Washington, D.C. and the Growth of Its Early Suburbs : 1860-1920

Thumbnail Image


1540460.pdf (77.07 MB)
No. of downloads: 13

Publication or External Link





During the nineteenth century, the North American city greatly changed in size and internal structure. With the introduction of mass transportation, large scale suburbanization took place as one aspect of this change. Members of the evolving middle class not only wished to escape the pollution and congestion of the urban core, but also believed strongly in a 'rural ideal,' translated into a 'suburban ideal.' Urban changes and suburban growth were especially pronounced in industrial cities, and descriptions of conditions in these cities identify the accepted model of the spatial configuration of the metropolis existed in 1920. Examination of the growth of Washington D. C. between the Civil War and World War I indicates that the city shared few of the characteristics of the accepted urban model. Nevertheless, it exhibited distinct suburban movement connected with three major transport modes, including the steam railroad. The belief in the 'suburban ideal' was broadly based in Washington and therefore much variation was found among the city's suburban communities, even among those associated with the same transportation mode. Furthermore, in contrast to the suburban model, conditions in the suburban areas often did not compare favorably with those in the city. Even so, the suburbanization process accelerated from small beginnings, so that by 1920 the city displayed the local variant of the typical star-shaped pattern.