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Thread: Dayton's Socialist Suburb

  1. #1
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    Dayton's Socialist Suburb

    ...not in so many words as it was never called that, and the founders may not have had "socialism" in mind, but the concept behind Greenmont Village could arguably be called "socialist" nowadays, given the present political and social climate.

    Greenmont is interesting not so much for its architecture, but for its site planning, and for its history.* In a way it is a "suburban road not travelled".

    Most of the excerpts quoted on this thread will be from "The Story of Greenmont Village", published in 1948 and available at the downtown Dayton public library.

    "In less than six years Greenmont has gown from a dream to a reality.* A community of over two thousand people, it has shown how people can govern themselves in a democratic and intelligent fashion.* The growing pains that Greenmont experienced in its early days have not all been forgotten, but a fine start has been made toward the development of a cooperative community where people live in harmony and provide for their own spiritual, recreational, and social needs.* Low-cost housing, operated on a non-profit basis has been able to provide good, well-built homes in a community that has developed the intimacy and friendliness that is rarely found in an area of comparable size and population.* The Greenmont story isn’t ended.* There is a lot left to do.* Active participation in self government will assure good government.* Greenmont people have shown how this can be accomplished on a small scale.* We will all have to continue to work for the betterment of our community, and for the expansion of its facilities and opportunities.* Through our living and working together we can make a better community, and through making a better community we can make a better world."



    Although driven by war industry growth Greenmont actually predates the US entry into WWII.* The US economy began to really recover from the Depression via war prepardness spending by the Roosevelt admistration and* Lend-Lease sales to Britain.* This lead to housiing shortages as people began to move into the now-booming industrial centers like Dayton.* However, there were no wartime controls or directives regulating the housing market (as we were not at war till Pearl Harbor), so a local housing crisis began to develop:

    "Construction of an entire village grew out of the necessity to provide housing for the influx of defense workers to the Dayton area…
    …The housing situation that confronted these people was not what they had expected.* There were few vacancies and in many of those no children and no pets were allowed.* For the few available apartments and houses rents were often higher than the average workingman could afford.

    As a result, many families shared houses and apartments, with other families.* These crowed living conditions were not recognized or frequently denied by some influential local organizations.* So the problem of decent living space, at a price the workingman could afford, became a challenge to labor organizations, for every day their members brought more stories of how difficult it was to find a place to live."


    Greenmont in its industrial context.* The development was located next to a large GM/DELCO "war industry" plant.




    For additional conetxt....Produce for Victory, posters on the American home front

    From the late 1930s to the very early 1940s most of Dayton's major industries (except NCR) where organized by the CIO---Congress of Industrial Organizations---which believe in organizing an entire factory or industry, not just skilled trades or crafts.* The big CIO locals in Dayton where the UE (United Electrical and Machine Worker), and probably the UAW.* The UE had organized DELCO, Frigidaire, and other companies, including foundrys and even a soap company.

    The UE was a miltant union. 20% of the UE organizers where members of the CPUSA, and the Dayton EU locals had former members of the non-communist (and defunct) Dayton Socialist Party as organizers and early members.* Yet, as far as I can tell, CIO organizing campaign in Dayton was not as violent or difficult as the efforts in Toledo and Akron, and especially Youngstown.

    What does this have to do with Greenmont?* It was the local CIO organization that was the advocate of the community, and helped plan it, not the local housing authority or local real estate interests.....though final approval appeared to rest with the military:

    "To try to do something about these conditions for Dayton’s workers, the CIO Council set up a Housing Committee…which soon developed a plan of action.* The Committee decided to approach the Federal Government for funds with which to build a large scale housing project.* They wanted to locate the project far enough from the center of the city to guarantee spaciousness and clean living; and to undertake the job with all possible speed."

    " …With the need to speed housing for the war effort, it was easy for a representative of the CIO Housing Committee to arrange for a conference with Colonel Westbrook…in the Federal Works Agency…Funds, the Committee was told, were available for just such housing, but evidence would have to be produced showing the actual need in the community."

    "So the Committee returned to Dayton to gather evidence.* Pictures where taken, surveys were made, with the Dayton CIO organization utilized to gather the information necessary to prove to the federal authorities that Dayton workers needed housing…"

    " …Once funds where assured, plans for the actual project got under way…. Plans for the houses were studied and finally agreed upon.* Here the wives contributed their worthwhile advice, suggesting large, convenient kitchens rather than the dining alcoves that had been part of the original design.
    (the) Housing Committee (CIO), then worked to secure a mutual ownership contract for the residents of the new project.* The organizations which originally denied the need for new housing continued their opposition.* However, all the obstacles where overcome, and the construction contract was awarded in August 1941."


    (interesting to see the involvlment of the ladies in the design process)

    Some other examples of wartime housing around the country...early versions of suburbia:

    Call it Home

    Greenmont was supposedly based on project near Camden, NJ.* There is a well-known defense-related planned community called "Yorkship Villiage" near Camden, but it was from WWI...so the CIO planners perhaps a different community in mind?

    Perhaps one of the inspirations for Greenmont where the New Deal era "Greenbelt Communities".* The name seems to imply this: Greenbelt, Greendale, Greenhills------>Greenmont.* The site plan does seem a bit similar to Greenhills...a generous central open space w. school or community facilities, surrounded by housing, with green space running between the housing....as in this plan of Greenhills (follow the link):

    [Greenhills Plan

    Greenmont also had community facilites....

    ...an administrative/community building:


    ...and even a commercial building:


    [i]"The idea of community union and strength spread to the economic field, and on March 8, 1944, a Consumers’ Cooperative was formed.* Later that year the Cooperative rented space in the new community commercial building for a retail grocery and meat market. Funds for construction of the Commercial Building and the Administrative Building were obtained through Lanham Act provisions..."

    "In the few short, busy years (1944-1948), the Greenmont Co-op has grown from a humble beginning…in to a modern two-store Supermarket and “Drug” store.* Practically every commodity normally sold in such stores is now available on the shelves of the Cooperative stores.*
    Success of the Consumer Co-op Association is not based fundamentally on profits and rapid business increases…The Greenmont Consumers’ Co-op was organized and is being operated under the Rochdale Cooperative Principles…


    Greenmont went up pretty quick, and ownership was based on the mutual housing concept, where the residents owned the developement.*

    "Construction of 500 units was approved by the Federal Works Administration.* The cost of the entire project was to be $1, 750,000….* The first excavations were started September 8, 1941…The first houses were finished and occupied in March of 1942…Greenmont Mutual Housing Corporation was established December 15, 1942."

    The board of directors was elected by the residents, first it was three residents, three public representatives, three government represenatives.* In 1948 it was four residents, three from the public, and two govt. reps.* In 1949 it went to five residents, three public reps, and 1 govt.* Members are elected by the residents to three year terms.* Greenmont was a very "organized" community, as one can see by the following organization chart:



    Greenmont today:



    Lets take a tour, punctuated by excerpts from the 1948 "Story of Greenmont Village"



    Entering Greenmont via a divided "boulevard"



    The Administration building is still there, and is an example of stripped classiscm and some modernist features (cribbed from the Bay Region Style,* popular in the 30s & 40s for wartime public housing)





    There is a small creek or watercourse that sort of seperates the main part of Greenmont from the part closer to Patterson.* This has been developed into greenpsace and community gardens.



    w. houses visible, fronting the greenspace...


    "Plans where made for an elementary school building to be located on land donated by Greenmont for that purpose.* A celocrete building of 16 rooms and cafeteria was ready for school opening in September 1944."

    The school was expaneded and remodelled, and a major school expansion (replacement?) project is underway.* Note the neat "1930s" lettering over the entrance...looks like the same typeface used by the Bulington "Zephyr" streamliners....



    Looking back down the entrance way, past the creek greenspace, towards the admin. building...



    Architecturally, the place is pretty banal.* Flat roof boxes with wood siding (or is it asbestos shingles?).* Two story singles and duplexes + one story duplexs.* Arranges around cul-de-saces opening off a circular "token ring" road...







    "Early in Village history the residents formed an Activities Committee to plan for community recreation.* This committee has been expanded to include educational, religious, and social organizations.* The Activities Committee is the point of coordination for all community activities.* In this group, which holds regular monthly meetings, is the charman or elected representative of each club and organization, and a group of members at large elected by the residents.* New activities are represented after receiving membership approval."



    "…A community church was formed.* A day-care center for the children was built.* The housewives of the Village formed a Women’s Club.* The men countered with the Dog House.* Greenmont developed into more and more of a real community with Movies for the children, a Youth Rendezvous for the Teen Agers, Girls Scouts, Brownies, Bluebirds, Boy Scouts, a Consumers Co-op, a Veterans Organization, a Town Hall, a village newspaper, a Volunteer Fire Department, and a Bowling League…."

    Good example of a duplex...nice little front porch, too...



    "With five hundred dispersed dwelling units and a growing list of community activities, numerous Greenmont people soon realized the need for keeping all residents informed of the current village programs and activities.* Accordingly a village newspaper was begun.* The first publication, under the name of the Greenmont Party Line appeared in the summer of 1943…and continued until the Spring of 1945 when the Greenmont Forum appeared…"



    " A fundamental requirement for successful community living is its spiritual growth.* In the urgency of the construction of homes for defense workers, little thought was given to this side of life.* After Greenmont was built a need for religious training became apparent…
    …Since our community included persons of many denominations and many creeds, only a non-denominational or interdenominational church could meet the needs.* Therefore it was decided to affiliate this congregation with the Ohio Council for Community-Centered Churches"


    ...the church still exisits, and is on Woodman Drive. Now affiliated w. the UCC...one of its former members and choir singer, Kim Ritchie, is a singer/songwriter in the folk & alternative scene.* A resident told me (I got to talking w. the locals as I walked around taking pix) that all the land by the church, along Woodman, is deed restricted that it cant be developed on.* So there is a de-jure greenbelt along Woodman next to Greenmont.

    A view of cul-de-sac housing fronting the central green space, near the school....



    Another example of the community gardens....

    "The first organized community effort was for Victory Gardens.* Each year approximately 30 acres of land are made available for villagers who want to grow their own flowers and vegetables.* A garden plot 50’x 50’ costs $1.00 for rental of space and plowing.* Prizes are awarded for superior gardens.* In the past fall festivals have been held for the display of fresh vegetables, flowers, canned vegetables and fruits."



    A single family unit



    Probably the most famous former resident of Greenmont is the folk singer U Utah Phillips, who has made a name for himself as an artist focusing on "western" genres and themes (songs like the excellent and poignant "Goodnight-Loving Trail"), and for teaming up w. Anne DiFranco on the "Long Memory" CD.* Today, Phillips lives in Nevada City, California, up in the Sierra Nevada foothills, yet he was a native of Cleveland, and lived in Greenmont when he was a kid (one or another or both of his folks where organizers for the CIO)

    Phillips mentions his youth in Greenmont in his raps around his songs:

    Introducing "Daddy What's a Train":
    "....Most everybody who knows me knows that I'm a train nut. In Dayton, Ohio, when I was 12 years old during the Second World War, there was a railroad that went close by Greenmont Village. A bunch of the kids and I built a fort out of old railroad ties....We let a bum sleep in there one night - I think he was the first railroad bum I remember meeting ...Playing around in that fort we'd see the big steam engines run by... (that railroad still exists,* BTW)

    Introducing "Enola Gay":
    ".... We lived in a co-op village called Greenmont. Our school was close to the field, where a great deal of research was done on experimental aircraft. As children we saw the first P-38s, B-29s and those abortive Flying Wings featured in Popular Mechanix during the late 1940s. When planes took off from Wright-Pat, they flew low over Greenmont, and the kids playing in the schoolyard would jump up and down and wave. If the pilot was looking down, he would dip his wing...."

    More on U Utah Phillips

    Here are some examples of ho comon "wedges" of green space separates the cul-de-sacs.* In many cases this common area is divided up between units, but these pix are* of some surving examples...these all lead into the great central green space or lawn...





    ..a walkway between units leading to the central greenspace



    Now some views of the central lawn or greenspace, and adjacent houses and cul-de-saces.* Again, architecture is banal, but redeemed by the generous use of open space and landscaping....










    ..interface between the greenspace and adjacent housing....




    The greenspace terminates at the ring road in the southern part of Greenmont:



    Recall the pix of the "Commerical Building" upthread?* It is still there, but expanded into a small shopping center.* A resident told me it this is all still owned by the residents via the mutal housing corporation, and they rent it out to "Dots" and others here (there is a pizza parlor, once of those "nails" places, etc..."





    Intersection of Patterson & Watervliet (the end of Watervliet)...this was the end of town in the 1930s....


    The DELCO/GM plant that was in that old aerial upthread


    ...and, finally, (whew!), time for a beer:

  2. #2
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    Greenmont, Ohio

    Who was the architect that designed Greenmont, Ohio

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