The Suburbanization of North America although not commonly realized, is indeed one of the most striking features of the 20th century. For North Americans this process has changed where we live and how we live. No longer is the city and countryside completely separate, rather for many of us, these two ideas have formed together into a new urban environment. More people today live in suburbs than cities, and these entities have continued to meld, amalgamate, separate, conjoin and coexist. Consequently, a study of Suburbia and its origins is often subjective. A common definition of a suburb is “a community within a commuting distance of a central city.” However, this statement doesn’t always hold true as someone who lives in Hamilton or Guelph and commutes to Toronto every day for work probably do not consider themselves residents of Toronto. Massive areas of continuous urban development like Megalopolis in the American north east and southern California are the result of the massive move towards suburbs. The question still remains as to whether suburbs will continue to work for us. The relative prosperity of North America and cheap oil of the 20th century are what allowed suburbia to happen. As for the question of whether Suburbia will continue to remain as the dominant form of living on this continent, only time shall tell. More importantly, it is important to understand the origins and magnitude of Suburbia up to this point in time if one is truly to be prepared for the possible challenges of the future.
Although the automobile suburb did not come about to until the 1920s in North America it is important to understand the pre-existing conditions, history and factors that lead to the first ‘modern’ suburbs. Both the United States and Canada were founded as rural colonial hinterlands. Despite the importance of the early towns and cities, at the time of the American Revolution, only one in twenty citizens lived in an urban setting. Alas, the United States was a...
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