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Encyclopedia > Streetcar suburb

A streetcar suburb is a community whose growth and development was strongly shaped by the use of streetcar lines as a primary means of transportation. The earliest suburbs were served by horsecars, but by the late 1800s cable cars and electric streetcars, or trams, were used, allowing residences to be built further away from the urban core of a city. Streetcar suburbs, usually called additions or extensions at the time, were the forerunner of today's suburbs in the United States and Canada. A tram system, tramway, or street railway is a railway on which trams (streetcars, trolleys) run. ... Rapid Transit in San Diego: An original 1886 horse-drawn trolley and its driver participate in a parade celebrating the groundbreaking of the Panama-California Exposition Center in 1911. ... Cable Car in San Francisco A San Francisco cable car Winding drums on the London and Blackwall cable-operated railway, 1840. ... “Suburbia” redirects here. ...



The streetcar suburb refers to a specific type of development, mixed residential and commercial areas built near electric streetcar lines on the edge of the cities in land that had likely once been ranches, farmland or orchards, depending on region. Although electric streetcars were not introduced until 1887, suburbs did exist earlier based on animal-drawn cars, but the distance they could be from a city core (where most jobs were located) was more limited.

Advertisement for a subdivision in Cincinnati, Ohio touting the short walk to nearby rail stations
Advertisement for a subdivision in Cincinnati, Ohio touting the short walk to nearby rail stations

By the 1860s, many cities throughout America and Canada were connected to once distant outlying towns and communities, allowing wealthy and upper-middle class residents to work in the center city but live in what historian Robert Fishman called a "bourgeois utopia".[1] Outside of Philadelphia, suburbs like Radnor, Swarthmore, Villanova developed along the Pennsylvania Main Line. As early as 1850, 83 commuter stations had been built within a 15-mile radius of Boston.[2] Chicago saw similar developments, with 11 separate lines serving over 100 communities by 1873. A famous community served was Riverside, arguably one of the first planned communities in the United States, designed in 1869 by Frederick Law Olmsted.[3] Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... “Cincinnati” redirects here. ... Dr. Robert G. Fishman is executive director of George Washington Universitys Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. ... Radnor Township is a municipality in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States. ... Swarthmore is a borough in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States. ... Villanova is an unincorporated community in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. ... For the historic canal, see Main Line of Public Works. ... Nickname: City on the Hill, Beantown, The Hub (of the Universe)1, Athens of America, The Cradle of Revolution, Puritan City, Americas Walking City Location in Massachusetts, USA Counties Suffolk County Mayor Thomas M. Menino(D) Area    - City 232. ... Riverside is a village in Cook County, Illinois. ... A New town or planned community or planned city is a city, town, or community that was designed from scratch, and grew up more or less following the plan. ... Frederick Law Olmsted (April 26, 1822 – August 28, 1903) was an American landscape architect, famous for designing many well-known urban parks, including Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City. ...

However, the suburbs closest to the city were based on horsecars and eventually cable cars. First introduced to America around 1830, the horse-drawn omnibus was revolutionary because it was the first mass transit system, offering regularly scheduled stops along a fixed route, allowing passengers to travel three miles sitting down in the time it would take them to walk two miles. Later more efficient horse-drawn streetcars allowed cities to expand to areas that previously had been even more distant. By 1860, they operated in most major American and Canadian cities, including New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cincinnati, Montreal, and Boston.[4] Rapid Transit in San Diego: An original 1886 horse-drawn trolley and its driver participate in a parade celebrating the groundbreaking of the Panama-California Exposition Center in 1911. ... Cable Car in San Francisco A San Francisco cable car Winding drums on the London and Blackwall cable-operated railway, 1840. ... “Autobus” redirects here. ...

Horsecar suburbs emanated from the city center towards the more distant railroad suburbs. For the first time, transportation began to create a divide between social and economic classes in cities, as the working and middle class continued to live in areas closer to the city center, while the rich could afford to live further out.[5]

Development of streetcar suburbs

The introduction of the electrical streetcar in Richmond, Virginia in 1887 by Frank J. Sprague marked the start of a new era of transportation-influenced suburbanization through the birth of the "streetcar suburb". The early trolley allowed people to effortlessly travel in 10 minutes what they could walk in 30, and was rapidly introduced in cities like Boston and Los Angeles, and eventually to all larger American and Canadian cities. There were 5,783 miles of streetcar track serving American cities in 1890; this grew to 22,000 by 1902 and 34,404 by 1907.[6] Nickname: Motto: Sic dic Itur Ad Astra (Thus do we reach the stars) Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia Coordinates: , Country State County Independent City Government  - Mayor L. Douglas Wilder (I) Area  - City 62. ... Frank Julian Sprague (1857-1934) American inventor, Father of Electric Traction Frank Julian Sprague (1857–1934) was an American naval officer and inventor who contributed to the development of the electric motor, electric railways, and electric elevators. ... Flag Seal Nickname: City of Angels Location Location within Los Angeles County in the state of California Coordinates , Government State County California Los Angeles County Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) Geographical characteristics Area     City 1,290. ...

By 1890, electric streetcar lines were replacing horse-drawn ones in cities of all sizes, allowing the lines to be extended and fostering a tremendous amount of suburban development. They were often extended out to formerly rural communities, which experienced an initial surge of development, and then new residential corridors were created along the newly built lines leading to what had sometimes been separate communities.[7] Frequently on side streets, the houses closest to the original streetcar line will as much as ten to twenty years older than houses built further down the street, reflecting the initial surge and slow completion of a development.

Because streetcar operators offered low fares and free transfers, commuting was finally affordable to nearly everyone. Combined with the relatively cheap cost of land further from the city, streetcar suburbs were able to attract a broad mix of people from all socioeconomic classes, although they were most popular by far with the middle class.[8]

The houses in a streetcar suburb were generally narrow in width compared to later homes, and Arts and Crafts movement styles like the California Bungalow and American Foursquare were most popular. These houses were typically purchased by catalog and many of the materials arrived by railcar, with some local touches added as the house was assembled. The earliest streetcar suburbs sometimes had more ornate styles, including late Victorian and Stick. The houses of streetcar suburbs, whatever the style, tended to have prominent front porches, while driveways and built-in garages were rare, reflecting the pedestrian-focused nature of the streets when the houses were initially built. Setbacks between houses were not nearly as small as in older neighborhoods (where they were sometimes nonexistent), but houses were still typically built on lots no wider than 30 to 40 feet. Artichoke wallpaper, by John Henry Dearle for William Morris & Co. ... A typical Bungalow in Louisvilles Deer Park Neighborhood California Bungalows, commonly called simply bungalows in America, are a form of residential structure that were widely popular across America and, to some extent, the world around the years 1910 to 1925. ... A type of house popular during the early part of the 20th century typified by a square, four room floor plan. ... Victorian house A Victorian house is a type of house popularized in the Victorian era. ... Stick-Eastlake is a style of Victorian architecture. ... In land use, a setback is the distance which a building or other structure is set back from a street or road, a river or other stream, a shore or flood plain, or any other place which needs protection. ...

Shops such as groceries, bakeries and drug stores were usually built near the intersection of streetcar lines or directly along more heavily traveled routes (otherwise, routes would simply be lined with houses similar to those found in the surrounding neighborhoods). These shops would sometimes be multi-story buildings, with apartments on the upper floors. These provided convenient shopping for household supplies for the surrounding neighborhoods, that could potentially be visited on ones way to or from work. While there were stores near houses, they were not quite as close as in older parts of cities, and they were usually confined to specific streets, representing the beginning of a complete separation between residential and commercial areas in cities.[9]

Unlike railroad suburbs, which tended to form in pockets around stations along the interurban line, streetcar suburbs formed continuous corridors stretching outwards from city cores. The streetcar lines themselves were either built on roads that conformed to the grid, or on former turnpikes radiating in all directs from the city, sometimes giving such cities a roughly star-like appearance on maps. Along the lines, developers built rectangular "additions" with homes, usually on small lots, within a five to ten minute walk of the streetcar. These were essentially built on the grid plan of the older central cities, and typically spread out in between streetcar lines throughout a city. A simple grid plan road map (Windermere, Florida). ...

Streetcar use continued to increase until 1923 when patronage reached 15.7 billion, but it declined in every year after that as automobile use increased amongst the middle and upper classes. By the 1930s, the once-profitable streetcar companies were diversifying by adding motorized buses and trackless trollies to their fleets.[10] By the 1940s, streetcar ridership had dropped dramatically, and few subdivisions were being built with streetcars or mass transit in general in mind. By the 1950s, nearly all streetcar lines had stopped running, and were instead served by buses.

Modern streetcar suburbs

Now somewhat urban in appearance, former streetcar suburbs are readily recognizable by the neighborhood structure along and near the route. Every few blocks, or along the entire route in well-preserved neighborhoods, there are small commercial structures, storefronts usually flush with the sidewalk; these were small stores - often groceries - operated by "mom and pop" operators who lived in quarters behind or above the establishment. Off-street parking, if it exists at all, is in the rear of the building.

Because stores were originally built along streetcar lines, a person could exit the transport near their home, do some light shopping for dinner items, and continue by walking to their residence. These buildings also provided shopping for a non-employed spouse. Very few small groceries remain, though the space is often now used for non-foodstuff retail, capable of drawing clients from outside of the immediate neighborhood.

Modern streetcar suburbs are usually served by buses which run roughly the original streetcar routes, and may offer highly reasonable mass transit commute times to downtowns and other business areas, especially compared to later automobile suburbs. Toronto, Canada is an example of a city in which most streetcar suburbs are still served by streetcars. A CLRV streetcar, used on most of the TTCs streetcar routes, is seen here in downtown Toronto, shown here on the 506 route. ...

House prices in streetcar suburbs vary by neighborhood and city. Lots left empty in these areas during initial development, or where the initial houses have burned or been torn down, are usually too narrow for modern residential zoning regulations, meaning that it is difficult to infill housing in well-preserved street suburbs. Occasionally two lots are combined into one for a wide enough lot, or many houses are torn down for a new use as needed. Land reclamation is either of two distinct practices. ...

Features of streetcar suburbs

In a greater sense, the streetcar suburbs of the early 1900s worked well for a variety of reasons. // Public flight demonstration of an airplane by Alberto Santos-Dumont in Paris, November 12, 1906. ...

  • While most cities grew in a piecemeal fashion, without any real plan for future development, streetcar suburbs were highly planned communities that were organized under single ownership and control. Indeed, they would often be the first such developments in their respective cities.
  • Most lots in streetcar suburbs were quite small by post-World War II suburban standards, allowing for a compact and walkable neighborhood, as well as convenient access to public transport (the streetcar line).
  • Most streetcar suburbs were laid out in a grid plan, although designers of these suburbs often modified the grid pattern to suit the site context with curvilinear streets. Additionally, most of these pre-automobile suburbs included alleys with a noticeable absence of front-yard driveways.
  • In terms of transportation, the streetcar provided the primary means for residents to get to work, shopping, and social activities. Yet, at either end of the streetcar trip, walking remained as the primary means of getting around. As a result, even in these early suburbs, the overall city remained very pedestrian friendly. This was not always the case for other vehicles. It should be noted that, at the turn of the century, the bicycle was also a popular form of mobility for many urban dwellers of the era. (However, when the streetcar rail tracks were encased in the asphalt of a street the resulting trench, for the flanges of the steel wheels, created a dangerous hazard for cyclists, being big enough to trap bicycle wheels but not large enough to get out easily.)
  • Because of the pedestrian-oriented nature of these communities, sidewalks were necessary in order to avoid an unacceptable and muddy walk to the streetcar on an unpaved street. Trees lining the streets were also seen as critical to a healthy and attractive neighborhood. While such developments often occurred on farmland or other cleared sites, the evidence of the street trees planted can be seen today in the large, overarching canopies found in these attractive post-turn-of-the-century communities.

Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000... Bangkok Skytrain. ... A simple grid plan road map (Windermere, Florida). ... For other uses, see Bicycle (disambiguation). ... Railroad or railway tracks are used on railways, which, together with railroad switches (points), guide trains without the need for steering. ...

Streetcar suburbs in North America

The following communities are examples of streetcar suburbs in North America:

Another sign at the edge of the city limits. ... “Houston” redirects here. ... Brookland is a neighborhood in the Northeast quadrant of Washington, DC, historically centered along 12th Street NE. It has been nicknamed the Little Vatican or Little Rome by some for the many Catholic institutions clustered around The Catholic University of America (CUA). ... For other uses, see Washington, D.C. (disambiguation). ... Coordinates , Government Country  State   County United States  Maryland   Prince Georges Incorporated 1910 Mayor Malinda Miles Geographical characteristics Area     City 1. ... Sioux City (IPA: ) is a city located in northwest Iowa in the United States. ... Carrollton is a neighborhood of uptown New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. It is the part of uptown New Orleans furthest up river from the French Quarter. ... NOLA redirects here. ... Guilford Avenue rowhouses Charles Village is a neighborhood located in the north-central area of Baltimore, Maryland, USA. It is a middle-class area with many single-family homes that is in proximity to many of Baltimores urban amenities. ... Flag Seal Nickname: Monument City, Charm City, Mob Town, B-more Motto: Get In On It (formerly The City That Reads and The Greatest City in America; BELIEVE is not the official motto but rather a specific campaign) Location Location of Baltimore in Maryland Coordinates , Government Country State County United... Cleveland Heights is a city located in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... South Euclid (a suburb in the Greater Cleveland area) is a city located in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. ... Lakewood is a city in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States. ... Cleveland redirects here. ... Druid Hills is a census-designated place and a mostly unincorporated neighborhood in DeKalb County, Georgia (part of the greater Atlanta metropolitan area). ... Inman Park is a neighborhood of the city of Atlanta, Georgia, its first planned suburb. ... The Virginia-Highland neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia was founded in the early 20th Century as a streetcar community. ... Oakhurst is the name of several communities in the United States of America: Oakhurst, California Oakhurst, New Jersey Oakhurst, Oklahoma Oakhurst, Texas It is also the name of a suburb in Sydney, Australia. ... Atlanta redirects here. ... Elmwood Park is the name of several places in the United States of America: Elmwood Park, Illinois Elmwood Park, New Jersey Elmwood Park, Wisconsin This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... For other uses, see Columbia (disambiguation). ... Incorporated City in 1872. ... Downtown (Oak Park Avenue) Ernest Hemingway Museum Oak Park, Illinois Lake Theater and shops along Lake Street. ... Flag Seal Nickname: The Windy City Motto: Urbs In Horto (Latin: City in a Garden), I Will Location Location in Chicagoland and northern Illinois Coordinates , Government Country State Counties United States Illinois Cook, DuPage Mayor Richard M. Daley (D) Geographical characteristics Area     City 606. ... Fairmount is the name of several places in the United States of America: Fairmount, Georgia Fairmount, Illinois Fairmount, Indiana Fairmount, Maryland Fairmount, New York Fairmount, North Dakota Fairmount, Tennessee It is also the name of Fairmount, Ontario, Canada. ... Nickname: Motto: Sic dic Itur Ad Astra (Thus do we reach the stars) Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia Coordinates: , Country State County Independent City Government  - Mayor L. Douglas Wilder (I) Area  - City 62. ... Highland Springs is a census-designated place located in Henrico County, Virginia. ... Hillsboro Village is a former streetcar suburb located 3 miles south of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. ... Houston Heights, often nicknamed The Heights, is a neighborhood in Houston, Texas. ... “Houston” redirects here. ... Hyde Park is a historic neighborhood in Central Austin, located just north of the University of Texas. ... Austin is the capital of the U.S. state of Texas, the seat of Travis County. ... Jamaica Plain, commonly known as JP, is a historic neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. ... Montrose (sometimes The Montrose) is the name of a neighborhood and also an area in Houston, Texas. ... Morrisania is a neighborhood in the southwestern section of the Bronx in New York City. ... For other uses, see Bronx (disambiguation). ... This article is about the state. ... Mt. ... Upper St. ... “Pittsburgh” redirects here. ... Nickname: Location of Buffalo in New York State County Government  - Mayor Byron Brown (D) Area  - City 52. ... Kenmore is a village located in Erie County, New York. ... Position within Erie County. ... North Toronto is the northern section of the old, pre-amalgamation City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ... Riverdale is a large neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ... Other places named Parkdale include Parkdale, Oregon; Parkdale, Calgary; Parkdale, Victoria and Parkdale (electoral district). ... Roxbury is a neighborhood within Boston, Massachusetts USA. It was one of the first towns founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 and became a city in 1846 until it was annexed to Boston on January 5, 1868. ... For other uses, see Santa Monica (disambiguation). ... Nickname: WeHo Location of Los Angeles County in California and West Hollywood within Los Angeles County Country United States State California County Los Angeles Incorporated 1984  - City Council John Heilman (mayor) Sal Guarriello John J. Duran Abbe Land Jeffrey Prang Area    - City  1. ... Motto: The Heart of Screenland Location of Culver City in Los Angeles County, California Coordinates: , Country State County Los Angeles Incorporated (city) 1917-09-07 [2] Government  - City Manager Jerry Fulwood [1] Area  - City  5. ... The Westside is generally considered to be the portion of Los Angeles, California and its suburbs that lies east of the Pacific Ocean including Brentwood, west of La Brea Avenue (varying definitions set the boundary at Fairfax Avenue or even the eastern border of Beverly Hills), south of the Santa... Official language(s) English Capital Sacramento Largest city Los Angeles Largest metro area Greater Los Angeles Area  Ranked 3rd  - Total 158,302 sq mi (410,000 km²)  - Width 250 miles (400 km)  - Length 770 miles (1,240 km)  - % water 4. ... Nickname: Location of Glendale within Los Angeles County and the State of California. ... University City is a city located in St. ... Wellston is a city located in St. ... Nickname: Location in the state of Missouri Coordinates: , Country State County Independent City Government  - Mayor Francis G. Slay (D) Area  - City  66. ... West Philadelphia is a section of the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. ... Location in Wood County in the State of West Virginia Coordinates: , Country United States State West Virginia County Wood Incorporated 1810 Government  - Mayor Robert Newell Area  - City  12. ... Old Ottawa South is a neighbourhood in Ottawa, Canada. ... This article is about the capital city of Canada. ... Motto: Ut Incepit Fidelis Sic Permanet (Latin: Loyal she began, loyal she remains) Capital Toronto Largest city Toronto Official languages English (de facto) Government - Lieutenant-Governor David C. Onley - Premier Dalton McGuinty (Liberal) Federal representation in Canadian Parliament - House seats 106 - Senate seats 24 Confederation July 1, 1867 (1st) Area...

Other Countries

Karori and Kelburn, New Zealand and the Wellington Cable Car City-end Karori from Wrights Hill Karori is a suburb located at the western edge of the urban area of Wellington, New Zealand, some four km from the city centre. ... Panorama of Wellington including the Kelburn cable car. ... The Wellington Cable Car is a funicular railway in Wellington, New Zealand. ...

See also

The New urbanism is an American urban design movement that arose in the early 1980s. ... Aerial view of growth patterns in Arlington County, Virginia. ...


  1. ^ Fishman, Robert (1985). Bourgeois Utopias. Basic Books, 155. 
  2. ^ Schuyler, David (1988). The New Urban Landscape. Johns Hopkins University Press, 152. 
  3. ^ Keating, Anne D. (1988). Building Chicago. Ohio State University Press, 14. 
  4. ^ (1998) The Centrality of the Horse in the Nineteenth Century City. SR Books, 111. 
  5. ^ Fishman, Robert (1985). Bourgeois Utopias. Basic Books, 138. 
  6. ^ Konvitz, Josef W. (1987). "Patterns in the Development of Urban Infrastructure". American Urbanism: 204. Greenwood Press. 
  7. ^ Jackson, Keith T. (1985). Crabgrass Frontier. Oxford University Press, 119. 
  8. ^ Jackson, Keith T. (1985). Crabgrass Frontier. Oxford University Press, 118-120. 
  9. ^ Why Streetcar Suburbs Worked Well. Retrieved on 2006-07-07.
  10. ^ Foster, Marc S. (1981). From Streetcar to Superhighway. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 49, 52. 

  Results from FactBites:
Streetcar suburb - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (698 words)
A streetcar suburb is a community whose growth was mostly shaped by the coming of the electric streetcar or tram.
Most lots in streetcar suburbs were quite small by post-World War II suburban standards, allowing for a compact and walkable neighborhood, as well as convenient access to public transport (the streetcar line).
While some streetcar suburbs were planned with a grid plan, designers of these suburbs often modified the grid pattern to suit the site context with curvilinear streets.
  More results at FactBites »



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