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Traditional Neighborhoods


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I was wondering if today's new developments and older neigborhoods can generate that old traditional neighborhood feeling. Not exactly a sense of place, but neighborly neighbors... a close knit community. I see all these commercials here promoting "traditional" neighborhoods of new neighborhoods bult in styles similar to the older ones... where you can go back to walking to places, garages are detached and in the rear, and the grass is nicely manicured. I don't think manicured lawns was part of traditional neighborhoods. But anyway, do neighbors gel these days like they used to in the past? Are homeowner's associations with their sponsored neighborhood events working to bring communities together? Do those advertised neighborhoods with "old-timey" designs really work to create a community?

I was thinking about this because my neighborhood used to be a community. It was a black town northeast of Richmond (now inside Richmond). Back in the late 1800s until 1957, it was a close knit community, an extended family centered on the church. It had corner stores, its own school, farms, and people who married into other families. Then the city annexed it and destroyed most of it by building public housing in it. The School had moved to another section of the neighborhood thanks to the city and the church was demolished, the congregation moved to a church building in another neighborhood. EVentually the older families moved and the older residents died out. Many houses that were spared were demolished and a whole new element moved in similar to those in the public housing. Now things aren't as neighborly, but my question is, are there any neighborhoods left like this one used to be? Can something like thaat exist today in the newer neighborhoods or even the old ones that are coming back?

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My city (population of 30k or so) is both a major tourist resort and military town, so there are a lot of transient residents. However, among the permanent residents, the traditional sense of community Cadeho describes still exists to a very large extent. I don't think it's a coincidence that Newport is architecturally one of the best preserved cities in the US, with hundreds of 18th and 19th century buildings still standing. The architecture of those eras promoted interaction with the community and building of social connections much more than recent buildings generally do.

Look at the typical house for example. The front porch that was the major feature of past street facades was a place to see and be seen, to greet passers-by and such. With the introduction of the automobile, the porch was replaced by the garage, and the primary outdoor living space became the backyard deck, isolating the residents from street activity. rather than encouraging the residents to interact with the greater community, the typical house of the last 60 years or so seals them off from most of the outside world.

Commercial districts, likewise, once promoted more social interaction. The notion of parking right in front of your destination is a relatively new one. In the past, businesses weren't built with on-site parking, requiring one to walk some distance, passing other members of the community doing the same thing. In places where these traditional commerical structures survive, that interaction still takes place.

In Newport's case, the existance of these old buildings in large numbers has continued to promote a more social community, but I see no reason a newly-built neighborhood couldn't have the same effect, if it is designed to promote occupants' interaction with neighbors rather than isolating them.

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