Friday, June 03, 2011

The Dynamics of Community

In a previous post, I mentioned a book about the origins of an upscale neighborhood in Springfield started almost 100 years ago. I got sidelined with colonial history tho, but now I'm back in early 20th century Ohio (will be back in 18th century England this afternoon).
What's blowing me away is the community's community and level of self serving altruism (?) of the developers. One resident had a barometer and, lacking up to date Doppler weather radar among other things, would hoist a flag to let neighbors know the weather forecast. New residents were given fliers explaining the flag code. The developers had purchased a large area of land and were developing in sections. In the unstarted sections they provided tennis courts that could be flooded and frozen over in the winter for ice skating. They helped out with polo fields, quoits courts, baseball diamonds & horseback riding areas. The neighborhood opted out of city garbage pickup & using mandatory 5 year homeowners association fees, funded their own trash pickup. The fees also covered sidewalk snow removal using a horse-drawn plough. I don't know if a neighborhood can opt out of trash pickup nowadays. With all the red tape, it might cost the city more to avoid a particular area. Last residential developer I heard about was the Erpenbecks & their crazy soap opera of lies, cheating & dealing. These homeowner association rules & fees are frequently challenged nowadays and are defeated in courts by cranky neighbors.
The neighborhood was tied to an adjacent country club and there was pretty much just one business district in Springfield at the time. It was likely the neighbors all recreated at the same place, worked in the same business district & ate at the same restaurants, went to the same theaters, etc. Nobody had TV's or internet & radio was just aborning.
I would guess that less than half the residents in "the Country Club District" are members of the Springfield Country Club today. Today, in Cincinnati, one could probably track a block of residents to workplaces scattered all over town & across state lines. That's mainly attributable to the automobile but everybody has cable or satellite TV, internet, game stations & whatnot as well. The latter techs fairly kill any of the hope Jane Jacobs might have expressed in The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
There are still communities but they tend to be more like skeletal overlapping networks. Even the more old style neighborly communities seem kind of inbred, incestuous & creepy to me. It frequently seems like the leaders are more social activists than just caring neighbors.
I dunno. Maybe it's just me. Then, again, if we had had 21st century communications & jet airliners in the 18th century would America still be part of Great Britain in a larger more skeletal networked empire ?

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