Main Street Ready-Made: …Greendale…


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.

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