Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Suburban Ideal

Lots of people think suburbs were born in 1950s America when Abraham Levitt and sons began turning farmland into entire new residential communities. Indeed, thousands of families left their urban neighborhoods to treat the anxieties of the Great Depression and two World Wars with the tranquility of the [relatively] wide open spaces.

But in his 1985 book, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States, Kenneth Jackson relates the first known expression of the “suburban ideal”:

“Our property seems to me the most beautiful in the world. It is so close to Babylon1 that we enjoy all the advantages of the city, and yet when we come home we are away from all the noise and dust.”

According to Jackson, this expression of homeowner contentment appeared in a letter to the King of Persia, written in cuneiform on a clay tablet in 539 B.C. It seems Abe and the boys weren’t as revolutionary as they thought.


1 Mesopotamia, not Long Island.

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