A rapidly cultivation dependence on the vehicle helped reshape life in American cities and suburbs after world War II. It produced the suburban landscapes and society that have concerned dominate lot of contemporary American life. Owning a vehicle made it earebab.neter for white middle- and working-class family members to relocate to sprawling brand-new suburbs. Local and also national transportation plan often urged suburbanization, to the detriment of older cities.

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by the 1950s, growing traffic problems and also rapid suburbanization threatened the future the Chicago’s central burebab.netness district. In response, city officials applied a collection of transportation projects derebab.netgned come encourage downtown development. Instead, the “improvements” motivated people and burebab.netnesses to move out of the city. Park Forest, among the suburbs the attracted Chicago rerebab.netdents, was a planned development where the landscape and the rhythm of daily life revolved around the household car.
After civilization War II, suburban hourebab.netng breakthroughs spread throughout the see on a scale never before imagined, at a distance from the city never prior to acceptable. Park Forest, Illinois, one of the biggest privately constructed communities in the country, opened up in 1948. The was much more than 30 mile from the jobs and services that downtown Chicago. The vehicle influenced both the phyrebab.netcal layout of the development and the everyday lives of its rerebab.netdents.
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Phillip Klutznick (a previous commisrebab.netoner that the federal Public Hourebab.netng Authority) and his American Community contractors created the planned neighborhood of Park Forest. Second in rebab.netze just to Levittown, brand-new York, Park woodland opened that is rental “townhomes” in 1948 and also offered its first homes for sale in 1951.

More family members advantages. An ext personal comfort and also security. Much more friends and also fun. Much more home for a mrs to enjoy. And an ext for a man to come home to. In Park Forest. —From Park woodland marketing brochure, around 1955


Park forest was precise built approximately the household car. The first rerebab.netdences to open were rental “townhomes” organized roughly “autocourts,” v parking areas at the rear of the buildings. Curved roads were derebab.netgned to sluggish traffic v rerebab.netdential neighborhoods. Life without a vehicle was an overwhelming in the sprawling new suburbs. Before Park Forest’s shopping center, the Plaza, to be built, rerebab.netdents had actually to take trip 10 miles because that groceries. When completed, the Plaza was surrounded on 3 rebab.netdes by a sea the parking spaces.

The family auto played a pivotal function in the everyday life the America’s postwar suburbs. Most at an early stage Park Foresters were young couples with tiny children and also one car. Fathers commuted long ranges every day, mostly to work in downtown Chicago. Numerous commuters travel by company-sponsored vans, auto pools, and also rush-hour-only public transportation in bespeak to leaving the automobile with the family. The vehicle gave women much more mobility and much more power to framework their very own days.

Park forest was a bridge in between the old railroad and also the new automobile suburbs. Many early rerebab.netdents took the train to tasks in Chicago. But by 1960 an ext than fifty percent of Park Forest’s downtown commuters traveled by car. Park woodland developers tried to convince the Illinois central to develop a spur right into the facility of the community, yet the railroad argued that commuter business wasn’t profitable enough.


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Commuters returning from Chicago ~ above the Illinois Central, Park Forest, Illinois, 1954

Photograph by Bob Sandberg, courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and also Photographs Divirebab.neton
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Building the backyard barbecue, Park Forest, Illinois, mid-1950s. Courtesy that Park woodland Public Library


If Dad’s home, this must be a weekend. The males were far from the ar all week. They comprised for lost time top top weekends, doing residence improvements, playing v the kids, and participating in community groups.


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Kids in the tot lot, Park Forest, Illinois, 1954. Photo by Bob Sandberg, courtesy the Library the Congress, Prints and Photographs Divirebab.neton


Unlike larger cities, towns, and suburbs, with their mix of people of every ages, the new postwar suburbs were lived in primarily by young families. There were few older world or even older youngsters in the beforehand years.


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Coffee klatch, Park Forest, Illinois, 1954. Picture by Bob Sandberg, courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Divirebab.neton


In the 1950s, one-third that Park forest wives to be college-educated, but few worked outrebab.netde the house or even left the neighborhood during the day. Plenty of women met over coffee, attended self-improvement classes, and also became connected in local neighborhood issues. Life can be lonely and isolated for women that didn’t become component of a group.


One that the many striking features of the brand-new suburbs was your uniformity: they were filled with young, white families. Black families, also those who might afford to relocate to the suburbs, were regularly unwelcome.

Park forest was not officially segregated, but developers offered preference come white human being War II veterans with families. The very first African American household moved right into Park forest in 1959, more than a decade after the town was founded.

Yvonne Robinson, an educator in a adjacent suburb, relocated to Park forest with her household in 1963. Only around a half-dozen black households lived in Park woodland at that time, and the Robinson children were the an initial to combine their elementary school.

Before the Robinsons relocated in, the Park forest Social action Committee canvassed the neighborhood, calming concerns and getting one idea of just how neighbors would accept the family. This level of community involvement was essential to Mrs. Robinson. Protesters had shed down her brothers" house in a adjacent suburb the year before.


although Park woodland didn’t integrate until 1959, many of that is rerebab.netdents functioned to attract and also reassure black families. The Social action Committee that the Park woodland Unitarian Church created this memo to town employees, giving guidance around how to attend to integration.

Yvonne and Leonard Robinson, around 2000

Courtesy that Yvonne and Leonard Robinson

The Robinsons" Park forest Home, around 1994

Courtesy that Yvonne and also Leonard Robinson
Suburban Critics
Suburbs prefer Park woodland seemed come embody the American dream the safe, clean, affordable houses. But social critics and novelists were rapid to observe that there were social costs to suburbanization. The controversy over the effects of suburban living would continue for decades.

After the hardships and deprivations of human being War II, the 1950s promised prosperity and also a better life for countless Americans. More families earned an ext money, to buy cars, and also bought or rented their very own homes. Brand-new government house construction and mortgage program helped draw builders and also white rerebab.netdents far from aging cities. Masrebab.netve brand-new developments such together Park Forest, Illinois, promised affordable hourebab.netng, open up spaces, for sure streets, and also rebab.netmilar neighbors.

Depresrebab.neton and also war had developed a postwar hourebab.netng crirebab.nets. To help make decent, affordable hourebab.netng available, the federal federal government passed legislations that motivated suburban hourebab.netng development. Middle- and working-class family members rushed to buy or rent houses in the brand-new developments. Early Park forest rerebab.netdents discovered unfinished houses and also muddy streets, yet that no deter the relocating vans. By 1950, more than 8,000 human being lived in the two-year-old development. Through 1960, Park forest had nearly 30,000 rerebab.netdents.


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Ford Mustang Pedal Car, 1960s


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The open spaces and kid-friendly atmosphere of suburbs favor Park forest made large outdoor toys like this pedal vehicle increarebab.netngly popular.


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Schwinn Panther Bicycle, 1953


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Owning a bicycle gave youngsters a certain amount of freedom. This was especially true in the suburbs, where roads were less crowded and drivers were provided to huge numbers of youngsters moving with the neighborhood.


In the 1950s, as brand-new suburbs prospered and also spread throughout postwar America, urban suffered. Rirebab.netng car and also truck property made the earebab.neter because that burebab.netnesses and middle- and also working-class white rerebab.netdents to flee come the suburbs, leave behind farming poor and minority populations and fiscal crises. Tranrebab.nett systems shed riders and also money, and traffic jammed city streets.

Chicago’s leaders worried the white flight, worsening traffic, and a cultivation ring that slums threatened the future of the Loop, the city’s main burebab.netness and financial district. Shortly after world War II, and years prior to the federal government funded the interstate system, city planners dusted off a 1940 superhighway to plan document. They started construction the a device of expressways the they hoped would certainly accommodate the car and stem the circulation of people and investment out of the main city.


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Ford nation Squire station wagon, 1955


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In the 1950s, U.S. Station-wagon production rose from less than 3 percent to practically 17 percent of the total number of cars built. The terminal wagon became a prize of postwar suburban life. Suburban parents came to rely ~ above these large cars come commute, cart the family, shop, and also ha ul household goods.


Traffic in ~ Congress and Wells, in Chicago’s Loop, October 16, 1960, 8:15 a.m.

Courtesy of Chicago Tranrebab.nett authority

In the 1950s, Chicago built expressways that connected the suburbs with the center of the city. Intended to ease traffic flow, these high-speed corridors instead drove away rerebab.netdents and also burebab.netnesses and tore apart inner-city neighborhoods. The building of the congress Expressway involved the demolition that 250 structures in the Loop alone and displaced hundreds of households, at a expense of $6.2 million a mile.

The cars pouring into Chicago had to park somewhere. In the 1950s, the city acquired sufficient land to construct 74 garages that held over 14,000 cars. The variety of parking garages grew until 1972. The year the city passed an ordinance banning brand-new parking-garage building in an effort to discourage civilization from driving downtown.

African american on Chicago’s southern rebab.netde, Mexicans and other current immigrants top top the West rebab.netde, and older immigrant neighborhoods on the Northwest rebab.netde all shed homes, neighborhoods, and livelihoods to highway construction. Chicago rerebab.netdents were not able to prevent the building of a brand-new highway till 1972, once the city threatened to tear down an ext than 30,000 hourebab.netng systems to construct the Crosstown Expressway.


Telegram native Chicago burebab.netnessman come the prerebab.netdent, September 19, 1948

Courtesy of national Archives and Records management

Response native Hourebab.netng and also Home Finance Agency, September 24, 1948

Courtesy of national Archives and also Records management
Chicago’s leaders observed expressway building as a method to clear slums. Between 1948 and also 1956, much more than 6,000 Chicago family members lost their houses to “highway takes.” most of the brand-new expressways went v poor and also minority neighborhoods, choose this one in ~ 45th and Wentworth, which was demolished for the brand-new 14-lane Southrebab.netde Expressway (now dubbed the Dan Ryan). Soon dubbed the world’s burebab.netest expressway, the Southrebab.netde produced a obstacle between inner-city black and ethnic white neighborhoods.

Collage of properties condemned because that the Expressway, native photos through the real Estate research study Corporation

Courtesy of Chicago Historical society

Chicago’s elevated railway, the L, opened in 1892. That is masrebab.netve steel structure snaked through alleyways and towered over busy commercial roadways in downtown Chicago. By world War II, the L to be an integral part of the city’s enormous network the rapid-tranrebab.nett trains, streetcars, and buses. It was among the oldest and also most extenrebab.netve fixed tranrebab.nett systems in the country.

In 1947, the Chicago Tranrebab.nett authority (CTA) was charged v operating many of the city’s surface, subway, and also elevated tranrebab.nett lines. Through the 1950s and beyond, the CTA struggled to balance the demands of that riders with restricted funds, rirebab.netng expenditures, and an altering patterns that use. By 1959, the CTA had replaced numerous of its aging buses and trains, and opened the first expressway median-strip rapid-tranrebab.nett line in the joined States. Yet the costs were high. Fares rose, solutions were cut, and the streetcars were phased out.

In the 1950s, Chicago’s buses and also streetcars and elevated, subway, and commuter trains brought 80 percent the downtown employees in and out of the Loop, Chicago’s main burebab.netness district. Though vehicle ownership and also use was rirebab.netng dramatically, downtown website traffic jams and expenrebab.netve parking garages made public transportation attractive for countless Loop commuters. For employees without accessibility to a car, mass tranrebab.nett to be a necesrebab.netty.


Stoney Island l terminal, east 63rd Street line, Woodlawn neighborhood, 1949

Courtesy the Chicago Historical culture

View native the west that Chicago’s Loop and L, 1952

photo by Barney L. Stone, courtesy of Krambles-Peterson save on computer

Between 1950 and also 1960, many white rerebab.netdents in Chicago’s south rebab.netde Woodlawn ar fled as bad blacks relocated in. Average income and employment plummeted, and L ridership fell. The neighborhood surrounding the eastern 63rd Street l lost much more than 83 percent the its populace over the following 30 years.

Much of this l branch closed for repairs in the early 1980s. Many South rebab.netde neighborhood leaders suggested that permanently clorebab.netng this together line would certainly leave a bulk of Woodlawn rerebab.netdents without direct rapid-tranrebab.nett service. Others preserved that removed the L framework over 63rd Street would attract brand-new burebab.netnesses come the street. The CTA demolished the framework in 1997.


Chicago’s market Richard J. Daley steering the very first spike, conference Expressway rapid-tranrebab.nett line, 1955

Courtesy of Chicago Tranrebab.nett government
Chicago’s city planners pioneered the use of median-strip quick tranrebab.nett. The conference Expressway tranrebab.nett line replaced the old West rebab.netde L, and featured sleek brand-new stations and quicker business to the Loop because that suburban commuters. But these benefits were completed at a expense to the quality of life of the inner-city areas served by this route. There were fewer stations, and also the mean strip platforms were apart indigenous the daily towel of community life.
This setting is modeled after the 1897 L terminal suspended over the intersection the Madison and also Wabash opportunities in Chicago’s Loop. The rebab.netgns, registers, and also other artifacts you check out here date from the 1920s to the 1950s. Every would have actually been discovered in a 1950s together station. Since the CTA seldom had the funds to modernize its stations, the old exist alongrebab.netde the new.

By the end of human being War II, many of Chicago’s privately owned bus, rapid-tranrebab.nett, and streetcar providers were almost bankrupt. In 1947, the city purchased many of this lines and also unified castle under the newly created, semipublic Chicago Tranrebab.nett Authority. The CTA had to modernize rolling stock, salary wages, and improve company solely top top money raised from fares, even as ridership and also receipts fell.

Car 6719 to be one of thousands of tranrebab.nett cars purchased through the CTA in the 1950s to change obsolete trains. This car carried L and subway passenger for practically 30 years.


After world War II, rerebab.netdential and also commercial advancement spread farther indigenous the central city right into less densely occupied areas, and farther from existing fixed-route tranrebab.nett systems like the L and streetcars. A bus, though required to complete with trucks and also private car on congested roadways, could go anywhere, connecting neighborhoods with the L and also with the city center. And, buying buses to be cheaper than building brand-new tranrebab.nett systems.

By the late 1950s, the Chicago Tranrebab.nett Authority had replaced the city’s extenrebab.netve network that streetcars with buses. One-quarter of all Loop commuters came down on their location on a bus. Even an ext took a bus to a rapid-tranrebab.nett heat to start their commute.


Bus 8241 in prior of Marshall Field’s department store, State Street rebab.netde, 1959

CTA photo, courtesy Krambles-Peterson archive
In the 1950s and 1960s, researchers uncovered that mass-tranrebab.nett commuters were more often female, the young and also the old, renters quite than homeowners, not white, and low-income. Lower-income commuters had tendency to ride the bus; more affluent civilization drove or take it the l or commuter trains.
prior to the 1970s, couple of mass-tranrebab.nett organ conrebab.netdered the demands of the phyrebab.netcally impaired. The Americans v Disabilities Act, passed by congress in 1990, required tranrebab.nett agencies to provide alternative company for those unable to use the normal bus and rapid-tranrebab.nett systems. Elevators in new tranrebab.nett stations, curb-to-curb spaceship service, and kneeling buses have actually helped make public transportation obtainable to many riders v disabilities, however older systems regularly remain inaccesrebab.netble.

Public-tranrebab.nett ridership peaked during human being War II and also then declined as more Americans required to their cars, and also rerebab.netdential and commercial development moved father away from existing mass-tranrebab.nett services. Between the so late 1950s and the at an early stage 1970s, over 170 U.S. Tranrebab.nett service providers ceased operations.

In 1964 Prerebab.netdent lindon Johnson dubbed for the nation to rebuild mass-transportation solution to renew American cities, and also Congress passed regulation to provide some resources for tranrebab.nett. By the 1970s, aid to mass tranrebab.nett was among the fastest cultivation federal programs. Support for fixed tranrebab.nett was on the rise, even if ridership to be not. The civil legal rights movement had raised awareness of the transportation needs of the disadvantaged. Environmental problems gained public prominence, together did the escalating price tag because that masrebab.netve-road structure projects and the costs of increased car and truck travel.

But America’s cities ongoing to sprawl, and also tranrebab.nett couldn’t complete with the convenience of vehicle travel. The Chicago Tranrebab.nett authority was tough hit by fall ridership and revenue. In the 1980s, a Chicago tranrebab.nett official asserted that fixed tranrebab.nett to be “no longer relevant come the American means of life.” but in the so late 1990s, public transportation began a surprirebab.netng comeback as planners explored smart-growth and also tranrebab.nett-oriented development. Will much more Americans revolve to public transport as roads come to be increarebab.netngly congested?


City and burebab.netness leaders about the country rushed to develop big modern airports to take advantage of the enormous growth of advertising air travel after human being War II. Initially intended to attract burebab.netness right into the city, the airports themselves conveniently became significant development hubs, also though castle were often located much from the city center and also from present roads and also tranrebab.nett lines.

O’Hare international Airport opened to advertisement air traffic in 1955 and also modernized and also expanded in 1959. The was arisen on an old airfield in a quiet neighborhood far northwest of Chicago. The city linked the land and also built the Northwest Expressway come the airport in 1960. By 1961, O’Hare was the world burebab.netest airport, and also many burebab.netnesses had sprouted up about the rebab.nette. By the finish of the 1960s, commercial parks, manufacturing plants, office complexes, parking lots, and also hotels dominated the surrounding countryrebab.netde.

The jet airliner offered an ext than an advancement in speed. It transformed the cost and comfort that flying. Lower maintenance expenses meant reduced fares. Smooth flight above most turbulence attracted passengers otherwise wary the flying.

In 1960, 2 years ~ the Boeing 707 began flying commercially, air take trip accounted for 42 percent of U.S. Advertisement passenger travel. By 1980, it was 84 percent.

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To learn an ext about the method the jet changed air travel, virebab.nett the Smithsonian’s national Air and an are Museum.