"-- to Produce the Highest Type of Manhood and Womanhood": The Ontario Housing Act, 1919, and a New Suburban Ideal

By Sendbuehler, Matt; Gilliland, Jason | Urban History Review, March 1998 | Go to article overview

"-- to Produce the Highest Type of Manhood and Womanhood": The Ontario Housing Act, 1919, and a New Suburban Ideal


Sendbuehler, Matt, Gilliland, Jason, Urban History Review


Abstract:

While most scholars generally focus on the failings of the post-WWI Federal-Provincial housing scheme in Canada, we contend that it had far-reaching implications for three major facets of urbanism: housing policy, town planning, and residential architecture. We do so primarily through an examination of the impacts of the Ontario Housing Act, 1919, in the context of contemporary visions of ideal residential environments.

In the 1920s, a major reconceptualization of planning and architecture generated a new ideology of house, home and city which intended to remake existing cities and to create new, efficient and healthy settlements. The ideal city featured increasingly similar, but separate, working-and middle-class homes and neighbourhoods, as well as the sharper definition of functionally specific spaces within the home and the city. State-designed and state-sanctioned working-class housing associated with the housing scheme represented a practical attempt to realize these new ideals on the ground. Since a suburban context was integral to these ideals, we maintain that planning and architecture in 1920s Canada amounted to a new suburban ideal.

Resume:

La recherche s'attarde generalement surtout sur les echecs de la <> du Canada. Nous avancons que le programme a des repercussions considerables dans trois domaines de l'urbanisme: les politiques du logement, la planification urbaine, et l'architecture residentielle. Notre analyse se basera d'abord sur l'etude des impacts de la <>, dans une vision contemporaine de ce que devrait etre un amenagement residentiel ideal.

Dans les annees 1920, une decisive reconceptualisation de la planification urbaine et de l'architecture a provoque l'emergence d'une nouvelle ideologie du logement, du foyer et de l'urbanite, ideologie qui vise la reconstruction urbaine et la creation de nouvelles agglomerations qui soient plus efficaces et plus equilibrees. La ville ideale comportait des quartiers ouvriers qui bien que geographiquement separes des quartiers de la classe moyenne leur ressemblaient de plus en plus. Cette homogeneite etait presente autant dans l'amenagement urbain que dans la conception des espaces fonctionnels interieurs des logements. La reglementation etqtique de la construction des logements pour la classe ouvriere associee aux plans de planification urbaine represente une tentative de realiser ces ideaux. Sachant que le developpement des banlieues est partie prenante a ces ideaux, nous soutenons que la planification urbaine et l'architecture des annees 1920 au Canada a resulte en une nouvelle conception de la banlieue ideale.

... it has been only during the present conflict that we have completely realized not only the actual military, industrial and moral value of the home to the state, but also the consequent obligation of the State, in sheer self-interest, to ensure to its citizens homes of such a character and in such surroundings as to enable us as a nation to produce the highest type of manhood and of womanhood. (1)

In the 1920s, a major reconceptualization of planning and architecture led to significant changes in visions of ideal residential environments at the scale of the city, neighbourhood, and house. State-designed and state-sanctioned working-class housing associated with a post-WWI housing scheme represented a practical attempt to realize these new ideals on the ground. Although the attempt was not substantial in quantitative terms, amounting to some 6200 houses, we will show that the scheme had far-reaching implications for three major facets of urbanism: housing policy, town planning, and residential architecture. We do so primarily through an examination of the impacts of the Ontario Housing Act, 1919, (OHA), part of the Federal-Provincial Housing Scheme of 1918-23, in the context of contemporary ideals of house, home, and city.

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