Arts & Crafts Enthralls New Generations
South Berkeley Community Church

Forest Hills Gardens: an American Planned Community

Fhgyellowmap Situated on the edge of New York City's borough of Queens, Forest Hills Gardens is probably the most successful - and best known - example of an English planned garden community in the United States. Originally built as a commuter suburb - even in 1915, just six years after its construction, it was less than 15 minutes from Manhattan's Penn Station by rail - the community was originally planned and built by the Russell Sage Foundation and Cord-Meyer Development Co. beginning in 1909. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., son of the father of landscape architecture and a great craftsman and technician in his own right, collaborated with architect Grosvenor Atterbury to make a community that worked both internally and as part of the world-class city they both realized New York would soon grow into.

This thriving community still offers a lush, green and very much park-like escape for several thousand residents, and suggests solutions for our conflict between limiting sprawl and creating living, working, and above all livable communities. Forest Hills Gardens was home to many visionaries of the time, including Frederic Goudy, one of the foremost typeface and graphic designers of the age and an important figure in the American Arts & Crafts Movement. Goudy even published a monograph in 1915 detailing his own family's many reasons for relocating to the community; unfortunately, the book has not been reprinted, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a copy today. Gustav Stickley's own magazine, The Craftsman, also featured articles and drawings on the community in 1911.

Susan Klaus has written a terrific book on Olmsted's relationship to the community, focusing on the planning of the community and with many illustrations of its history to the present. It's worth a read if you are interested in planned communities in general and how the Arts & Crafts Ideal can be applied to so much more than simply architectural design. Additional photographs of and articles on the community are available online.