This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Backlash to suburbia, master-planned communities, from Maryvale to Verrado


Cities like Phoenix look the way they look because of the terrible housing shortages after World War II, in the late 1940s. The solution was to build a LOT of houses, which Phoenix did. And these homes, which were "out in the country" but close to the city, took the name of "suburban". That is, not quite urban (which just means "in the city").

Because of the convenience of cars, and the improvements of roads, the idea was to build the houses "out in the country" and have people drive into town for groceries, etc. And this was a great improvement to crowded conditions back east. And new laws were put in place to guarantee that a new home wouldn't suddenly have a noisy, smelly factory built next to it.

But it turned out that people didn't like the idea of driving for miles in order to get a quart of milk. And that's how the idea of a "master planned community" was created.

Maryvale in the 1960s, 61st Avenue and Indian School Road. That's the golf course at left.

One of the greatest proponents of a master planned community was John F. Long. His community, named after his wife Mary, had what he considered everything people who lived there would need, right nearby. There were shopping centers, a hospital, that sort of thing. But people were still pretty suspicious of "mixed use". All of the houses were about the same. There were no great big houses next to little-bitty houses. There were no apartments. Even though it was master planned, it turned out that people needed more.

Verrado in 2014, Buckeye, Arizona

One of the latest master planned communities in the Phoenix area is Verrado, in Buckeye, on the eastern slopes of the White Tank Mountains. There they are pushing a master planned community even further, doing things that would have been unthinkable back in the 1960s. And only time will tell what people think of the latest iteration of designing a master planned community, and what the next backlash will be.

Image at the top of this post: John F. Long (on left) in the 1960s with his spokesman at the time, actor Ronald Reagan.


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