Friday, November 14, 2008

Solutions to the Postwar Housing Crisis

The post on Wright View, or "Little Kentucky", uses graphics from an attempt to justify new housing for military stationed at Wright-Patterson. This was part of a larger planning effort starting during WWII and continuing into the 1940s, to plan for the two bases as one unit.

Starting in 1945, though, a joint housing and community facilities complex was proposed between the bases as a solution to the housing shortage.

The property was between Route 4 and Airway Road (later renamed Colonel Glenn Highway), extending east from Wright Field. This tract would be familiar in modern times as the site of Wright State University and nearby multifamily housing.

In 1947 the Air Force was established as a seperate service (as part of the same legislation that established the Secretary of Defense as a cabinet level office). The same year the two bases were merged into Wright-Patterson AFB.

Planning continued for a joint-use community area, with a mix of officers housing, bachelor officers quarters, a new base hospital, and a campus for the Air Force Institute of Technology. There was also a mix of community facilities and recreational fields.

The plan incorporated the wartime Skyway Park housing area, but more as an afterthought. Perhaps the concept was to eventually tear down the housing as it was intended to be temporary.

The new housing area was to be called "Area D".

Planning was an early example of postwar modernism for the Dayton area.

Apparently concieved as multifamily units, based loosley on Bay Region Style precedents. Not well known outside of architectural history cricles, Bay Region Style was a source for much generic postwar modernism, as much as Frank Lloyd Wright.
(mouse over and click on the image and you can see the lady on the front walk throwing her hands up with joy at her husband's new quarters).

Single family housing probably for higher ranking officers, done up as modernist ranches. Note the car in the renderings: we are pre-fins here.
The Solution: Wherry Housing

The postwar housing shortage was hitting nationwide. In fact, housing shortages caused the Air Force to close a base in Nebraska, prompting Nebraska senator Kenneth Wherry to look for a solution.

The solution was the Wherry Housing act of 1949, which was technically an amendment to the Housing Act of 1934. The Wherry act set up a program of of privately constructed and managed housing to be rented to either military or civilians. Much of the time this was on land leased from the government, but not always.

Dayton recieved one Wherry project, Page Manor.

Page Manor was sited on land proposed in 1945 for Wright Field airfield operations expansion, which would have extended the base south of Airway to Burkhart/Kemp Roads. Apparently the base was already aquiring property south of Airway for the expansion in the late 1940s.

Instead, the site was to become the new housing area. What made Page Manor unusual is the mix of government and private effort in terms of land ownership and the mix and integration of civilian (single family) and military (multi-family) housing. Apparently the developer also constructed a civilian development just south of and connected to Page Manor.

A close up of the site plan. The civilian housing area was called Beverly Gardens. Note that there is a parkway and shopping center developed along Airway Road. The shopping center still stands, and is one of the earliest in the Dayton region.

Schools and recreation fields were developed in the center of the site, shared by the military and civilian housing areas. The dashed line shows how the military housing area was on both government and private property.

The aerial view of the complex around 2000. Most of the "Page Manor" part was torn down and reconstructed in the past 8 years.
Wherry housing in California and Dayton. The start of postwar suburbia.

Some typical Beverly Gardens houses. Basic, but there's been a lot of owner customization, typical of developments like this.
Some surviving Page Manor units, also heavily modified (the roofs were flat). These are, basically, "the projects". They look like public housing.

Page Manor streetscape on the parkway along Airway Drive. Generous and mature landscaping softens the "housing project" feel a bit.
Page Manor in Context

The Wherry program was an early response to the housing emergency, before the housing industry was able to ramp up to meet demand.

The real solution to the housing crisis was mass construction of housing by merchant builders. First as infill on pre Depression plats, later on new subdivisions following the FHA planning guidelines. Housing was financed via mortgages made possible by New Deal reforms, post WWII veterans assistance policies, and higher incomes due to higher wages won by mass unionization of the industrial workforce, during an era of full employment.

The result was an accelerating development boom in Dayton, particulary in Mad River and Van Buren (Kettering) townships.

The following map from around 1956 (maybe a bit earlier) covers Mad River and northern Van Buren (Kettering) townships between Smithville Road (left edge) and the county line (right edge). One can see how Page Manor/Beverly Gardens fits into an ongoing development boom.

Page Manor would have been under construction in 1951 or 1952.

This map might have been outdated when it was published, as this area was developing very rapidly, with nearly complete build-out by 1961-62. Readers familiar with this area will note that Woodman Drive hasn't been opened north of Linden yet, so Spinning and Smithville were the main north-south arteries.

Nationally, the next year, Holly Whyte would start to publish the series of articles on 'the exploding metroplis' in Fortune, one of which coined or popularized the term "urban sprawl".

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