This is where the suburbs really started in East Hartford.
Around the turn of the century to about 1920 or maybe even 1930,
people were moving into neighborhoods like this from somewhere
else, usually Hartford or in and around Hartford to get away
from the urban life of Hartford and yet still be close enough
to go to the same church and go back to the old neighborhood.
And they found it comfortable here because they got away from
the so-called city problems and yet they were still close by
to the place where they worked cause many of them worked
in the City of Hartford.
NARRATOR: In the
25 years following WWII, unprecedented numbers of working and
middle-class urban dwellers moved to the suburbs, finally
transforming Connecticut from an urban/rural state to an
Both state and federal public policies encouraged and
funded the suburban movement
JAY GITLIN: Right after World War II there was a tremendous
housing shortage. And so tremendous numbers of houses were built.
And this is a nice example, I think, of a pleasant post-World-War-II
suburban development. It represents in many ways the Democratization
of the American dream insofar as the American dream is suburban.
CATHERINE JOHNSON (Town Planner): And one of the things
that made it possible for a lot of people to buy these houses
was the funding from the FHA. You had 5 or 6% interest. You
could take out a 20-year mortgage and you could borrow up to
80% of the house. Prior to that time you had 3 to 5 years to
pay off 50% mortgages.
DECRESCENZO: Servicemen coming back from the
war needed two things: they needed a decent place to live and
start their new families, and they needed a job. I this neighborhood
they got both. The deal here was $4,999 with $499 dollars down
and you could move into your brand new home with your new family,
walk to work at the Pratt & Whitney plant, and your kids
could walk to school. Today, the function of the neighborhood
remains the same. Its a place to get a toe hold into the
middle class, and then grow from there.
LINDA CHAPLEY (Bristol Resident): My dad grew up on
a farm. He was basically forced to go to a city to make a living
and I'm sure the suburbs provided him that little enclave, that
little half acre of country. Now for my mom, who grew up in
a city and just dreamed about living in a home with a white
picket fence and things like that, this was the manifestation
of that dream. Yet she was still close enough to the city that
And it was a quantum leap for her generation and my
dad's generation from being children of immigrants just eking
out a living in this new country to all the sudden be able to
afford their own home in an affluent area, send their children
to good schools, have one maybe two cars, and take it from there.
ALL ROADS LEAD HOME
NARRATOR: As car ownership increased in Connecticut
throughout the 20th century, so did the road system.
In 1907, an extensive state highway system was approved by the
General Assembly. In 1923 the Post Road was widened. In 1938
the Merritt Pkwy opened. By 1950, the state had more roads per
square mile than any state in the country. In 1956 The Interstate
Highway Act created the federal expressway.
HERB JANICK: We had a very active road building program
quite early in the 20s and 30s so that by the time
of World War II, we had 3,000 miles of paved road in a state
thats only 5,000 square miles.
MATTHEW NEMERSON: Connecticut embarked on the greatest
suburban support program that any state has seen. You know,
we really invented the interstate highway and a lot of people
dont realize that I-95 along the shoreline was built before
there was an interstate system. And it was incorporated in afterwards.
Thats why we had tolls. Thats why theres so
many exits on it because in fact it was designed for people
to commute from the suburbs along the shore into the cities.
NARRATOR: In 1965 when the new state constitution reapportioned
the legislature, the power to shape public policy flowed to
suburban residents and their representatives. The suburbs
political power base continues today.
JEFFERSON DAVIS (CT State Representative): Politically
here in the General Assembly before we went to one man, one
vote, it was the rural areas that controlled the General Assembly
and now that weve gone to one man, one vote. The suburbs
are where the population is and in many ways theyre the
ones that also set the political agenda.
HERB JANICK: And they have reinforced the pattern of
the federal government which is to encourage suburban scattering,
suburban sprawl, by subsidizing school buildings, subsidizing
sewer buildings, subsidizing road building.
NARRATOR: Before 1920, private automobile or carriage
transportation was largely limited to the wealthy, requiring
middle class real estate developments to be within walking distance
of public transit. The mass-produced automobile changed all
that, and put the suburban house further out in the country.
HERB JANICK: The automobile didnt have to stay
on a fixed route. The automobile made it possible to fill in
suburban areas that couldnt be reached by the trolley
or the train. Every family defines its own world. In terms of
where they work, in terms of where they go to school, this old
link between suburb tied to the city is been broken.
JAY GITLIN: Instead of thinking of central places, now
we really accumulate our own set of personal destinations. To
me our set of highways and these sorts of roads, they all lead
home. You know, in a profound way. Instead of leading to the
city, they lead home. I love cities mind you, but the city is
nothing more than another stop off the turnpike.