The Garden Suburb of Lindenlea, Ottawa: A Model Project for the First Federal Housing Policy, 1918-24

By Delaney, Jill | Urban History Review, February 1991 | Go to article overview

The Garden Suburb of Lindenlea, Ottawa: A Model Project for the First Federal Housing Policy, 1918-24


Delaney, Jill, Urban History Review


Abstract

The garden suburb of Lindenlea in Ottawa was designed by Thomas Adams and built by the Ottawa Housing commission to provide a model of low-income housing to municipalities across Canada in the post-World War One period. The planning of the suburb and the design of its houses reveal many of the ideological premises of the urban reform movement in Canada, and of the federal government's attitude toward publicly subsidized housing, in this early period of social welfare. Modern theories of rationalization, efficiency, and standardization, combined with late Victorian notions about physical, social and moral health, to produce housing designs that were technologically modern yet ideologically traditional.

Resume

La cite jardin de Lindenlea, en banlieue d'Ottawa, a ete construite apres la Premiere Guerre mondiale. Concue par Thomas Adams, elle est l'oeuvre de la Commission federale de l'habitation, qui y voyait un modele d'habitat a loyer modique a proposer aux municipalites canadiennes. La conception des logements et le plan d'amenagement, manifestement inspires de l'ideologie de la reforme urbaine, sont tres revelateurs de l'attitude du gouvernement federal a l'egard du logement subventionne en cette periode ou l'Etat commence a peine a intervenir dans la domaine social. Les idees modernes de rationalisation, d'efficacite et de standardisation, conjuguees aux notions de sante physique, sociale et morale caracteristiques de la fin de l'ere victorienne, ont donne naissance a des logements modernes sur le plan technique mais traditionnels sur le plan ideologique.

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The garden suburb of Lindenlea today stands between the communities of New Edinburgh and Vanier, in Ottawa, as an example of housing and planning theories prevalent in Canada following World War One. The suburb was one of the first low-income housing developments built under the aegis of the Federal Housing Scheme (1918), which was itself the first major federal intervention in the area of housing in Canadian history. (1) The creation of Lindenlea and of the Federal Housing Scheme are also linked through the involvement of certain members of the Commission of Conservation, a federal-provincial advisory committee, with ideological associations to the Urban Reform Movement of Canada and the Garden City Movement of England.

Officially built by the Ottawa Housing Commission, Lindenlea's principle design features and standards were largely the creation of Thomas Adams, the Town Planning Advisor to the Commission of Conservation and to the Housing Committee of the Federal Cabinet. Adams played a key role in the development of the Federal Housing Scheme legislation, and subsequently chose Lindenlea to serve as a model design to be emulated by other municipalities participating in the Scheme. Lindenlea is therefore an excellent example for an analysis and understanding of the prevalent and official standards and ideas for appropriate housing types in Canada, during this important early period in the development of the state as social regulator.

The rapid expansion of Canadian industries and cities made existing slum conditions in the core areas more visible and menacing than in the late 19th century. The urban reformers in Canada, especially those of the Commission of Conservation, concentrated on improving the sanitation, overcrowding and poor construction of slum dwellings, and battled exploitive rents and real estate speculation, all of which were felt to contribute to disease and moral decay. The fundamental social influence of the growth of the applied sciences, especially the obsession for rationalization in the later 19th century, should be considered of prime importance in understanding this movement. In their rhetoric, the Progressives in Canada and the United States relied heavily on the ideas of 'scientific management' of the home, and a rational approach to life in general. Standards became an essential part of their program, and were based on the ideas of efficiency, modernization and the advantages of mass production and industrialization. …

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