Thursday, March 13, 2008

Greenmont as Garden Suburb

We’ve looked at the political and social origins of Greenmont, now an aesthetic appreciation of the place.

Architecturally Greenmont is pretty banal. The housing looks like a collection of wooden sugar cubes and shoe boxes, with one and two story variations, all wth flat roofs. It has that “project” look, due to the flat roofs, but without the long barracks –type housing one sees at DMHA projects, as these are duplexes, mostly.

The styles are varied somewhat throughout the complex to minimize the uniformity one sees in public housing, so a mix of singles and doubles, 1 and 2 stories.

What made the place special is the very generous site planning and landscaping going above and beyond the typical housing project (or suburban development, for that matter).

The site plan is a circular road circling a central green space, with housing happening off the circular road, on little cul-de-sacs or dead ends facing the green space, or on little loop roads. Community facilities are near the front of the complex, which is reached via a short parkway off Patterson Road.

Ariel with mature landscaping
In some ways this 'token-ring surroundng a central space' concept resembles Greenhills near Cincinnati, one of the New Deal era Greenbelt communities built by the Resettlement Administration. Since this place is called Greenmont one does wonder if the Greenbelt communities where on the mind of the planner (the designers of Greenmont are unknown to me)

The centerpiece is a central park or green space, partially used as playing fields for the school, part just unstructured open space where you can toss the ball around with your buddies, fly a kite, whatever.

Some of the housing is developed as clusters opening off of parking areas onto the green space

As designed, little greenways wend their ways through the housing clusters from the central green space.

(Though a lot of this has been taken over as back yards)

Near the front of the complex a watercourse running roughly east-west provides for the opportunity to create a greenway, used in part for vegetable gardens.

Also near the front are the commercial building, community center, and administration. Architecturally one can see a bit of Bay Region style in the large picture windows n the commercial building (Bay Region style was pretty popular war worker housing out west),, but a touch of traditionalism with the gable roofs and entrance articulation on the administration (akin to the stripped classicism of Heinrich Tessenow).

Greenmont in Context

There were two other wartime mutual housing complexes in Dayton: Overlook and Oak Park. Oak Park was privatized and Overlook remains mutually owned...

In terms of site planning Greenmont was the best of the three, the most innovative, probably due to the inception just before the war permitted better planning. (one suspects that Greenmont was intended as a sort of model development).

Overlook has a barracks feel, and Oak Park was indistinguishable from a normal subdivision. Other conventional wartime housing complexes in the region were more like Overlook.

Then there was the emergency housing units and jerrybuilt developments, like Dogpatch in Kettering or Little Kentucky near Fairborn. I’ve been told the first housing in Dogpatch was built using scrap wood from railroad boxcars out near the Frigidaire plant. In Little Kentucky people didn’t have sewers and lived in campers and old trolley cars.

Greenmont would have had some historic significance but the place has lost landscape integrity in various ways. The school has been expanded into the central green space, destroying the character of this key feature, the commercial building has been drastically altered and incorporated into a small shopping center, oriented away from the complex, the greenway system isn’t intact, and so forth.

Yet one can still get a feeling for an alternative vision for suburbia that Greenmont represents by driving around the complex, especially now the landscaping is all mature. At best Greenmont is as close as it comes in Dayton to a true garden suburb, where one is living as if in a park.


Anonymous said...

I spent part of my childhood in Greenmont Village. Everything you say, Jeffrey, is correct. It was truly a "garden" suburb. My dad had a meat market in the Ecki Building at Wayne and Wyoming, and in the 1940s, when cars were scarce and gas was rationed, he would take the Ewalt Circle bus from Greenmont downtown. We had a wonderful green space along West Wren Circle where we played ball and fooled around on the "monkey bars." Everyone knew everybody else. It was a "village" in the true sense of the word. It was also a little democracy. I remember my mom and dad taking me to the Greenmont Admin Building for "townhall meetings." I remember my parents would vote on issues related to the complex, including Greenmont School. Greenmont Village also had community gardens; in fact, I think they still do. It was a great place to raise fresh produce and commune at the same time. You're right about the nondiscript architecture, but residents have been allowed to add their personal touches so that many of the homes have their own distinctive features. The centerpiece of the complex has been the commercial building as you described. Dots Market has been there forever, and I just hope it stays. It's truly a neighborhood market with the best meats in town. When I was a kid, the owners of the store knew us by name. It might have been because of Dad's meat business downtown, but really I think it was that neighborly relationship between business and customer that made the difference. I hear that there is still a waiting line to get into Greenmont Village since the rental rates are the best in town.

Jefferey said...

Thank you for your post...I really appreciate hearing from people who actually lived in the place, since a lot of what I am posting on is inference based on secondhand sources. The booklet I read on Greenmont (the main source for this thread) made a point on featuring all the community activities, but I was wondering on how active the place really was.

The idea of having all this open space in a subdivision: nowadays that all would be a golf course. There was one other attempt here to do something like Greenmont, and that was Newfields up near Trotwood.

I think Dots must have replaced that co-op supermarket some time after 1948. Looking at the ariel photos and comparing to whats on-site today I think the commercial building was incorporated into that little shopping center that has Dots, but I didnt know the mutual housing corporation still owned the property.

Hels said...

Many thanks for the post. I have drawn a link from your material on Greenmont to my post on London and Adelaide, citing you carefully. But I would love to know when Greenmont was a] conceived and b] completed.


Anonymous said...

This was a wonderful place to grow up in. We had
our school, church, market, activity center, friends
with great character, sports minded, school honors,
and a team atmosphere. I moved there when I was
seven and now 73 so I credit so much of my early
life to Greenmont Village influence. Church activities,
Activity Hall dances, tennis courts, baseball field,
playground for youngsters, market place, we had it
all. Millions of friends our age to socialize and instill
values. God Bless Greenmont Village!

Anonymous said...

I lived in Greenmont Village from 1942 to about 1956 in a 2 story single. On the first floor was a utility room, kitchen/dining area, and living room/closet. Underneath was a crawl space. Upstairs were 2 bedrooms and a bathroom with closets, one over the staircase. There was a community newsletter, published monthly. A day care center operated for several years at first, but was later destroyed by a fire. It was across the street from the Greenmont School. There was a lot of green space between the houses. Community activities happened in the Administration Building. This was also the site of the Community Church, nondenominational, until it relocated to a permanent building. Gardens were across the railroad track. A local bus circulated around Wren Circle. Occasional performances and parties were also held in the Community Center. The single units were about 800 square feet with 2 bedrooms. There were also duplexes with 2 stories, either 2 or 3 bedrooms, and one story singles with 1 bedroom. They were wood frame construction with lap siding and no insulation. The roofs were asphalt/tar. There were no garages. One parking space was alloted to each house. There was also on street parking.
There was a 40 year mortgage with payments of $18/month. The interest rate was 1%. The houses had hardwood floors except in the kitchen, which was linoleum, and the utility room which was concrete. The furnace and water heater used natural gas.

T. said...

I lived in Greenmont Village the first five years of my life (1968-1973) bur since we had family living in or near the Village, we have been back often. We lived on Abbot, close to where it runs into Wren. When we lived there, the porch had not been enclosed but it is now.

The Village had a good reputatuon from the start. My father lived back there as a kid and loved it. He would tell me that at one time, there was a waiting list to get in. I can remember visitnf my great aunt and uncle on Flesher, going to harvest peas in the community garden. I loved riding my bike around the circle.

My Dad also worked at both Dots locations when he was a boy. He would tell me stories about making deliveries and sneaking snacks when he was sweeping the floors after closing time.

You can now put a real arched roof on your house now so the rules are not as stringent as they were then.

Unknown said...

My grandparents lived here from when it was first built in 1942 until they died in the 1990s. I don't remember where the first house they lived in was, where my mom and uncle were raised. It was a 2 story with great hardwood floors, but they downsized to 59 W Wren Circle in their later years. My mom and dad lived there for the first five years of my life and the first six years of their marriage before we moved. That was over on Delano. Greenmont was my home and then my home away from home until I moved away, so I have many fond memories. My first pet, snow at Easter, playing in the yard, yelling down to the milkman to leave some chocolate milk, cars with fins, watching cartoons at my grandparents, and other stuff that was just part of that time. I am what is referred to as a child of the village and I am moving back with my wife, now that we are empty nesters. They have two waiting lists. One for children of the village, one for the general public. Wait time is at least 6 months to a year or more for children of the village. Not sure about the general public waiting list but with two bedroom units going for $280 a month, I imagine they're pretty popular. It's like a co-op so you have to purchase an equity share for $3500 to get in and that's basically it. I seem to remember the village taking care of all the exterior maintenance, except maybe the yards and you took care of the inside. Sort of like a condo, and I remember my grandparents getting an attached storage building approved as well as a covered patio approved by the village. Played a lot in the common area. Lived there a long time and visited often. Anyhow don't be surprised if I die there.

Unknown said...

I lived in Greenmont Village from birth,1950, to 1959. My parents lived there from its begining. We have pics of all the homes with no grass and clotheslines! We were a family of 8, 6 kids. We lived at 10 Carmichael 2 story 3 bedroom. my grandparents lived there in a 2 bedroom 1 story.

Nightowldweller said...

My mother’s godparents lived there, the Kinney’s, I believe the spelling was. My mother grew up with their children including a son Lowell. I remember visiting “Aunt Loretta” and “Uncle Ed” as a child and the jar with the tapeworm she kept that she had surgically removed that always grossed us out. The last time my mother and I visited “Aunt Loretta”, was in the early 80’s I believe. I think she passed away soon after. I always wanted to find their grandchildren especially now that my mother and grandmother have passed away.

History lover said...

I loved reading about this village. All of the residents have fun stories about growing up here. Thanks for the history lesson.

Unknown said...

What memories..I too lived in Greenmont in 1942 and I remember a lot of great times. Mostly when it would snow and a group of us would go up to Dots Grocery Store and hitch a ride on the bumpers of cars that were going around the circle. My Mother would get so mad at me.. Those were for sure great days