee for UHA 2018? Did the experience influence the way you look at the city you call home?

After nearly 20 years in Baltimore, I moved to USC and Columbia, SC about seven years ago. I was a relative newcomer here when I answered the RFP to serve as host for UHA 2018. I knew there was a lot in Columbia and as Local Arrangements co-chair, I have learned much more about this place that delights and confounds expectations. For example, USC’s GLTBQ archival collection is the second largest in the Southeast. It has great material for all kinds of projects.

I have also been pleasantly surprised by the excellent service the UHA has received from ExperienceColumbiaSC, our convention and visitors’ bureau.

Finally, I suspected that Historic Columbia would be a great partner to the UHA, but again, my expectations have been exceeded by the dedication and commitment of Executive Director (and Local Arrangements co-chair) Robin Waites and her staff. I’m no sports fan, but I know for sure that they “punch above their weight.”

Book Review: The One Way Street of Integration: Fair Housing and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in American Cities by Edward G. Goetz

Edward G. Goetz, The One-Way Street of Integration: Fair Housing and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in American Cities. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2017. 224 pp. notes, index. ISBN 9781501707599

Reviewed by Eric Michael Rhodes

Should those concerned about racial inequality in the American metropolis bring opportunity to people or help people move to opportunity? This question has wrankled policymakers and community organizers alike for nearly 50 years. Community development advocates have generally promoted the “opportunity to people” approach, while fair housing proponents have tried to “move people to opportunity.”

In One-Way Street of Integration: Fair Housing and the Pursuit of Racial Justice in American Cities, Edward Goetz argues that the “fair housing” movement, a well-intentioned effort to integrate the suburbs, grew into a myopic, integration-at-any-cost crusade in which people of color paid the price. This effort to increase affordable housing opportunities ultimately diminished such possibilities in city and suburb alike.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, “integrationist” fair housers obsessed with increasing suburban housing opportunity actually began suing community developers trying to build subsidized housing in the inner city. At the root of this controversy was decreasing federal funding for new subsidized housing construction: a “climate of scarcity” pitted the camps against one another. Professor Goetz’s sweeping indictment of the well-intentioned effort to advance racial integration deserves thoughtful consideration; it should inspire wide-ranging debate.

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Goetz argues that HUD’s HOPE VI initiative represents the worst excesses of the fair housing movement’s “integrationist” impulse: the destruction of extant low-income communities of color in the name of racial integration. Here, the demolition of the Cabrini-Green Homes in Chicago begins under HOPE VI in September of 1995.

Following adoption of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the fair housing movement attempted to build low-income housing in the suburbs to increase housing opportunity for poor Americans. Such efforts, exemplified by Housing and Urban Development Secretary George Romney’s Open Communities initiative, promised to increase opportunity for those wishing to move to the suburbs or remain in the city. Fair housing advocates at this early stage promoted building low-income housing in the inner city as well. Thus, this initial iteration of the fair housing movement, even with its suburban focus, presented no real obstacle to continuing inner city housing and redevelopment programs. Community development and fair housing were not yet at odds.

It was only after the ostensible victories in Gautreaux et al. v. Chicago Housing Authority (1969) and Hills v. Gautreaux (1976) that a rift developed between the suburban integrationists and city re-constructionists. Following Gautreaux, the NAACP and other civil rights groups could fairly celebrate orders to demolish Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green and other highly segregated public housing projects. But Gautreaux also presumed that concentrating poor families, whether in tall towers or single-family homes, might create inherently dysfunctional living conditions or threaten largely-white communities. So, the new Section 8 housing voucher impaction rules, seeking to avoid intensifying segregation, discouraged the award of vouchers in inner-city neighborhoods; as for poor families moving to the suburbs, the goal was to ensure that they would be sufficiently dispersed to mitigate social disruption or alarm. According to Goetz, as a result of the acceptance of rigid constraints to prevent the “tipping” of communities from white to black, the number of low-income families that could move to majority white areas within or outside the city actually diminished. The worst of the integrationists’ impulses surfaced in the form of HOPE VI, amounting to the destruction of extant black, low-income communities.

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Broken Promises“, photograph by John Fekner; One of the most important takeaways of Goetz’s book is that growing austerity for federally-subsidized housing significantly deepened the divide between the community development and fair housing movements over the last fifty-odd years. There is little hope of reconciliation unless the federal government increases funding for new construction and rehabilitation of low- and moderate-income housing. Austerity grew after President Nixon called for a moratorium on subsidized housing in 1973.

Goetz points out that fair housing advocates underestimated the deep-seated white resistance to integration that, even now, after decades of litigation, still severely limits the number of affordable units that can be built or rented in white neighborhoods; at the same time, reformers overestimated the equity outcomes of integration. How much better off were black and Hispanic families in the suburbs than those who remained in the city? The matter has been debated and studied for the past forty years. Instead of attempting to measure and predict with mathematical precision the spatial makeup of each community, Goetz suggests it would have been more effective simply to increase resources to provide for additional low and moderate-income housing in historically disinvested neighborhoods, even if they were segregated.

But this point is hard to prove. In the first place we should not forget that beyond the basic goal of generating more housing units, there were legal and moral reasons for battling suburban exclusionary zoning and discriminatory real estate practices, and if, to give Goetz his due, the integrationist impulse had been more restrained and less rigid would we have generated more housing? After all, funding for low and moderate-income housing has, for all sorts of reasons, been so dismal since Nixon’s 1973 moratorium on subsidized housing that it is difficult to blame the problem simply on the myopia of suburban integrationists.

Looking ahead, when the funding for affordable housing (through new construction, increased subsidies and constraints on gentrification) finally returns to some decent level, city builders and suburban integrationists may yet find themselves moving back and forth from city to suburb along a two-way street.

unnamedEric Michael Rhodes is a graduate student of urban and planning history at Miami University of Ohio. Eric studies how U.S. subsidized housing policy played out in the rusting Steel Belt of the 1970s, with a particular eye to the nation’s first operable metropolitan fair housing plan: Dayton’s Fair Share Housing Plan. He is an associate editor of Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective (a joint publication of Miami and Ohio State universities) and is co-host of the podcast History Talk. Email: rhodesem@miamioh.edu; Twitter: @EricMichaRhodes

 

 

With Great Sadness …

 

lobelIt is with great regret that the Urban History Association notes the passing of longtime UHA member and membership secretary Dr. Cindy Lobel. Among other numerous publications, Professor Lobel authored the award winning Urban Appetites: Food and Culture in Nineteenth-Century New York which was named the Winner of the 2013 Dixon Ryan Fox Manuscript Prize and the 2016 Herbert H. Lehman Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in New York History by the New York Academy of History. According to her husband Peter, she passed away early this morning “peacefully and without pain, surrounded by her mother Kaaren, her sisters Jodi, Susan and Debbie, and myself. We were playing her the Hamilton soundtrack on an iPhone.” She will be sorely missed by the UHA and its membership, but remembered by her students and colleagues alike as a passionate, talented, and caring historian. A more substantive remembrance of Professor Lobel will appear in the forthcoming UHA newsletter. For anyone who would like to add to this remembrance via twitter, please feel free to email uhacommunicationsteam@gmail.com with a link to your tweet which we will add to this post.

 

Member of the Week: LaDale Winling

Ladale WinlingLaDale Winling

Associate Professor, Department of History

Virginia Tech

@lwinling

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest?

I am currently researching real estate and segregation in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s. From this milieu, in the midst of the Great Migration and in wake of the 1919 race riot, emerged new real estate practices, new public policy such as HOLC’s redlining, and a new electoral viability of African Americans with the election of Congressmen such as Oscar DePriest, Arthur Mitchell, and William Dawson. My collaborative work with the Mapping Inequality team, the inspiring scholarship by Margaret Garb, David Freund, and Carl Nightingale, and the time I spent in Chicago in graduate school led me to this topic. Chicago is a well-studied city but I think there are new stories to be told about the city, its institutions, and its people.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

I teach digital history and public history at Tech, and I am contributing to a minor called Data in Social Context. This involves teaching math and science types to bring humanistic values to their use and understanding of data, and teaching humanists how to work with data tools. It is important to keep building skills into history programs, and to make sure historians can use a wide array of tools and resources in our scholarship.  As part of this effort, I am currently teaching an undergrad class in which students will choose a Congressional district and conduct research on the demographics and geography, the electoral history, current campaign coverage, and current polling, then make an election forecast just before midterm election in November. We’ll learn about the history of the U.S. census and the history of public opinion polling along the way, as well as how to read polls critically.  It brings together my interests in political history, spatial history, and bringing historical context to current events.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

A team at the University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab is about to launch the first phase of a new history of Congressional elections in early October as part of the American Panorama digital atlas. By the time it’s all out, we’ll have have created an interactive mapping tool like you see for recent elections on major sites like the New York Times, as well as a large dataset of every House and Senate election result for researchers. Our goal is to contribute to work on grassroots political history by connecting Congress and the American voting public more directly in our political history.

In terms of books, I’m excited to see work in progress on racial capitalism by Destin Jenkins and Nathan Connolly, which will make important revisions in the way we think about the history of capitalism. I just met Nikole Hannah-Jones and am going to find it hard to wait for her book on segregation in education. As for recent books, I’m also looking forward to reading Timothy Lombardo’s new book on Frank Rizzo, Blue Collar Conservatism, and to pick up Kim Phillips-Fein’s Fear City.

What advice do you have for young scholars preparing themselves for a career related to urban history or urban studies?

I have one fundamental piece of advice: study a topic that you love, and that makes your heart sing, but keep a pragmatic consideration about developing transferable skills and opportunities to gain experience in non-academic venues. Learn GIS, as I did in graduate school, or get experience in writing and administering grants, or hone your prose in writing for public audiences, or work on an exhibit at a local museum, and most of all, learn how to pitch yourself. The academic job market is a difficult one, and while a tenure-track job is a great option, it is not the be-all and end-all of higher education or graduate school. There are many different ways to make a rewarding living and to use your knowledge to help improve humanity.

What are you most excited about for UHA 2018?

I am most excited about sitting in on some sessions at UHA. I have loved UHA from the beginning of grad school (my first conference was Milwaukee 2004) because I get so much energy and inspiration from learning about the new work people are doing and from catching up with old friends. It has been quite rewarding, through planning, to help move the conference and, potentially, the field in new directions. Now I’m just looking forward to being part of that fundamental process of sharing ideas, of hearing and responding to new research in progress.

Pacific Sole: The Lima Way

Capital cities always struggle in the public mind. They’re “swamps” filled with feckless politicians and their sycophantic followers. They reflect less the nation than its corrupted strivers and the greedy accumulation of power. Life is fast in such metropolises; people live harried lives or at least so this particular narrative goes.

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Around Lima’s historic center

Traveling around Peru, one hears similar critiques about its economic and political center, Lima. The crowded streets of the nation’s capital, one resident of Peru’s Sacred Valley told us, hum with the discontent of pedestrians always wary of being run over by the city’s fearful traffic. Even in its earlier incarnations, observers viewed it as a place apart from the nation. “Lima is more remote from Peru than London,” Alex Von Humbolt wrote in 1802.[1]

Of course, sometimes stereotypes are based on a grain of truth. For example, the March resignation of then-President Pedro Pablo Kucyznski due to a vote buying scandal did not help Lima’s image. This summer, less than six months later, a major scandal involving bribes and rigged legal outcomes in the nation’s judiciary system added fuel to the proverbial fire. “This is big,” Juan Antonio Castro, legal counsel in Lima, told the Washington Post, “maybe one of the worst crises we have had in 15, 20 years.” So yes, Lima wasn’t, isn’t, and probably never will be squeaky clean.

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View from Barrancas

To be fair, regardless of malfeasance or corruption, the Incas had little use for Lima. Like other ancient civilizations, the sun functioned as a deity to be feared, exalted, and ultimately absorbed. Better to situate the empire in the high altitude of Cuzco to the South, far closer to the sun and a point of departure for the royalty who travelled the Inca Trail on their way to the magnificent Machu Picchu. No, Lima’s grey winter skies—“Winter can be depressing,” notes one writer—were hardly suitable for a kingdom of the sun. Often afflicted by a thin layer of mist, Herman Melville viewed the thin condensation that shrouded Lima as a “white veil” that rendered it “the strangest, saddest city.”[2]

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Above and below, shots of Cuzco, the former Inca Capital

 

In countless ways, Spanish conquistadors saw the world differently. Once disease, civil war, and European cruelty and armaments decimated the once-mighty Inca Empire, Lima’s central location on the western coast provided easy access to the Pacific Ocean. In 1542, Spain made it the seat of the Viceroyalty of Peru. From there the silver bullion mined from Potosí could be shipped to Spain, altering capital flows, international economics, and European statecraft. The mercantilist policy of the Spanish empire enabled Lima to hold a monopoly on colonial South America for over 100 years. Wealth poured into the metropolis.

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Door of Catholic church in historic Lima

Colonial Lima became “a city of churches,” as Catholicism violently replaced native religions—though not without a healthy dose of syncretism. Five saints, including the first from South America—Santa Rosa (canonized in 1671)—would emerge from Lima.[3] The Inquisition found enthusiastic and brutal expression in the city’s culture. “Pious Lima, home of the Inquisition in South America,” reflects one historian.[4] This religious past is easily discerned when visiting its historic center, which is pock-marked by Catholic churches.

Spain’s thirst for silver and gold meant its empire refused to remain static. It quickly expanded across South America. Viceroyalties in Bogata (1731) and Buenos Aires (1776) followed, each taking a share of the wealth that Lima once claimed for itself. Peru achieved independence in 1821, bringing Lima’s creoles the political power they believed to be their birthright, but as other nations emerged and colonial Spain crumbled so too did Lima’s commercial stranglehold. As in other parts of the defunct Spanish empire (such as the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires), European merchants rushed in and, by the late nineteenth century, established an economic and cultural presence. The production of beer and the sport of futbol serve as just two examples of the latter. Even today the nation’s two most iconic futbol teams hail from Lima, both growing from sports clubs established in the late 1800s: Alianza Lima and Universitario de Desportes. The former is seen as aligned with the working classes, the latter, with Limeño elites.[5]

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One of the world’s lesser known commodities, but valuable nonetheless, proved a savior to Lima in the 1800s: bird guano. The Incas had long valued it as a fertilizer; individuals caught interfering with guano production could be punished with death. Such severities eventually receded, but international developments only increased guano’s value. During the nineteenth century mining still occupied a central place in the Peruvian economy, but Europe’s agricultural production rapidly increased such that the fertilizer provided economic sustenance for the country, even if English businessmen dominated the trade. By the late 1800s, bird guano harvested in places like Paracas to the South served as the nation and capital’s economic savior.[6] Bird droppings, often the bane of municipalities, ironically funded modernization efforts in Lima as the century ended. Paris served as its inspiration, as it did in Buenos Aires and other South American metropoles. Municipal officials added wide boulevards in parts of the city as a means to emulate those built by Baron Von Haussman in the Parisian capital.[7]

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Above, several shots of Lima’s historic center

Around 1875, railroad construction brought over 100,000 Chinese laborers to Peru, and many settled in Lima. By the late twentieth century, over one million Peruvians of Chinese descent inhabited the country, their influence visible by Lima’s numerous “Chifa” or Chinese-themed restaurants.[8] The Japanese arrived in the 1920s and made their own mark; though not as prevalent as Chifas, sushi can be had in the capital as well. One might also point to the presidency of Albert Fujimoro (controversially pardoned by the deposed President Kuczynski) during the 1990s as further evidence of cosmopolitan Lima’s contribution to Peruvian society, though the secrecy and manipulations of his tenure undoubtedly contributed to negative depictions of the city and its influence.[9]

Of course, race in Lima, as elsewhere, is a knotty subject. Mestizos make up a much larger portion of the population than in many other South American nations and, as in Alta California, due to intermixing the racial hierarchies established under Spanish rule now abound with fissures through which mestizo Peruvians might wriggle.[10] Yet prejudices remain hard to shake, and the legacy of Spanish rule infused society with the belief in European superiority. Limeños hail from European stock more commonly than countrymen and women outside the city, where indigenous folks and mestizos make up a much larger portion of residents. When you find yourself in Andean regions this truth becomes even clearer. Despite their slight portion of the general populace, around 15 percent, whites dominate government disproportionately. Afro-Peruvians, often descendants of slaves, make up less than three percent of the population.

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Photos above capture the sort of popular culture from the US and Britain that remain quite popular with Limeños; having ridden in numerous Lima cabs/driving services, the 1960s and 1970s are alive and well, particularly the Beatles.

At the expense of democratic reform, President Augusto B. Leguia proved one of the city’s great modernizers. As he took office in 1919, almost none of Lima’s roads were paved; by the time he left office in 1930 roughly 90 percent of the city’s byways had been laid in concrete.[11] During his rule, Peruvians witnessed over 11,000 miles of roads being laid. In the two decades following his authoritarian rule, road construction continued throughout the nation. Under a military regime that assumed power in 1965, the city added the Paseo de La Republica, known locally as “the big ditch” due to its location below the city itself.[12]

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Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley
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View of Sacred Valley from Inca ruins of Pisac

Unfortunately, the same military regime cared little for aesthetics and built a great number of non-descript government buildings that gradually eroded older colonial structures. Granted one might argue such colonial structures served as negative reminders of imperial rule, but the more aesthetically inclined might also note that they did exhibit a certain stylistic flair that has gone largely missing in newer construction.[13] As a result, in Lima you do not see the mix of modernistic panache, art deco cool, and colonial baroqueness that one finds in Mexico City. Partially as a result, “Lima … doesn’t say anything to you,” writes historian Hugh O’Shaughnessy. Walking about Lima, one can hear whispers of the city’s identity but they remain just that: soft murmurings. Its residents embody this mystery, such that “Lima’s inhabitants are kind but discreet, polite yet impassive, but above all in my experience enigmatic.”[14]

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Statue of a Peruvian delicacy the guinea pig; truth is Peruvians only eat guinea pigs on special occasions/celebrations

Then again, if you make the effort you can develop a feel for the city and its people. The San Isidro section of the city, home to architecture that sometimes suggests the Spanish fantasy style of 1920s Southern California, offers a flash of personality. As do the murals and graffiti that accentuate the Barrancos neighborhood, where one can walk across the historic “Bridge of Sighs” and gaze down at the artistry on local walls while street musicians ply their melodious trade.[15] There is also the more modern but perhaps also banal commercialism of Miraflores, where modern shopping malls help deliver twentieth-century consumerism to twenty-first-century customers.

Admittedly, the 1980s and 1990s proved difficult for Lima and the country. The rise of the Maoist ultra-violent Shining Path in the nation’s countryside drove migrants to the city. Peri-urban shanty towns grew on the city’s margins where poverty—defined by a lack of access to running water, sanitation, and electricity—left the nation’s poor to trade rural hardships for urban ones. The terrorist group often sabotaged the city’s electrical grid, throwing the capital into darkness, and then lighting torches in the hillsides that ringed Lima “to signal the shining future that revolution would bring,” as James Higgins writes. The revolution brought mostly death and destruction, but also the neoliberal reforms of President Fujimoro, who eventually neutralized the Shining Path as a threat while also worsening inequality for much of the city’s working class and poor residents. At the turn of the century, nearly half of all Peruvians lived below the poverty lines; soup kitchens served great numbers of the country’s people.[16]

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The artistry and whimsy of the Barrancos neighborhood

However, since then Peru has enjoyed some economic success. Home values doubled between 2009 and 2013, as homeowners enjoyed the benefits of one of Latin America’s fastest expanding economies. Foreign buyers have poured into Lima, mostly from Columbia, Spain, and the United States, but also from Australia, Canada, and the UK. Looking to buy a new home in San Isidro? Expect to pay around $2,676 per square meter or almost $250 per square foot. Miraflores will cost you $2,397 per square meter or around $223 per square foot.

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Park in Barrancos near the Bridge of Sighs

Finally, one cannot discuss Lima without mentioning its culinary superiority. Food across Peru is delicious. You will never know the full scope of the potato universe until you’ve delved into Peruvian cuisine. The Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerns of the world have long touted Lima’s gustatory bonafides. Sublime ceviches, fresh seafood, and clever desserts abound, all at very affordable prices. Michelin stars cascade across restaurants in Lima; its more remote location along the South American Pacific Coast means that though the food rivals Paris and Milan, the crowds and prices do not. “‘Upscale’ is a relative term,” the New York TimesLucas Peterson acknowledged in 2017. “You can still gorge yourself on outstanding seafood for about $30 per person.”

Called Ciudad de Iglesias (City of Churches), Ciudad de Reyes (City of Kings), La Perla de Pacifico (The Pearl of the Pacific), and yes, even La Gris (The Gray), Lima remains an affordable international city that should be more than a brief stop before one ascends into Peru’s mountains or descends into its Amazonian rain forest. Enigmatic for sure, but compelling as well, spend some time in the Peruvian capital.

 

 

 

It was regional and local election time in Peru. The above videos provide a very brief insight into local politicos out in the neighborhoods campaigning. Bottom video by Soo Lim.

All photos taken by Ryan Reft

 

[1] James Higgins, Lima: A Cultural History, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1.

[2] Higgins, Lima, 2.

[3] Higgins, Lima, 86, 70.

[4] Higgins, Lima, vii.

[5] Higgins, Lima, 161-162.

[6] Higgins, Lima, 113

[7] Higgins, Lima, 163.

[8] Higgins, Lima, 134-135.

[9] Higgins, Lima, 138.

[10] Higgins, Lima, 133-134.

[11] Higgins, Lima, 176.

[12] Higgins, Lima, 174.

[13] Higgins, Lima, 181.

[14] Higgins, Lima, vii.

[15] Higgins, Lima, 203.

[16] Higgins, Lima, 187.

Member of the Week: Elaine Lewinnek

Lewinnek headshotElaine Lewinnek

Professor of American Studies

California State University, Fullerton

Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest? 

At the UHA meeting in Philadelphia, I was enthusing to Laura Barraclough about her book, A People’s Guide to Los Angeles, which takes insights from urban historians and radical geographers, presenting them in an appealing guidebook format that is open-ended and wonderfully teachable. “You need another guidebook for Orange County,” I gushed to Laura, since Orange County is the county I teach in, is heavily touristed, and may be even more amnesiac than Los Angeles is about its own fascinating history.

“You’re right,” Laura responded, “We do need a People’s Guide to Orange County, and you should write it.” Laura Barraclough, Laura Pulido, and Wendy Cheng — the co-authors of the original People’s Guide to Los Angeles — are now working with University of California Press as series editors for People’s Guides. Because of that conversation in between sessions at a UHA conference, I am now working on A People’s Guide to Orange County along with my co-authors Gustavo Arellano and Thuy Vo Dang.

We are excited to tell Orange County’s full story. Orange County is a space of segregation and resistance to segregation, privatizations and the struggle for public space, too-often-forgotten labor disputes, politicized religions, global Cold War migrations, and efforts for environmental justice. Memorably, Ronald Reagan called Orange County the place “where all the good Republicans go to die,” but it is also the place where working-class immigrants live and work in its military-industrial and tourist-service economies. There are many urban histories to tell here. After I spoke about this project at the UHA meeting in Chicago, The Metropole co-editor Ryan Reft interviewed me and Thuy over at KCET.

What strikes me now is how UHA conferences led me to this project and how much they deepened it. I hope others find our upcoming UHA conference as inspiring.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

I teach in an American Studies department where my courses include urban histories of suburbs, Los Angeles, southern California, and a class called “Race, Sex, and the City.” I also teach classes about cultural-studies topics like “The American Dream,” U.S. history, California cultures, public memory, and cultural studies theory and method. My students’ enormous appetite for learning the stories that surround the places they know certainly feeds into my current project, which, in return, enriches my teaching. In a U.S. history survey course, there is a dramatic difference between telling students that lynchings happened all across the United States and telling students precisely where the nearest lynching tree is.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

See my answer to question 5. Serving on the UHA 2018 conference program committee really shaped what I’m excited to read in the future.

What advice do you have for young scholars preparing themselves for a career related to urban history or urban studies? 

Congratulations for choosing something that matters so crucially. You happen to be entering one of the friendliest fields I know of in academia, perhaps because we tend to feel there is room for each of us to study different cities, but also because the elders of this field – Richard Harris, Dolores Hayden, Kenneth Jackson, Tom Sugrue, and so many others – are each wonderfully decent people. I did not get to meet Arnold Hirsch, but our upcoming UHA conference includes a panel addressing his legacy and I have been struck by how many people describe him as a mensch. You have entered a field of mensches. Welcome.

Serving on a conference program committee sounds like a great way to read the temperature of a subfield. What were your big take-aways from reviewing all the panels and proposals for UHA 2018 in Columbia?

Great question. Right now, we’re making many small corrections to the conference program, so my latest insight is surprise at the number of people whose institutional affiliations have changed since they submitted their proposals. I would like to think this is a sign of universities eager to hire urban historians, but I am afraid it may be a sign of the precariousness of academic employment right now.

More to the point of your question, this year’s conference has terrific diversity and breadth. There are sessions at the intersection of urban history and carceral studies, environmental history, queer studies, labor history, cultural studies, and public history. This year’s conference features numerous papers analyzing times before the twentieth century or spaces outside of North America. Our field is growing. Our upcoming conference also includes panels reconsidering urban history in museums, teaching urban history (both globally and at the high school level), and presenting urban history in documentary films. I am excited that, on Friday afternoon, October 19th, the conference will include a series of documentary films.

This reaching for broader audiences extends beyond the conference itself. In Andrew Kahrl’s recent interview about the people affected by Hurricane Florence, and David Freund’s introduction to the new reader The Modern American Metropolis, I see urban historians speaking up about the ways that the history of land-use choices and urban-planning decisions have exacerbated our current crises of climate change and mega-storms. Understanding today’s news requires understanding urban history, and we are slowly doing better at getting that message out, so I am not just excited about publications but about public urban history in general.

Mid-Century Modernism on the Fringes of D.C.: Charles Goodman and NOVA’s Hollin Hills

When one thinks of Northern Virginia, Old Town Alexandria might be the first place that comes to mind. Historic, compact, and on the water, Old Town remains a popular brunch and tourist destination and a way station for intrepid souls proceeding on to nearby Mount Vernon. Yet, since the 1960s, Alexandria’s industrial areas such as Old Town North have embraced modern mixed-use development; throughout Old Town, the occasional cobble street meets with plenty of twenty-first century realities. Historic Old Town serves as an anchor for a rapidly urbanizing and expanding Alexandria, where modern townhomes and apartment complexes in the new developments of Potomac Yard and Braddock are shaping the built environment around Alexandria’s iconic downtown.

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Hollin Hills, photograph by John Bluedorne, April 2018

The more modern design of NOVA’s other notable town, Arlington—which can be seen from Georgetown across the Key Bridge—has as recently as 2015 been described by the Washington Post in less than glowing terms: “Welcome to Arlington County’s high-rise downtown, a concrete canyon where nightlife goes to die — and where, in recent years, the commercial vacancy rate has climbed to 30 percent.” Still, not everyone agrees. “Semi-traditional cities” such as Arlington, Robert Steuteville argued recently, are among the most dynamic places for urbanism today. “[H]alf urban grid and half suburban street patterns” minus the sprawl, places like Arlington attempt to imbue a certain urbanity in their suburban landscape. In both cases, the balance between suburban comfort and historical heritage abuts with both the desires and challenges of urbanism.

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Hollin Hills home interior, photograph by John Bluedorne, April 2018

Still, NOVA’s twenty-first century growth does not rival the development that unfolded after 1945, a period in which mid-century modernism made inroads into the region’s built environment. Smaller homes, ultimately American interpretations of the burgeoning International and Bauhaus movements popular in Europe, emerged in a handful of communities around NOVA and southern Maryland. The juxtaposition between traditional Virginia housing and the then developing modernist movement was no less jarring than the divide currently developing between Arlington’s “new urbanism” and Old Towne’s colonial vibe.

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Hollin Hills interior, photograph by John Bluedorne, April 2018

With an expanding federal government in the post-World War II period, NOVA needed more housing stock. For young architects hoping to make a statement, the Virginia suburbs offered the chance to try something different, while maintaining an equilibrium between dynamic urbanism and idyllic rural existence–urban homes, embedded in an environment meant to highlight the natural virtues of country living. Hidden within a landscape of federal architecture (the CIA, the Pentagon, NRA headquarters) and numerous suburban subdivisions are pockets of mid-century modernism more often associated with California than the mid-Atlantic. For a singular example, one can visit the innovative Pope Leighy House in Alexandria, built by Frank Lloyd Wright as part of his Usonian movement.

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A very California looking ranch home in Hollin Hills, photograph by John Bludorne, April 2018
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Another California-style Hollin Hills home with a touch of spring color, photograph by John Bluedorne, April 2018

If you want more of a community feel, visit Bethesda, Maryland’s Carderock Springs for its “situated modernism” or, if in Northern Virginia, Alexandria’s Hollin Hills—a community its architectural founder described as “ideal country living for urban people.”

For the immersive Hollin Hills experience, one cannot beat the eponymously-titled house tour, held every two years in the Alexandria neighborhood. The community became the first in the D.C. metro region to consist entirely of contemporary housing. With the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s conference having just finished on May 5 and the SACRPH 2019 conference in Northern Virginia on the horizon, The Metropole decided to head down to Alexandria to take in the 2018 Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour. What follows is a brief thumbnail history of Hollin Hills accompanied by photos from the most recent house tour held on April 28. (All photos courtesy of John Bluedorn and Ryan Reft).

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More ranch, more Hollin Hills, photograph by John Bluedorne, April 2018

Sitting about 14 miles outside of Washington D.C. and consisting of 326 acres and over 450 homes, Hollin Hills remains, as Meghan Drueding wrote in 2014, “a well-preserved paradise for midcentury aficionados.” Following World War II, architect Charles Goodman, developer Robert Davenport, and landscape architects Lou Bernard Voight, Dan Kiley, and Eric Paepke created a community of small homes meant to be modern, affordable and “stylistically aligned with the ideas of such architects as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Rudolf Schindler and Richard Neutra,” while simultaneously blending into the neighborhood’s rolling hills and wooded areas—“a community of homes nestled into the landscape,” reflected John A. Burns, architect and long-time resident.

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Both photos (above and below) demonstrate how Goodman and his landscape architects attempted to build into the environment, photographs by Ryan Reft, April 2018

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While Goodman undoubtedly cast an influence over mid-century vernacular architecture, so too did the landscape architects and designers that worked alongside him. Dan Kiley, for example, went on to commissions with IBM headquarters, Dulles International Airport, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.[1] Kiley, Goodman, Voight, and Paepke ultimately created what some have called “a landscape of democracy” as they sought to blur the boundary between public and private, enabling the flora to “envelope the houses in their embrace.”[2]

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Garden part of Hollin Hills Home and Garden Tour, photograph by Ryan Reft, April 2018

“It was the sort of land every builder would turn down,” Goodman told an interviewer in 1983, “but I felt it would make for ideal country living for urban people, and Bob Davenport did, too.” Built between 1949 and 1971, many of the homes would be considered small; they remain so even though most have expanded on their initially slight footprint. Though modest in size, “[h]igh ceilings, open floor plans, and an efficient use of space make them feel larger than they really are,” Drueding noted. At the time, Hollin Hills contrasted starkly with a local tradition “dominated by red brick, gable roofs, white trim, sash windows and paneled doors,” writes Burns.[3]

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Charles Goodman Park, Hollin Hills, VA, photograph by Ryan Reft, April 2018

The homes became available in 1949, with the first selling for $12,500. “The whole method was to break everything down to a system that would simplify construction and still give you great freedom of design,” Goodman told architectural critic Benjamin Fogey in 1983. “The results were relatively inexpensive starter homes … families flocked to them.” The community earned a citation for having the best houses under $15,000 from Life magazine. In 2005, WAPO estimated their value to be “easily 50 times that amount.” Even with the 2008 housing debacle, a safe guess would suggest that number has increased, significantly; an ironic turn for housing built specifically for affordability.

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The ghost of Hollins Hills House and Garden Tour past, photograph by Ryan Reft, April 2018

Admittedly, some of its first residents viewed their homes with a dollop of trepidation. “I first thought the houses looked like chicken coops,” Rebecca Christofferson reflected decades later. “I decided subsequently that many of them still look like chicken coops, but I have grown to love chicken coops.” Of course, one person’s chicken coop is another’s modernist masterpiece. Christofferson’s husband, Leif, described their home differently. “There is something uplifting about the design, the light coming in,” he noted. “I like the design, I like the windows, I like the fireplace. I like the outdoors and the fact it flows into the house.”[4] Many of the community’s first residents worked for the government, employed in white collar, but not necessarily lucrative positions. The homes were meant to reflect those inhabiting them: unpretentious and simple, yet sophisticated and affordable.

Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, Goodman got his start with the federal government serving as a public architect for the Public Buildings Administration and the Treasury Department. From this position, he promoted modernism in government architecture domestically and abroad, notes the Fairfax County website devoted to another community designed by Goodman, the Commons of McLean.

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One only need a Mai Tai to complete the Tiki circle, photograph by Ryan Reft, April 2018

During World War II, Goodman worked as the principal architect for the Army Air Forces Transport Command. After the war, he founded Charles M. Goodman Associates and turned his attentions to residential housing. From 1946-1956, 32,000 Goodman-designed homes were constructed. In 1957, writing for the American Institute of Architect’s centennial, Fredrick Gutheim heralded Hollin Hills as a promising sign of the future. Yet by 2012, a Washington Post article described Goodman as merely “one of the modernist movement’s better-known architects.” Architectural historian Richard Longstreth noted ten years earlier that “as celebrated as it was in its own day,” the neighborhood had fallen into “semi-obscurity” over ensuing decades.[5]

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Hollin Hills garden, photograph by Ryan Reft, April 2018

The popularity of the show “Mad Men” and its overall aesthetic have helped bring some renewed attention to Hollin Hills. In fact, the production designer for the show, Dan Bishop, grew up in the community—as did Jeremy Conway, production designer for the “Sex and the City” TV series and films. “The architecture there did influence my sensibilities about modern homes,” Bishop told interviewers in 2010. “I live in one now, with glass walls surrounded by trees in South Pasadena [Calif.]. Truthfully, I would rather live in a Hollin Hills house.”

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More Hollin Hills landscape, photograph by Ryan Reft, April 2018

Landscaping plays a large role in the Hollin Hills aesthetic. “It’s a unique experiment in the fusion of architecture and landscape architecture,” former president of the American Society of Landscape Architects Dennis Carmichael noted in a 2005 lecture, because “landscape was very much a form-giver, an iconic part of the whole place.” The developers left vegetation much as it was, houses sat upon generously apportioned properties, and the layout of streets “was responsive to topography,” notes Longstreth.[6] “The fact that the houses were built up from the natural setting rather than, like most American suburban settings, cutting down all the trees and flattening the land,” acknowledged one resident, “I think that’s exciting.”[7]

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Two satisfied Washingtonians, photograph by Ryan Reft, April 2018

Houses don’t front the road unless above or below street level; no homes look directly at one another. Sitting above and below curving rolling hills, houses sit at angles that provide maximum exposure to sunlight and privacy. “[O]ne doesn’t see a Levittown-style lineup of little houses,” Nancy McKeon wrote 2010, “but a winding, climbing treescape that happens to shelter an entire living, breathing, modernism-obsessed community.” Designers deployed cul-de-sacs and T streets to reduce traffic.[8] “The houses of Hollin Hills are in the landscape, not on the landscape,” notes landscape architect Dennis Carmichael.[9] As Goodman used to say, homes in Hollin Hills “slide through the trees.”[10]

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The foot fist at the end of the Hollin Hills House and Garden Tour, photograph by Ryan Reft, April 2018

If you find yourself in Alexandria or NOVA more generally, and yes we are talking to you intrepid SACRPH members, wander about the streets of Hollin Hills for a journey into modernist residential housing or Charles Goodman put it, “ideal rural living for urban people.”

 


[1] Dennis Carmichael, “A Landscape of Democracy”, in Hollin Hills: Community of Vision, A Semicentennial History 1949-1999 (Civic Association of Hollin Hills, Alexandria, VA: 2000), 76.

[2] Carmichael, “A Landscape of Democracy”, 70.

[3] John Burns, “The Postwar Housing Phenomenon” in Hollin Hills: Community of Vision, A Semicentennial History 1949-1999 (Civic Association of Hollin Hills, Alexandria, VA: 2000), 44.

[4] Scott Wilson, “First Settlers”, in Hollin Hills: Community of Vision, A Semicentennial History 1949-1999 (Civic Association of Hollin Hills, Alexandria, VA: 2000), 89.

[5] Richard Longstreth, “Review: Hollin Hills, Community of Vision: A Semicentennial History, 1949 – 1999”, Washington History 13.2 (Fall/Winter, 2001/2002): 87-88.

[6] Longstreth, “Review: Hollin Hills, Community of Vision: A Semicentennial History, 1949 – 1999”, 87.

[7] Wilson, “First Settlers”, 89.

[8] Burns, “The Postwar Housing Phenomenon”, 46.

[9] Dennis Carmichael, “A Landscape of Democracy”, 70.

[10] Burns, “The Postwar Housing Phenomenon”, 52.

 

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