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Andrea

Housing Styles

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I know we fuss about "cookie cutter" houses these days, but frankly they've been around a long time. In the old days, they literally came out of the box, straight from the Sears Roebuck catalog.

Here's an Atlanta neighborhood from the 1920's, and an example of the houses Sears was selling in those days. It's really interesting, if you drive around town you'll see dozens of similar styles.

Here's a fascinating website, showing the many styles Sears offered over the years:

History of Sears' Homes

houses.jpg

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Gee, the prices were sweet back then, too. $2,065 would get you a really nice house!

sears%20ad.jpg

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WOW, so in 1920 you could get a decent 4 bedroom home for $2065. Now you can just barely get a decent home for 200 times that amount. My how times have changed.

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I know we fuss about "cookie cutter" houses these days, but frankly they've been around a long time. In the old days, they literally came out of the box, straight from the Sears Roebuck catalog.

Here's an Atlanta neighborhood from the 1920's, and an example of the houses Sears was selling in those days. It's really interesting, if you drive around town you'll see dozens of similar styles.

Here's a fascinating website, showing the many styles Sears offered over the years:

History of Sears' Homes

houses.jpg

Ha! One of my cousins' fiancees runs a "Dream House" business. He seems pretty good at it as well.

If you ask me, crackerbox houses are cookie cutter if anything is, albeit they are quite as extravagantly designed as the houses you've shown us and the McMansions we see today.

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Don't forget to post a Craftsman style - which was specifically a Sears style before it became a popular early bungalow style.

Sorry - Gustav Stickley termed the arts & craft concept in the late 1800's. But my familiarity with the house style was through Sears - this is (though they "Tudored" it up) the typical Craftsman home that is all over Virginia Highlands:

1200kenyon.jpg

This had always been our dream house - either a full triangle or often a partial porch forming a mini-triangle in the front. There are always variations, especially as some homes have been retrofitted that a house addition has been built on the side of the porch.

But I understand your point Andrea - we often dismiss clear cut cookie-cutter style subdivisions, but often our most cherished urban & inner ring neighborhoods were once just that. I've seen an early picture of Ansley Park when there wasn't a tree in sight - I had even mistakenly thought it was a Civil War picture, as the homes were just under construction & the ground looked bare. Virginia Highlands of course was also the typical 1920's suburban neighborhood, middle class families living in the most modern housing style of the time - FULLY ELECTRIC! It was this time when Virginia Highlands was booming & Grant Park & Inman Park were in the early stages of decline, as Victorian was already considered antique & gaudy.

One key difference though - no zoning & pedestrian orientation. The old suburbs of the 1900's were built for car usage, but were primarily built along streetcar lines. Also, as the neighborhoods aged - they became more organic due to lack of zoning - apartment buildings were built between houses, street corners were home to a grocery store. It's the post WWII Euclidean style zoning we can partially blame for the end of urbanism. Ironically - it was planners that killed our cities.

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I am not sure if this thread is just about Sears Houses so please excuse me if this wasn't meant for this thread.

Though it has been a while since I have been to Atlanta, so they might not have survived, I was always fascinated by the unique modern (industrial style) homes that were built in Atlanta which I think is fairly unique in the South. It's most likely due to the fact that Atlanta was really the only very prosperious city in the South during the 50s and 60s when housing of this type was in vogue amoungst the well off. These would not be cookie cutter homes by any means. Any photos would be appreciated, examples or information would be appreciated.

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But I understand your point Andrea - we often dismiss clear cut cookie-cutter style subdivisions, but often our most cherished urban & inner ring neighborhoods were once just that. I've seen an early picture of Ansley Park when there wasn't a tree in sight - I had even mistakenly thought it was a Civil War picture, as the homes were just under construction & the ground looked bare. Virginia Highlands of course was also the typical 1920's suburban neighborhood, middle class families living in the most modern housing style of the time - FULLY ELECTRIC! It was this time when Virginia Highlands was booming & Grant Park & Inman Park were in the early stages of decline, as Victorian was already considered antique & gaudy.

One key difference though - no zoning & pedestrian orientation. The old suburbs of the 1900's were built for car usage, but were primarily built along streetcar lines. Also, as the neighborhoods aged - they became more organic due to lack of zoning - apartment buildings were built between houses, street corners were home to a grocery store. It's the post WWII Euclidean style zoning we can partially blame for the end of urbanism. Ironically - it was planners that killed our cities.

Yep, at least in part.

It's interesting that the cookie-cutter sameness we champion in some neighborhoods as "architectural character and integrity" is decried in others as, well, "cookie cutter" housing.

As with many issues, it's often a question of who feels their ox is being gored. Our house in VA-Highland (no "s", as the locals used to point out) basically looked like every other house on the street, which is hardly surprising since many of them were built in the mid-1930's by the same builder. One of my long time neighbors told me that when they went up there'd been a great hue and cry about destroying the neighborhood. I'm told there was similar turmoil when another wave of housing came to the area in the post WWII era.

I'm in favor of reasonable limits on new construction, and I don't want to see things happen that will damage stable neighborhoods. I also have my own personal likes and dislikes about architecture and how neighborhoods should be. But I also believe it is the nature of cities to constantly reinvent themselves.

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You can walk around a neighborhood of brownstones in Brooklyn or Boston and see houses that not only look the same but are literally crammed right next to each other. Nobody faults those neighborhoods for being "cookie-cutter." In fact, they're generally considered among the most aesthetically pleasing anywhere. It does beg the question of whether it's really sameness that we find offensive, or if it's actually the type of sameness. Actually, the problem with "sameness" in development today is that while the new construction is all the same, it doesn't respect its surrounding environment -- it's glaringly different. There's a fundamental difference between a bunch of similar-looking homes going up on city streets, and a developer buying and clear-cutting a huge parcel of land, installing artificial streets, and then building houses that all look the same. I really think it's an issue of integration. Even the new urbanist-type projects that get lauded rarely demonstrate a true willingness to integrate with the existing environment. Look at Atlantic Station; while what's going on within the site itself is nice, it's still essentially surrounded by highways. Maybe development just has to happen on a smaller scale for it to be really respectful.. maybe by saying "cookie-cutter" people are really reacting to the assembly-line, economy of scale mentality that means neighborhoods are produced with the same values in mind as your Ford or your Big Mac.

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I think the difference is this. Does the neighborhood in question encourage people to get out and intereact with each other, or is it instead, a place full of retreats where people are secluded from each other? I believe that is the basic difference between suburbia and neighborhoods where there is a sense of community.

If you see a street full of McMansions, or even vinyl sided starter homes, there can be a world of difference depending upon if there are sidewalks, gridded streets and alleys, porches, mixed use zoning, cul-de-sacs, spacing, etc.

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