Gardens of Eden: Long Island's Early Twentieth-Century Planned Communities
W. W. Norton & Company (2015)
Reviewed by Tim Keogh
Today, New York’s high-profile real estate developers build high-rise condominiums in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island City. Their massive glass towers offer Gotham’s professional class apartments with floor-to-ceiling windows, gyms and rec rooms, trendy restaurants and organic markets, all just one elevator ride away. But a century ago, Gotham’s bourgeoisie looked beyond the confines of industrial New York, and the most prominent developers built and planned entire communities along rail lines in the expansive farmland of Queens and Long Island. Constructed in the shadow of Gatsby’s ‘Gold Coast,’ these were the fashionable areas of early twentieth century New York, with architecture and community designs that remain appealing today. For those intrigued by the idealism of suburban planning, or the beauty of Tudor or Spanish-style housing, this new book, Gardens of Eden, offers a coffee table-sized collection of rare pictures, along with intriguing narratives for twenty-two of Long Island’s most iconic early twentieth-century suburbs.
By Gerard Koeppel
If a picture is worth eighty thousand words or so, one image captures what this book is about. And if every picture tells a story, this image tells two...
By Richard Howe
By the end of the 19th century most of the streets and avenues laid out on the island of Manhattan by the 1811 Commissioners Plan and its 1870 northern extension by the Central Park Commissioners had been opened to traffic and as much as two-thirds or more of them had been paved. The island’s rural estates had been broken up and sold after having been subdivided into building lots conforming to the blocks in the street plan. Most of the island up to about 168th Street had been densely built up, with nearly 100,000 buildings —- over 80,000 of them residential -— carpeting the built-up area. At least 90% of all the buildings on the island -— and 99% of the residential buildings -— were no more than six stories tall; the average height was about five stories: 60 feet at a nominal 12 feet per story. And at least 75% of the buildings were 20–25 feet wide and 60–80 feet deep. But why? Why so many buildings, and why so many in just this range of sizes?
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