Tuesday, November 16, 2010


While many of the houses along Millersport Highway and its side streets resemble the “tiny boxes,” many are also larger. Hayden discusses how developers like Levitt and Sons promoted the idea of sweat equity. The standardized homes of the sitcom suburbs could be altered to better fit each family. Men (presumably) could add garages or convert attics to better suit their families. This may explain why some of the houses in these neighborhoods don’t fit into the “tiny boxes” scheme. On Rosedale Boulavard, for example, you see both cape cods and ranches as well as larger two story homes. The streets are wide, clearly made for residents with cars. The large lots with big front yards and setbacks are also tell-tale signs of the sitcom suburbs. The suburbs were envisioned and marketed as land and a house, not a community.

What I find to be the most interesting about these Sitcom Suburbs is how builders and developers can basically sell a lifestyle to people without them even realizing the manipulation. It’s hard to imagine that these suburbs, developed as standardized homes with virtually no public services, could become so popular. The lack of planning in these suburbs is evident. Like we have discussed previously, families bought into the triple dream of house, land, and community. However, in these sitcom suburbs, the desire for community gave way to a consumerist desire for accumulation of household goods. Hayden points out that “life in the 1950s imitated art-- as seen on tv.”Sitcoms and commercials furthered the idea of all-white suburbs as the only place for families to live. Sitcom suburbs were also advertised as the epitome of the American way. However, most of the developers were opposed to union labor, instead looking for the cheapest possible production methods. The streets around Millersport Highway provide an example of what many families were buying into durning the war/post-war housing explosion.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

University Heights Styles

Although I've lived in the Heights for two years now, I have never gone out of my way to think about the architecture. The first thing that most people notice about the area is the lack of upkeep on many of the college houses. However, the styles of the houses tell a story about this area beyond that of neglectful students and landlords.

I mostly noticed the 'Buffalo Doubles' and American Foursquare. The Buffalo architecture website gives some background about early housing endeavors. The "industrial vernacular style" came about as an improved form of worker housing. I would assume that many of the houses in the heights were built in the early 1900s for working families. The second story could either be used to keep families close together or for an income opportunity if rented out.

 Many of the houses around south campus have the second story balcony which I haven't seen in many other cities. I was having trouble deciphering between what would be considered a 'Buffalo Double' and an American Foursquare. What I determined was that the American Foursquare have open first floor porches while the Buffalo Doubles have enclosed first story porches.
The house above to the left would be a Buffalo Double while the one to the right would be an American Foursquare. I noticed some interesting roof angles on some of the houses. The house above to the left has what I believe is termed a hipped roof with sloping on four sides.

Both of the houses above also have interesting roof lines that are almost flat on top. 

One house I noticed that stood out to me was the one below.
The house appears to be sideways, with the front door on the right side of the house. I had a hard time figuring this one out...maybe Federal?? It looks like a lot of the detailing could have been lost over the years. 

Overall, the Heights appears to be an early working class neighborhood for families looking for better housing options.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Road Always Traveled

When I began looking for European trips to the US, I immediately noticed that many sites were advertising 'holiday rentals.' Normally, when I look into taking a vacation I look for interesting places to visit, not home rentals.

I found one website, trekamerica, that offers an "Americana Road Trip."The cross-country road trip includes visits to Niagara falls, the Grand Canyon, the Roswell UFO museum, and the Golden Gate Bridge to name a few. Other trips on the site follow the common theme of exploring the "wild," the great outdoors of America.

American trip advisors to Europe usually encourage travelers to see popular attractions such as churches, historic buildings, and museums. In every popular tourist destination in Europe there are lists of "must sees." These must sees don't usually include exploring nature.

Through my searching, it became evident that European travelers were interested in seeing the nature and the natural wonders of the American landscape. American travelers to Europe always seem to want to see historic places and famous buildings. The rich history of Europe and its old cities attract American tourists while Europeans seek the interesting landscapes of America.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A look at New York City and Amsterdam

I chose to look at New York City and Amsterdam. 

American cities like NYC developed like the models of their European origins. However, American cities also developed with economic motives in mind. The CBD is very clearly visible in NYC. The tall skyscrapers, built to convey economic power and prestige, cluster together. This is not visible in Amsterdam. The 'skyscraper section' of Amsterdam is small in comparison to New York.
The United States' drive for economic success and even dominance is evident in the metropolises of the eighteenth century.

The grids of NYC, like many other American cities, are rigid. Cities developed without breaks in the grids for open spaces. Although New York has Central Park and a few other smaller parks, the amount of green space does not compare to the density of the city. Commerce and business development drove the American city model. 

American cities developed as indicators of power and success. In many cities like New York City, the structures were built taller and taller to stand out as important buildings and, in turn, companies. As technology improved with inventions such as the elevator, buildings became taller signifiers of the modern age. 

Amsterdam has been able to retain its old world charm with much of the architecture. 

Amsterdam has lower buildings and an overall friendlier atmosphere. Amsterdam seems like a whimsical place situated with many canal-ways and brick streets. The roads almost flow like the waterways of the city. The different facades are interesting and different from the uniform looks of many street blocks in the US. Amsterdam has a more organic feel in my opinion. There is much more open space in Amsterdam. Many of the monumental locations have open space surrounding.

New York City developed upon a European model while incorporating the American spirit for economic success. Amsterdam grew more organically with a more scaled down environment. Both American and European cities can tell wonders about the people and cultures that built them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Buffalo's East Side

For this assignment I chose to explore the east side. The east side developed as a Polish enclave but has transformed into a predominately African American neighborhood. The Polish that used to dominated the east side were mainly immigrant workers that were able to thrive in Buffalo during the city's prosperous years. However, since the loss of jobs and economic activity, the east side has become Buffalo's most impoverished region.

Being an urban studies major, I have taken a lot of interest in the impact of housing and lack of affordable housing in urban areas. Buffalo is a perfect example of how unfair practices in the housing market can truly destroy the vitality of a city.

The history of Buffalo is like that of many other manufacturing city. Loss of jobs concentrated poverty into certain areas. Loss of jobs coupled with the issue of public housing segregation pushed Buffalo's east side into poverty with no apparent hope for reprieve. Through unfair housing practices, African Americans were given few options of were to live. As a result, the east side developed as an African American neighborhood.

German and Polish immigrants first developed the area into neighborhoods for working families. Houses were built modestly and often housed one to two families. As industry left, so did many of the immigrants. What was left behind was vacant factories, buildings, and houses that were ignored by the city for many years.

Driving up and down the streets, there are countless vacant houses and buildings. Overall, there is a lack of care and upkeep on these forgotten streets. The concentrated poverty that developed out of a lack of care for the poorer residents has only increased throughout the years.

However, despite being ignored for decades by the local governments, the east side has created an identity for itself. There are many different community groups in the east side dedicated to helping residents as well as helping to alleviate the concentrated poverty. Driving through the east side, I can tell that these neighborhood groups are vital for residents and help to maintain a sense of community. 

There are many corner stores providing necessities for neighborhood residents. Many of the shops reflect the ethnicity of those living in the neighborhood. For example, Our World focuses on "Afro centric greeting cards."

I noticed a few murals while I was driving through the neighborhood. Most depicted African Americans due to resident base. There are also a large number of churches in the east side.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

History of Parking Meters

The first parking meter was patented by Carlton Cole Magee in 1935. Magee was a newspaper editor and a member of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce traffic committee. The idea for a parking meter originated with Oklahoma City merchants who wanted to develop a way to increase traffic turnover in front of their stores - - employees would park early on and leave their cars all day so there would be no parking for the customers. I read that Magee actually sponsored a contest for University of Oklahoma engineering students to come up with the design for the first meter. 

Once the parking meters were developed,  Magee started Magee-Hale Park-O-Meter Company to manufacture his parking meters - - later changed to P.O.M in 1976. The Park-O-Meter company was the first to manufacture the meters. 

The first meter was installed on July 16th, 1935. Meters replaced old system of chalking cars and having officers walk around later checking to see if the cars had exceeded time limits
Early meters were totally mechanical- powered by a clock-type mainspring (which required periodic winding). Some meters were automatic: just insert the coin and the clockworks moved the time remaining indicator to the appropriate location  - - convenient for drivers but requires maintenance personnel to wind meters periodically. Manual meters required drivers to turn a handle after inserting the coin-- reduced the overhead costs because it eliminated the need for maintenance personnel.

There were mixed reviews about the parking meters and whether or not they would prove to be a successful endeavor. There were also arguments over whether it was a regulation or a revenue ploy. Five main grievances  from a 1950 law review:

o   “the municipality has no power under its charter to install parking meters”
o   “the ordinances are ‘revenue measures’ under the guise of ‘police regulation’ ”
o   “the public right to free use of the highway is infringed”
o   “the right of an abutting landowner to reasonable access to his property is denied”
o   “parking meters have no reasonable relation to traffic control”

I read one account were a man was, understandably, very angry for having gotten a ticket while his car was parked in front of his own home. I can see the argument that a person should be able to park in front of their own home for as long as they choose. However, at the same time those are public roads so it is a tricky debate. 


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Heights

I walked up and down Main Street and tried to notice what I hadn't noticed before. As someone who is interested in the design and composition of cities and streets, I found this to be a fun task. The first thing that I immediately took note of are the lack of original facades. All of the store fronts were altered in one way or another. It's sad to think about all of the architectural history of Main Street that has been lost due to all of the "renovations" over the years. 

I did notice one sign in particular that appeared from a different era. O'Connell's has always been a place that interested me when I walked by it.

 I aways wondered how an upscale clothing store managed to stay open in the changing neighborhood. I mean, what do college students want with expensive suits?? Admittedly, I have never actually been inside. However, the big storefront windows (which, by the way, appear to have been replaced with newer windows while still trying to maintain the character of what once was) display all of their fine clothing.

 I did a quick search of the store when I got home and found out that it's a family owned business dating back to 1959. The store's website credited its loyal clientele base for its continued success. 

After spending some time thinking about O'Connell's, I began noticing the poles and benches on the street. 

 I noticed the intricate designs on the poles that almost appeared to be uniform on the different poles and even benches. 

I also took note of the upper stories on the buildings. They all appeared to be apartments, many of them probably occupied by students. 
The upper floors of the buildings in this picture I took even look like houses. Shango, for example, as a second story that is shingled like a house. 

Main Street has a lot of interesting sights to be seen if you take the time to actually look. I'm happy I finally got a little more history and background on O'Connell's, a store I always wondered about yet never took the time to investigate.