Life in gardens: warm afternoon

Warm afternoon 2, Southwest Washington, D.C., E. Rosskam, LoC. . . in Southwest Washington, D.C., 1941, by Edwin Rosskam, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Southwest is the capital’s smallest quadrant, located south of the National Mall along the Potomac River.  After the Civil War, it was populated by freed Blacks to its east and Scotch, Irish, German, and Eastern European immigrants to its west. Its old neighborhoods were largely destroyed in some very questionable “urban renewal” in the 1950s.

Summer specializes in time, slows it down almost to dream…

Jennifer Grotz, from “Late Summer

The dooryard bloom’d

Greenbelt, Md., 1938, by Marion Post Wolcott, via Library of CongressMother and daughter cut flowers in their cottage style garden in Greenbelt, Maryland, near Washington, D.C., September 1938, by Marion Post Wolcott, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Greenbelt was one of three* “Greenbelt Towns” created by the New Deal federal government in the late 1930s.  The built-from-scratch communities were designed to provide the best of both city and country living.

Greenbelt, Md., 1938, by Marion Post Wolcott, via Library of Congress

In addition to affordable housing, they incorporated commercial, medical, educational, and social facilities — all within park-like landscaping.

. . .Greenbelt was an experiment in both the physical and social planning that preceded its construction. Homes were grouped in superblocks, with a system of interior walkways permitting residents to go from home to town center without crossing a major street. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic were carefully separated. The two curving major streets were laid out upon and below a crescent-shaped natural ridge. Shops, school, ball fields, and community buildings were grouped in the center of this crescent.

. . .The first families were chosen not only to meet [low] income criteria, but also to demonstrate willingness to participate in community organizations.

[They] arrived on October 1, 1937, [and] found no established patterns or institutions of community life. Almost all were under 30 years of age. All considered themselves pioneers in a new way of life. A mix of blue and white collar workers, they reflected the religious composition of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.—Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish; but because of the racial bias controlling public policy at that time, all were white.†

. . .In 1952, when Congress voted to sell off the greenbelt towns, citizens in Greenbelt formed a housing cooperative (Greenbelt Veterans Housing Corporation, later Greenbelt Homes, Inc.)

— “The History of Greenbelt, Maryland

Greenbelt, MD, in 2005, HABS, via Library of Congress

Old Greenbelt” has been well preserved over the years and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.  The photo above shows some of its rowhouses with gardens in 2005.  It was taken by James W. Rosenthal for an Historic American Buildings Survey (via Library of Congress).

More Library of Congress photos of Greenbelt are here (1938) and here (2005).


*Along with Greendale, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee, and Greenhills, Ohio, near Cincinnati.

†The Census found that 41% of residents were African-American in 2000.

The Sunday porch: Washington, D.C.

Wash. D.C., rowhouses, via Library of CongressSeven Washington, D.C., rowhouses in 1939, by David Myers, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The neighborhood is not given, although it looks like Capitol Hill to me.

In his book, The American Porch, Michael Dolan attempts to trace the European, African, and Asian origins of our many kinds of porches.  The front stoop — several steps and a small landing — came from the Dutch.

Down the coast [from New England], in Nieuw Amsterdam, a different entry was proliferating.  Made of stone or brick, the stoep — Dutch for “step” — was a roofless link between doorway and street.  Though municipal tradition required a building’s occupants to maintain the stoep, the Dutch deemed it public territory.  However, in Nieuw Amsterdam, the stoop acquired a private connotation:  “. . . before each door there was an elevation, to which you could ascend by some steps from the street,” an observer wrote.  “It resembled a small balcony, and had some benches on both sides on which the people sat in the evening, in order to enjoy the fresh air, and have the pleasure of viewing those who passed it.”

The stoops above lack benches, but the owner of the first one has brought down a chair, and two doors down there is a park bench in the tiny garden.  You can see a similar arrangement here.

I’m taking a break from blogging for a couple more weeks (except for “The Sunday porch”), but I’ll be back for GB Bloom Day in October.