It is the way most of us live in Connecticut --
Where we go to find the good life --
Where the states economic and political power are based.
What led us here?
And what does the future hold -- for the suburbs
TITLE: SUBURBIA THE GOOD LIFE IN
NARRATOR: For many Americans, the suburbs have historically been a place to
search for the good life. In Connecticut, perhaps more than any other state, the suburbs
are where we live.
HERB JANICK (Historian): While were here on this little piece of real
estate we could be outside of any Connecticut city and we could be looking at exactly the
same thing. Connecticut is really a suburban state where this is the lifestyle and this is
the land use pattern that has really dominated the state.
JAY GITLIN (Historian): People are looking for a number of things. I think first
and foremost, theyre looking for a place that has good schools. Theyre looking
for nature, neighbors who will respect your privacy--give you space and at the same time
sort of be there if you need them.
NARRATOR: Connecticuts suburbs are where the states political power
JOSHUA MAMIS (Newspaper Editor): Most of the major issues
today are being played out in the suburbs.MATTHEW NEMERSON (Exec. Dir. Chamber of Commerce): We tend
to fractionalize into 169 very autonomous bodies all with different
roles. The suburbs being that great middle playing field.
NARRATOR: Our long embrace of suburban living has brought
hidden costs and an uncertain future.
JOHN BRITTAIN (Law Professor): Forty-two years after
the 1954 Brown versus Board of Education decision, we have more
segregation today in residential living patterns than we did
LAURA WEIR CLARK (Preservationist): If we are not careful
in the next 20 years, the indications are that we will lose
much of our rural lands, our small towns will lose their character.
NARRATOR: What is the Connecticut suburban experience
and what does it reveal about our most personal and fundamental
NARRATOR: Suburban aspirations have been deeply rooted
in the consciousness of our state for 150 years. Connecticut
in the mid-19th century was primarily a rural state with a few
small cities. In the 1840s, the idea of the suburbs began to
HERB JANICK: Very early mid 19th century - weve
tried to establish that relationship of the middle landscape.
Not too civilized, not too primitive, and thats what the
suburb is. I mean, the suburb was the pastoral kind of environment
that all Americans wanted. Connecticut was just in a position
to be able to do it more easily than other people. Connecticut
has been able to a- buy into that way of living so completely
because it is small. There are not any large physical barriers
that would prevent people from traveling to live and traveling
to work in some other place. I think its important for
people to understand that this is a very strong part of CTs
heritage. Thats something we carry with us, with its pluses
and with its minuses.
CAROL GRAZIANO (Newington Resident): Carol, whats
the good life for you? My backyard. We can be sitting out here
and you don't hear anything but the trees blowing in the wind.
You can hear the birds and you can come out in the sunshine
and you don't have to worry. The good life to me is just being
in my backyard. I like the front yard, too, but I like the backyard
AMANDA LAMOTHE (Uncasville Resident): Just walking down
the driveway to get a newspaper in the morning is wonderful
because you know, were surrounded by trees and it was
nothing like where I grew up. You could walk out the door and
wave into your neighbors kitchen and here you cant
even see your neighbors.
GEORGE BOUCHE (East Haven Trolley Museum): Before the
1880s, most people had to live in the cities near where
they worked. In 1888 and after that, all the small horse car
lines in the cities started to electrify and to extend their
line out into the country. That enabled people to move away
from the center of the city out to a suburb. Buy a home, a little
better quality of life, and commute back into town to go to
NARRATOR: The electric trolley opened up rural areas
all around the state to residential development.
HERB JANICK: The streetcar was less expensive, ran more
frequently, made many more stops. So that people with a different
income, people with a different work schedule found it possible
to get out of the city.
JAY GITLIN: The trolleys finally brought the benefits
of suburbanization to the middle classes, even the working classes.
This is a beautiful classical revival home built in 1910 on
a lot carved out of the estate of Donald Grant Mitchell. It's
situated here in the trolley suburb of Westville, which is the
probably the nicest trolley suburb of the city of New Haven.
NARRATOR: In Wethersfield, as in other small towns,
the street car brought great growth.
ELEANOR WOLF (Wethersfield Resident): Albert Hubbard
in the early 1900's developed what he always said was the first
mass housing project. He had about 67 different housing plans,
people would go and decide which house they wanted him to build.
Mostly a large part of the center of town was his housing. I
suppose the biggest change was that people had access to the
city for shopping. There were no big stores in Wethersfield
at all, but the food and things were supplied by peddlers. We
had the fishmonger, we had the meat man, we had the baker, ice
man, the scissors grinder, vegetable man, rag picker - all of
these people came around to the door. And then the trolley helped
put them out of business because then you got into your best
clothes and went to Hartford to shop.
NARRATOR: By W.W.I, nearly 70 Connecticut towns had
trolley systems. Trolley tracks were laid radiating out from
the citys central business district, following the main
transportation routes in the city. All tracks led to the heart
of the city, with its new business towers and great department
Both the cities and the suburbs thrived as public and
private development projects boomed.
HERB JANICK: The rail line and then the trolley line
were the real glue that really brought together the suburbs
and city in balance here. People left at 5 oclock to go
back to the suburbs, but they came in at 8 oclock or at
10 oclock when the suburban women came in to shop in the
department store which really was a womens club.
LAURA WIER CLARKE: You can see right behind us in New
Haven, some of those older suburbs where the houses are set
closer to the street and closer together and theyre off
of the major streets so that someone can hop off the street
car and walk a couple of blocks to their home. The street car
suburbs were suburbs that had to have a pedestrian scale to
JAY GITLIN: These sorts of houses built at this time
tend to have porches and parlor rooms. People had the expectation
that they had a public face , just something that modern, very
recent suburbs don't have.
NARRATOR: By the 1930s trolleys started to fade, pushed
aside by the growing reliance on the automobile.