interwar HOUSING INTERPLAY

Plotting Atlanta on the Interwar/New Deal Housing Map (Map by author, promotional photo of Atlanta's Techwood Homes,1936 from Georgia Studies Images)

 

current digital scholarship

Plotting Atlanta on the Interwar/New Deal Housing Map

Atlanta was the site of the first so-called "slum clearance" project in the United States, in 1934, and the site of America's first completed--segregated--public housing projects, Techwood Homes (for white families), and University Homes (for black families). In my research on Soviet housing from this period, I was repeatedly surprised by the intense and reciprocal transfer of ideas between the Soviets and the West about industrialization, modernization, and housing. The papers of Charles Palmer, the Atlanta real-estate mogul turned housing crusader behind the development of Techwood, testify that wide geographical transfer of housing best-practices was simply the norm in the Interwar period.

This project will begin by mining the Charles Palmer Papers at Emory University's Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, & Rare Book Library, particularly the materials related to Palmer's two European fact-finding missions in the early1930s to visit housing sites deemed worthy of study and possible replication. Where did Palmer go? Which housing projects was he looking at? Who did he meet? What did he gather? Ultimately: how did those travels influence the designs of Techwood and University Homes, projects that in turn served as the earliest home-grown precedents for US New Deal public housing? 

I am pleased to be working with the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship on this project, and plan to teach a archivally-based research seminar on the topic in Spring 2018.