The dream of the suburb is an old one in America. For more than a century, city dwellers have sought to escape the crowding and pollution of industrial centers for the quiet streets and green spaces on their fringes. In the 1930s, that dream inspired the largest migration of Americans in the twentieth century and led to the creation of Greendale, Wisconsin, one of three planned communities initially begun to resettle the rural poor hit hard by the Great Depression. This idea, though, quickly developed into a plan to revitalize cities and stabilize farming communities around the nation. The result was three “greenbelt towns” built from scratch, expressly for working-class families and within easy commuting distance of urban employment. Greendale, completed in 1938, was consciously designed as a midwestern town in both its physical character and social organization, where ordinary citizens could live in a safe, attractive, economical community that was in harmony with the surrounding farmland.
“Main Street Ready-Made” examines Greendale as an outgrowth of public policy, an experiment in social engineering, and an organic community that eventually evolved to embrace a huge shopping mall, condominiums, and expensive homes while still preserving much of the architecture and ambiance of the original village. A snapshot of 1930s idealism and ingenuity, “Main Street Ready-Made” makes a significant contribution to the history of cities, suburbs, and social planning in mid-century America.
From 1915 to 1971 the large U.S. Steel plant was a major part of Duluth’s landscape and life. Just as important was Morgan Park—an innovatively planned and close-knit community constructed for the plant’s employees and their families. In this new book Arnold R. Alanen brings to life Morgan Park, the formerly company-controlled town that now stands as a city neighborhood, and the U.S. Steel plant for which it was built.
Planned by renowned landscape architects, architects, and engineers, and provided with schools, churches, and recreational and medical services by U.S. Steel, Morgan Park is an iconic example—like Lowell, Massachusetts, and Pullman, Illinois—of a twentieth-century company town, as well as a window into northeastern Minnesota’s industrial roots.
Starting with the intense political debates that preceded U.S. Steel’s decision to build a plant in Duluth, Morgan Park follows the town and its residents through the boom years to the closing of the outmoded facility—an event that foreshadowed industrial shutdowns elsewhere in the United States—and up to today, as current residents work to preserve the community’s historic character.
Through compelling archival and contemporary photographs and vibrant stories of a community built of concrete and strong as steel, Alanen shows the impact both the plant and Morgan Park have had on life in Duluth.
Arnold R. Alanen is professor of landscape architecture at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His previous books include Main Street Ready-Made: The New Deal Community of Greendale, Wisconsin and Preserving Cultural Landscapes in America.