The history of ordinary housing in America lies buried in the records of county buildings and in the files of architects, contractors, and building inspectors; but insofar as housing has been a topic for reformist concern, formal histories have been written. The problem for the general reader is to familiarize himself with architectural history without being drowned in it, because architectural history is only a small fraction of what he needs
to know if he is to understand the building patterns of cities. Unfortunately, historians of architecture generally deal with the homes of the rich to the neglect of ordinary urban structures.
A brief excursion through the architectural literature might begin with Sigfried Giedion's exciting compendium, Space, Time, and Architecture , Cambridge, 1941; and Reyner Banham's short book on the modern mechanical revolution, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment , Chicago, 1969. Christopher Tunnard, in The City of Man , New York, 1953, writes informatively about nineteenth-century suburbs of the wealthy, and Vincent J. Scully, Jr., in American Architecture and Urbanism , New York, 1969, has attempted a new synthesis of formal architectural history with the vernacular. One can locate one's perceptions from these design histories by looking at the pictures in two fine collections of urban prints and photographs: John A. Kouwenhoven, The Columbia Historical Portrait of New York , Garden City, 1953; and Harold M. Mayer and Richard C. Wade, Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis , Chicago, 1969. Those interested in the contrasts between high style and mass translation might like to examine the pictures of suburban homes in my Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston 1870-1900 , Cambridge, 1962, after reading Vincent J. Scully, Jr., The Shingle Style: Architectural Theory and Design from Richardson to the Origins of Wright , New Haven, 1955.
Reform in the years before the New Deal can be surveyed by reading John Coolidge, Mill and Mansion: A Study of Architecture and Society in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1820-1865 , 1942, New York, 1967; Stanley Buder, Pullman: An Experiment in Industrial Order and Community Planning 1880-1930 , New York, 1967; S. B. Sutton, ed., Civilizing American Cities: A Selection of Frederick Law Olmsted's Writings on City Landscapes , Cambridge, 1971; Robert W. DeForest and Lawrence Veiller, eds., The Tenement House Problem , 2 v., New York, 1903; Edith Abbott and Sophonisba Breckinridge, The Tenements of Chicago 1908-1935 , Chicago, 1936; James Ford, Slums and Housing , 2 v., Cambridge, 1936; Miles L. Colean, Housing for Defense , New York, 1940, on World War I public housing; and looking over the plans and descriptions of model housing and subdivisions in U.S. National Resources Committee, Urban Planning and Land Policies (Supplementary Report of the Urbanism Committee , II), Washington, 1939.
Two excellent monographs capture the experience of this century by holding up the contrast between reform effort and the realities of the private housing market: Roy Lubove, The Progressives and the Slums: Tenement House Reform in New York City 1890-1917 , Pittsburgh, 1962; and Lloyd Rodwin, Housing and Economic Progress: A Study of the Experience of Boston's Middle-Income Families , Cambridge, 1961.
For the New Deal public housing effort, Robert Moore Fisher, Twenty Years of Public Housing, Economic Aspects of the Federal Program , New York, 1959, is perhaps the best source, but there is a much more interesting and perceptive work, unpublished but available on microfilm: William L. C. Wheaton, "The Evolution of Federal Housing Programs," Ph.D. Thesis,
University of Chicago, 1953. Martin Meyerson and Edward C. Banfield, Planning and the Public Interest: The Case of Public Housing in Chicago , New York, 1955, have documented a case in which the New Deal racial segregation policies were challenged in a postwar city. The story of the New Deal experiments with planned settlements has been told in Paul K. Conkin, Tomorrow a New World: The New Deal Community Program , Ithaca, 1959; Clarence S. Stein, Toward New Towns for America , New York, 1957; and Joseph L. Arnold, The New Deal in the Suburbs: A History of the Greenbelt Town Program 1935-1954 , Columbus, 1971.
The final report of the National Commission on Urban Problems, Building the American City, House Document No. 19-34 (91st Congress, 1st Session), Washington, 1969, is readily available and offers with its supplementary Research Reports the best source for understanding current federal housing and urban-renewal programs. This official material can then be assessed by sampling some of the current criticism and studies of urban housing problems. My favorites are Charles Abrams, The City Is the Frontier , New York, 1965; Anthony Downs, Urban Problems and Prospects , Chicago, 1970; Bernard J. Frieden, The Future of Old Neighborhoods , Cambridge, 1964; Lawrence M. Friedman, Government and Slum Housing: A Century of Frustration , Chicago, 1968; Martin Pawley, Architecture versus Housing , New York, 1971; George Sternlieb, The Tenement Landlord , New Brunswick, 1966; and Lloyd Rodwin, Nations and Cities: A Comparison of Strategies for Urban Growth , Boston, 1970.