A Modern Arcadia
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and the Plan for Forest Hills Gardens
An illustrated history of one of America's most notable planned communities
"Bright, cheerful houses, well arranged, well trimmed lawns, hedging carefully cut . . . distinctly joyous," wrote architectural critic Herbert Croly in 1914 about the Forest Hills Gardens community in Queens, New York. The New York Tribune agreed, reporting that the place was a "modern Garden of Eden, a fairy tale too good to be true."
Conceived as an experiment that would apply the new "science" of city planning to a suburban setting, Forest Hills Gardens was created by the Russell Sage Foundation to provide housing for middle-class commuters as an alternative to cramped flats in New York City. Although it has long been recognized as one of the most influential planned communities in the United States, this is the first time Forest Hills Gardens has been the subject of a book.
Susan L. Klaus's fully illustrated history chronicles the creation of the 142-acre development from its inception in 1909 through its first two decades, offering critical insights into American planning history, landscape architecture, and the social and economic forces that shaped housing in the Progressive Era. Klaus focuses particularly on the creative genius of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., who served as planner and landscape architect for the project. Drawing on his father's visionary ideas but developing his own perspective, the younger Olmsted redefined planning for the modern era and became one of the founders of the profession of city planning in the United States.
"Forest Hills Gardens has been little studied by modern historians. Everyone knows of it, but the details of its planning and development are not readily available. The scholarship in this work is exceptionally thorough, clearly the result of lengthy research. A Modern Arcadia will make a significant contribution to the fields of landscape and planning history."—Cynthia Zaitzevsky, author of Frederick Law Olmsted
and the Boston Park System
"Great book. It is the best of its genre. It showed me how little I actually knew about Forest Hills, even after having visited several times to admire the great urban detailing."—Andres Duany
"A Modern Arcadia illuminates the fascinating intersection of social and aesthetic reform movements in the Progressive Era, as well as the early career of a prolific and influential planner and landscape architect."—David Glassberg, author of Sense of History: The
Place of the Past in American Life
"Forest Hills Gardens, a remarkable suburban enclave in New York City and one of the finest planned communities ever, finally receives the attention it deserves in Susan L. Klaus's carefully researched and fascinating account that also sheds light on the career of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., too long in the shadow of his pioneering father."—Robert A. M. Stern, dean, Yale School of Architecture