These innovative housing designs from 1935 would rival many ‘Green Housing’ designs today!

Greenbelt towns would rival ‘Green Projects’ today

In the midst of The Great Depression, a New Deal program called the Greenbelt Town program, built a series of highly rational garden cities that would rival “Green projects” today. Only three small projects were built. Greenhills, Ohio is one of only three “Greenbelt Towns” built in the United States. The other two are Greenbelt, Maryland and Greendale, Wisconsin. Then the program ran out of money.  Only Greenhills, Ohio survives today.

Below are some photographs taken by Brice Martin and Theodor Jung of the planning stages of the new community of Greenhills.

Architects and engineers studying plans for Greenhills project, Ohio in 1936Architects and engineers studying plans for Greenhills project, Ohio 1936

Suburban Resettlement, 2020 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, D.C. Drafting roomSuburban Resettlement Green Hills, 2020 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, D.C. Drafting room 1936 by brice martin theodor jung

Service Traffic was hidden

Greenbelt borrowed techniques pioneered seven years previously at Radburn, New Jersey, which turned housing layouts “inside-out” to keep automobiles and service traffic hidden.

Model house. Greenhills, Ohio 1936Model house. Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Towns had a Village Center

Each town had a Village center that had shops, a community center (which were used for schools and community activities) and government offices. The homes were to surround that Village center. And each town had a wide green belt of land surrounding the town that could easily be used as farm land for raising crops or animals.

Characteristic topography. Greenhills, Ohio March 1936 before project startedCharacteristic topography. Greenhills, Ohio March 1936 before project started

Old covered bridge near Greenhills, Ohio 1936Old covered bridge near Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Regional plan,  Greenhills, Ohio 1936Regional plan. Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Houses were linked by footpaths and are grouped around central service courts, with the public sides facing the communal “garden” space.

The homes also share a common site design and building plan. Homes were built close to the curb, almost totally eliminating a front yard. Instead, the emphasis was put on having a larger lawn to the backyard. This provided a much larger vista for playing and gardening, as well as evoking the wide-open feel of the country.

Model. Greenhills, Ohio 1936Model. Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Landscape was integrated into each design

Landscaping was integrated into the design, with mature specimen trees saved or transplanted during site development. Each of the group housing units had a plot 30 feet by 90 feet between the house and the parklands, cared for by the tenant. On the service side space was provided for trash storage and clothes drying. Landscaping was used to create privacy, and the finished community was notable for the maturity of the plantings.

Block plan Greenhills, Ohio 1936Block plan. Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Sketch of Greenhills, Ohio 1936Sketch of Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Schools were located in Central Town Common

A central town common included the original commercial district, community center and school, linked to the residential areas by pedestrian underpasses. A recreation area, 27 acres lake, and allotment gardens were located beyond the common.

Sketch of Greenhills, Ohio, school 1936Sketch of Greenhills, Ohio, school 1936

Greenhills, Ohio. A community planned by the Suburban Division of the U.S. Resettlement Administration 1936Greenhills, Ohio. A community planned by the Suburban Division of the U.S. Resettlement Administration 1936

Model of Greenhills project, Ohio 1936Model of Greenhills project, Ohio 1936

Living rooms were in the rear of the house, overlooking the open vista

The orientation of the rooms in the “Original” is also unusual compared to homes built today. Living rooms were placed in the rear of the house, with a large picture window overlooking the open vista in the backyard. In most cases, the main entryway was placed on the side or in the back of the home. The entrance near the curb (in the small extension of the building) provides an entry into the utility room. The homes are fondly referred to as having been built backwards.

Sketch Cul-de-sac. Greenhills, Ohio Apr. 1936Sketch Cul-de-sac. Greenhills, Ohio Apr. 1936

Map of Greenhills project, Ohio 1936Map of Greenhills project, Ohio 1936

The houses were designed to be mass-produced

The houses were designed to be mass-produced using steel frame construction and insulated panels.

House plans for resettlement project. Greenhills, Ohio 1936House plans for resettlement project. Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Drawing of community building. Greenhills project, Ohio 1936Drawing of community building. Greenhills project, Ohio 1936

Plan and drawing of community building. Greenhills, Ohio 1936Plan and drawing of community building. Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Architect’s sketch of housing for Greenhills, Ohio 1936Architect's sketch of housing for Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Unit model, detached house. Greenhills project, Ohio 1936Unit model, detached house. Greenhills project, Ohio 1936

Drawing and plan of single house. Greenhills, Ohio 1936Drawing and plan of single house. Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Drawing of bedroom Greenhills, Ohio 1936Drawing of bedroom. Greenhills, Ohio 1936

Drawing and plan for four-family house. Greenhills, Ohio 1936Drawing and plan for four-family house. Greenhills, Ohio 1936

  More photographs of this unique and historic housing project of 1935

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Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me

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She has authored numerous genealogy books.
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For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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