Families on the Move:
Developing Suburban Communities
March 19 - May 18, 2001
David Filderman Gallery, 9th floor, Axinn Library
March 21 - August 3, 2001
Lowenfeld Exhibition Hall, 10th floor, Axinn Library
Today, when popular film or the print media refer to the term "suburbs" it carries with it something of a derogatory sentiment. Newspapers might describe someone as a "suburban housewife" and expect a reader to visualize a woman, children in tow, a cookie-cutter home, a square piece of lawn, and a grid-pattern street. Or the description of a particular neighborhood as a "suburban neighborhood" might imply that the community is middle-class, white, and built with a certain "sameness." The appellation implies something that is less than a city, or not quite a city, or perhaps even, a sub-par city. This was certainly not the intent in the 1890's. The literal definition of the term "suburbs," is, "in the near vicinity of the city." At the turn of the twentieth century, the idea of suburbia and its big selling point was that it was not the city; it was in fact, something more. Land developers, banks, and speculators sank large amounts of money into the purchase and subsequent development of parcels of land on Long Island and other under-developed areas in close proximity to cities. They intended to build planned environments where a variety of lifestyles could be enjoyed.
Most historians view the post World War II era as the growth period in suburban history, especially on Long Island. The significant statistical rise in population and numbers of dwelling places in the earlier period from 1870-1927, however, calls for further examination. These years saw a growth in the suburban population that was truly remarkable. On Long Island, for example, the 1900 census (the first time Nassau County appears separate from Queens County) the population was 55,448 and Suffolk County was 77,582. Subsequent census numbers show incredible growth: the 1910 census indicates that in Nassau County the population was 83,930 and in Suffolk County the population was 96,138. Twenty years later, the 1930 census shows an increase to 303,053 in Nassau and 161,055 in Suffolk.