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HISTORIC AMERICAN BUILDINGS SURVEY SPRINGHILL LAKE, GREENBELT, MD - page 8 / 20

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HABS NO. MD-1216 Page 9

school board, a modest retail and shopping center, office towers, pedestrian paths linking buildings, playgrounds and roads, two swimming pools, a par-3 golf course, and a recreation center intended as the social focus of the community. In addition, the firm planned for the growth of verdant vegetation and maintenance of mature trees interspersed throughout the site. The development also held economic ramifications for the city of Greenbelt. Residents of old Greenbelt had long paid a higher tax rate to accommodate a high rate of city services.25 The construction of a significant number of new units within the city would increase tax revenue and enable the city to reduce the per capita tax burden on all residents.26 Indeed, once regional interests came to terms with the inevitability of new development, some voices came to espouse density in Greenbelt and throughout the county. 27

The July 6th, 1962 groundbreaking for Springhill Lake was a much heralded event. State, county, and local officials including Greenbelt Mayor Francis X. White, State House Speaker Perry Wilkinson, and Greenbelt City Manager Charles McDonald, attended the ceremony, watching as State Controller Louis Goldstein dug a shovel into the ground to commence the excavation. 28

III. Buildings and Structures

The garden apartment housing type dates back to the 1910s, when developers and architects were seeking a means of providing a more healthful and aesthetically appealing form of urban rental housing. Characterized by larger setbacks and a lower built proportion of the lot, the new forms allowed greater access to light and ventilation throughout the apartment buildings. In addition, early garden apartments assembled multiple lots and even whole blocks to facilitate these open spaces. Often, the apartments were arranged around a central, even private, courtyard designed by landscape architects. 29

Many early garden apartment complexes, including the original Greenbelt development, are derivations of Ebenezer Howard’s conception of the Garden City. Howard, a British stenographer, published To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform in 1898, reissued in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow. Howard’s vision was for a decentralized, planned city with services and employment distributed throughout the urbanized area. This new urban area would feature an agricultural belt at the perimeter to pre-empt too much growth or the city’s being swallowed up by other urban growth.30 Several efforts were made in the 1920s to develop smaller scale garden communities within existing urban areas. Architects and planners Henry Wright and Clarence Stein worked together on two such efforts, Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, New York, and Radburn, New Jersey. Stein became a consultant to the Resettlement

25 26 27 28 29 “An Election Platform.” Greenbelt News Review. 14 May 1959. “Apartments Seen Paying High Share of Taxes.” Washington Evening Star. 5 Dec 1963: B4. “More Apartment Units Urged For Greenbelt.” Washington Evening Star. 2 May 1964: ??. “Ceremonies Mark Start of Apartment Project.” Washington Post and Times Herald. 7 July 1962: A2. Daniel Karatzas. Jackson Heights A Garden in the City: The History of America’s First Garden and Cooperative Apartment Community. (Jackson Heights, N.Y.: Jackson Heights Beautification Group, 1990): 31. Robert Fishman. Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977). 30

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