Date of Award

2001

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Advisor

Martha J . McNamara

Second Committee Member

Marli F. Weiner

Third Committee Member

Richard Judd

Abstract

This thesis examines the inception and growth of "the Little City in Itself," a residential neighborhood in Bangor, Maine, as a case study of middle-class suburbanization and domestic life in small cities around the turn of the twentieth century. The development of Little City is the story of builders' and residents' efforts to shape a middle-class neighborhood in a small American city, a place distinct from the crowded downtown neighborhoods of immigrants and the elegant mansions of the wealthy. The purpose of this study is to explore builders' response to the aspirations of the neighborhood's residents for home and neighborhood from 1880 to 1920, and thus to provide insight into urban growth and ideals of family life in small American cities. This examination advances two interrelated arguments. First, it complicates the narrative of suburbanization that has been presented by urban historians, which has relied on the study of metropolitan areas. Bangor inhabitants moved to the periphery of the city in a later period than the denizens of larger cities and the districts they created were not as strictly homogenous by class. Second, it suggests a more complex interpretation of domestic architecture as a reflection of changes in ideal family relationships around the turn of the twentieth century than offered by architectural historians. This study reveals that the builders of Little City constructed houses that contained both traditional and progressive elements, rather than merely replicating older forms or indiscriminately adopting house plans that were submitted in advice literature. The creation of this community occurred as the result of a complex relationship between developers, builders and residents. The dialog between the builders and residents produced the urban form and domestic architecture of Little City. Lot plans and deeds, local newspaper and business journal articles and advertisements, and historical maps provided insight into the developers' real estate activities and plans for the neighborhood. Census and city tax data, along with city directories, furnished information about the residents of Little City and revealed their social and economic standing in the community, allowing for a class analysis of the district. A field study of the floor plans of houses in the neighborhood, as well as house plan books and household manuals from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, demonstrated that the builders of these houses incorporated both contemporary and conservative ideas into their designs in their attempt to recruit the middle class to the area. The evolution of a rural landscape at the periphery of the city of Bangor in the late nineteenth century to a fashionable middle-class neighborhood in the beginning of the twentieth century reveals how builders and residents responded to societal changes, and how suburbanization and the transformation of domestic architecture differed in small cities from larger metropolises.

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