Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dayton's Court

Courts are pedestrian streets, built in the early 20th century, and are pretty rare. Dayton has one, Audubon Court, in Lower Dayton View. Lets take a look.

Basically the houses face each other over a lawn and walkway instead of a street. Parking would be in rear garages.

Apparently in the past there was some planning here, as a walkway connects the court with a park in the next block, visible in the distance. An illustration of the possibility of working pedestrian paths and walks into a neighborhood:
Two contrasting approaches to front yards: chain link & no chain link

Louisville Courts

Demonstrating what courts look like if the landscaping and houses are maintained, here are five of the 17 Louisville courts (there were 20 at one time).

Louisville might have the largest concentration in the US, though I hear Richmond, VA has a few. The Louisville examples are all considered “streets”, have city street signs, and are shown as such on maps. There are a variety of housing styles on Louisville courts: bungalows (big and small), foursquares, apartment buildings, Victorian, even a court of shotgun houses.

Two South End Courts.

These are in Louisville’s “South End” (roughly equivalent to Dayton’s Belmont), in the Southern Heights neighborhood. You’ll note that people are not chain-linking their front yards; the central court space is being treated as a continuous lawn. Maybe not exactly comparable to Audubon as the court space here is pretty wide.

Ouerbacher Court.

This is a “private” court as it is secured by a gate from the street (of the 17 this is the only private one). There is a second court opening into this one at mid block, so an example of a”system” of courts. Note again, lack of fencing in the front yards, with the court being treated as a communal open space. In dimension this one is pretty close to Audubon

Floral Court

This is the closest comparison to Audubon as the housing is mostly that foursquare style, and the people do maintain their lawns up to the central walkway (which in this case is a nice herringbone brick pattern) as individual lawns.

About mid-court there is this little fountain, and note the low iron fence behind it (vs. chain link).
Fountain Court

For a different approach here is short court with a central lawn and flanking walks. There is some subtle but effective urban design going on here. Note the raised curbs around the walks, and near zero lot line development of the houses. No front yard, but the facades really define this intimate space, further articulated by the curbing and slight grade changes, which subtly emphasizes the central lawn and the “private” (albeit minimal) fore-yards.

These are neither the worst nor best of Louisville courts, but they do show the possibilities of this urban form, which inexplicably did not retain popularity. The first Louisville court, Belgravia, was built in 1900, the last two, Eutropia and Arcadia (akin to California bungalow courts), in 1924.

This concept, houses facing pedestrian streets or greenways, would surface again via the well-known Radburn plan of the late 1920s, but would never win widespread acceptance in America.

Anyway, sort of cool to see a court in Dayton, but sad to see the run-down condition