Sunday, January 23, 2011

College Park, Md

College Park is the home of the University of Maryland, which means it is also the home of the Maryland Terrapins. As I type this I am sitting in a room painted red, white and yellow - the colors of the terrapins. There is a Maryland Terrapins clock on the wall, a Terrapins throw blanket on the sofa I'm sitting on, and the room decor includes among other things a stuffed version of the Terps' mascot and a gnome with a Terrapin logo holding a football. My dear partner is, um, a little fond of the Terps.

But she never reads my blog, so this post will be about the historic College Park Airport. So there! It was established in 1909 so that Wilbur Wright could teach two Army officers to fly the government's very first military airplane. There is an aviation museum, but the airport is still in use, making it the oldest continuously operated airport in the world. It occupies 40 acres, and has a single runway. Its firsts include the first night flights and landings, the first women passengers, first aerial photographs, and the first mile-high flight.

Oh, fine, and the Terps play in College Park too.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Utopia in the DC Suburbs - Greenbelt, Md

This city was created in 1937, in the midst of the Depression, as a federal project to provide housing for low income families. Two other greenbelt cities were built in the 30s - Greendale, WI and Greenhills, OH. The plan was ambitious - a complete city where people would have affordable homes, work together for the community good, and have ready access to green spaces. The two main streets formed a crescent, with stores, the school, and community buildings nestled between them. Around them were homes, grouped so that residents could walk into the center of town without crossing a major street. There were lots of pedestrian pathways, with tunnels or overpasses to safely get pedestrians across major roads. Surrounding it all was forested land, the green belt for which the town was named. Nearly 6000 families applied for the original 885 homes.

So, what did Utopia look like in 1937? Well, it had art deco buildings, simple Scandinavian style furniture, and lots of inspirational sculptures showing people working together to make a better community. The houses were designed very small to minimize costs - just under 700 square feet for a two story, 3 bedroom house. Ordinary furniture would not have fit, and so special furniture was designed for these homes. Pieces were designed to be small, simply designed, and multipurpose, and then production was contracted to a family owned Danish furniture factory. Although it was affordable furniture designed for low income homeowners, it became sought after for its sleek, modern style. The company went on to become SCAN furniture, a chain which still sells Scandinavian style furniture in the DC area.

Greenbelt residents were very big on community life. Local groups formed to provide babysitting, publish a newspaper, and start a hospital, fire department, and rescue squad. A co-op was formed to operate stores in the community, and in the 1950s when the federal government wanted to get out of the housing business in Greenbelt, another co-op formed to buy the homes. Nowadays a typical suburban community has grown up around the historic original city, with high rises, McMansions sitting on cul de sacs, and an Ikea. Today, in this city founded for low income families, the median household income is $46,000.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A hiking interlude

Today we interrupt our virtual walking to bring you pictures from a real walk. I went for my first outing with an awesome group called Hiking Dogs of Central Maryland, along with Chowder's baby brother Eli. We hiked for nearly 4 hours around Liberty Reservoir in Northwest Baltimore County. The scenery was pretty, the dogs and people were friendly, and I logged 7.6 more miles for my walk across America. Also I may not be able to move tomorrow. The dogs got to run around off leash, except for Eli who had to go back on his leash after about an hour and a half because he met the love of his life, a yellow lab named Elinor, and would. not. stop. humping. her. That's him and her above.

Coming up next: Greenbelt Maryland!