Illustrated Lecture of the Improvement of Towns and Cities by town Planning Methods
Prepared by the Town Planning Branch of The Commission of Conservation, Ottawa [Thomas Adams]
[Words in the brackets are correction notes on the original document]
Source: National Archives of Canada, CIP Fonds, W F Burditt papers, MG-28.1275 Volume 16, File: Address on Town Planning, Collected on June 16, 1997.
[Adams provided a script and lantern slides to planning promoters in remote Canadian Regions.]
1) THE CONGESTED CITY
The familiar consequence of the uncontrolled development of towns and cities is the modern slum with its appalling results in social degeneracy, infant mortality, economic loss and industrial unrest. Anyone who cares to take the trouble may acquaint himself with the facts. “There is no wealth but life”, said Ruskin. The modern slum destroys life because it dams up all its tributaries – fresh air, cleanliness, the incentive and stimulus [elevating influence] of beauty, the physical benefit of recreation for both children and adults, the springs [stimulus] of ambition, hope and happiness. There family affections parish by the pressure of unlovely environment and constant irritations and [while] “the promises and potencies” of child life do not and cannot come to fruition. There is no sunlight either for the body or the soul. Upon such families [the children of the slums] the immense national cost of education is largely wasted. Slums are [not only] the hot beds of juvenile crime, as statistics simply prove, [but are] and the seed plot of social unrest and industrial revolution. It is often said that towns and cities cannot afford to clear out their slums [The question is not can we afford to clean up our slums but]. Can they [we] afford to keep them and plant more, year by year?
There is a fascination about the word liberty. It is a word with a hale. It is a sentiment for which brave men have cheerfully given their lives, but it is luxury that can be abused by men who know not now to use it and care not if their liberty entail, the environment of others. A community [no less than an individual] has also the right of liberty, to self-protection from ugliness, squalor and crime, which function far beyond their seat of operation [source]. A very few slides will be sufficient to show the nemesis that has followed the uncontrolled development of towns and cities. In this great country of open spaces and magnificent distances men and women and children may be found crowded together in ugly and insanitary buildings in almost every urban community [town and city]. It is a result of the theory that every man has a right to do what he likes with his own. The time has come to say: “Not if it injures and debases others.” Town planning means that a community must have the right to protest the life of its members, for its own sake and for the sake of those members and for the sake of the nation and the race, because “there is no wealth but life”.
SLUM SLIDES 1 to 5 (tentative)
2) THE BEGINNING OF BETTER HOUSING FOR THE WORKERS. PORT SUNLIGHT AND BOURNVILLE
In 1888 the head of a firm of soap makers, near Liverpool, then Mr. W.H. Lever, now LORD LEVERHULME, argued as follows: – “The only means of remedying social evils is to conduct wisely our own affairs to the greatest benefit of all. It is less our task to help the unfortunate than to prevent misfortune. Based upon this principle I reason that if the directors feel the need, after a day’s work, to find a comfortable and attractive home awaiting them on leaving work the same need exists for their co-workers. It appears to me that those who have contributed towards the prosperity of our business have the same right as we have to live a pleasant life in pleasant surroundings.”
Mr. Lever believed in prosperity – sharing with his employees and decided that the best form of prosperity – sharing in the interests of his workmen and their families as well as in the business was the provision of good homes in pleasant surroundings, with facilities for recreation, education and social enjoyment. He therefore built a new town on what has come to be called garden city lines. The houses are built in groups of three to nine houses each and there are not two groups alike. Each house has ample garden space, back and front and the supposed inevitable ugliness of the rear premises has been entirely abolished. There are trees, lawns, playing-grounds for adults and children, community halls, library, swimming pools, schools and churches. An impressionable Frenchman, coming suddenly upon the town, after visiting other industrial districts of Lancashire said: “I was charmed to receive such an impression of beauty and harmony after seeing so much ugliness, dirt and misery. One feels as if leaving the towns of the devil and suddenly entering the garden of Eden.” At one time the whole district was a swamp.
Yet Lord Leverhulme denies that he is a philanthropist. He says the provision of good housing for his work people is good business. “I can look any of my workmen in the face”, he has said, “and tell him, man to man. We never patronized you; we never intended doing so and we never shall attempt to thrust our patronage upon you. [And] any of my workmen can look me in the face and say: I never received any pay from you that was not due for my services. The strongest bond that can unite the different parties engaged in the same work is common interest in a common enterprise.” The cottages have never paid, in the sense that they have brought full return on the capital invested. The monetary less on them has been written off to prosperity-sharing. But they have paid many times in the conversation of life and human efficiency, in the creation of a contented and happy community and so far as the founders are concerned the reward has been not only in the settled and over prospering business but in the personal satisfaction that they were doing the decent thing to those who were the indispensable partners of their prosperity.
PORT SUNLIGHT SLIDES
The second notable experiment in the better housing of working people was made in England by Mr. George Cadbury, head of the firm of Cadbury Brothers, the well-known manufactures of cocoa and chocolate.
Mr. Cadbury had some in personal contest with the working man of Birmingham as one of the lenders of Men’s Adults’ Schools and for many years had given his Sunday mornings to the extension of this work. He had visited the men in their homes end was profoundly impressed by the evil and depressing conditions under which many of them spent their lives. He found there was a great scarcity of houses in the working class districts of Birmingham. The rents were high and the leisure time of the men was mostly spent in an atmosphere of squalor and dreary monotony. He saw that the only radical sure for such conditions was a complete change of environment. He acquired an estate at Bournville, situated about four miles from the centre of Birmingham, and in 1895 formulated a scheme to build comfortable cottages with garden space sufficient to provide wholesome employment for the tenants during their leisure time, and to give them an opportunity for cultivating now interests and tastes.
Mr. Cadbury required a site large enough to build a new village as well as a new factory. The result has been one of the healthiest and most efficient industrial developments in England. The Village has been established on a paying basis and there is freedom from undue paternalism. The Port Sunlight scheme is architecturally superior to Bournville but is probably more paternalistic in its management. Mr. Cadbury decided that he would not restrict the tenancy of the cottages to his own work people. About one-third of the houses are occupied by employees and the balance by people from the city at large. Bournville is now a flourishing and beautiful village and is visited by thousands of persons of all nationalities during the year. The residential part of the estate now comprises 613 acres and houses about 5,000 people. The cottages on the estate average about 6 to the acre and are semi-detached or in blocks of four. They are usually of two storeys only and have not less than three bedrooms with the exception of a few that have two for small families. They are not built with back rooms and out houses straggling out behind and the rear premises are gardens that are fully cultivated and provide an additional source of income to the tenants.
From early spring to late autumn the front gardens are bright with a succession of flowers. Each home has a garden plot averaging 500 square yards in area. In addition to a vegetable garden there are rows of fruit trees, which form a pleasant screen to the gardens that in springtime make the landscape beautiful with their lovely blossoms.
The rentals of the cottages range from $1.25 per week to $2.50 per week.
Bournville had been described as the most contented community in England. The houses on the estate occupy 6.6 per cent of the area; the gardens 64. 8 per cent; the fasteries occupy 6.6 per cent and parks and open spaces 10 per cent. The benefits of these schemes are not only a great advantage conferred on the workers and their families by their improved environment but the financial gain they have been to the manufacturers by giving them more sufficient and healthier employees and by providing them with adequate space to erect roomy factories and to permit of extension as required to meet the growing needs of the industries.
Mr. Cadbury decided that the houses should be made to pay for themselves to the extent of four per cent of the capital.
Since the establishment of the village there has been a much greater demand for the cottages than the supply chould give and applicants often wait a whole year before accommodation can be provided for them.
The natural desire for physical and intellectual recreation has been met to a most generous extent. There are tennis courts and bowling greens, swimming pools, classes for the aged, and other provisions for the welfare of the people. The average death rate of Bournville for eight successive years was 6.6 per 1,000 against 16.9 per 1,000 in the town of Birmingham. The infant mortality rates were 65.9 per 1,000 as against 157.5 per 1,000 in Birmingham. The statement is made that the average height of boys in Bournville schools in 1907 was four inches above that of school boys and girls in a district in Birmingham and the chest measurement 3 inches greater.
The example of these two interesting experiments in better housing was not lest upon the housing reformers in England. Some things had been clearly proved. The vital statistics of these new communities showed that life might be conserved and human efficiency and happiness increased by the provision of better houses for the people. But even these fasts did not constitute the whole of the lesson. It had been shown that not only should houses be better built but that the site on which they are built should be carefully planned with a view to the complete needs of the community and so the benefits of town planning emerged into view.
The foundation of the English Garden City at Letchworth in 1905 was intended to exemplify the lesson that had been learned at Fort Sunlight and Bournville. That scheme was started to establish certain principles. One of them was to take advantage of the prevailing tendency of manufacturing industries to migrate from large centres of population to rural districts, a tendency that is very prevalent in Canada at the present time. In such large centres as Toronto, industries are constantly moving out from the centre where they can get cheap land and better conditions for their expanding needs.
This decentralizing tendency on the part of the industry has been observed in Britain for the last 20 or 30 years. Big industries have been moving out of London and other large centres to the country districts. The originators of the Garden City movement said: “Let us take hold at this movement and found a new city that will offer special attractions to these industries that are looking for new locations. Let us group these manufactures together and build houses for their employees. Let us give them up-to-date transportation and other facilitates. Let us conserve the whole of the unearned increment of the value of the land rented by the inhabitants for those who create it and let us make such housing conditions for the people that slums shall be impossible.
Well, they have been comparatively unsuccessful. 5,600 acres were bought at $200 an acre. The promoters planned the site of the city. They put in an electrical installation, gas works and a pure water supply. They prescribed that there should be more than seven or eight homes to the acre. They put all the industries in one part of the estate where the prevailing winds would take the smoke away from the town. They improved the transportation system. The worker in Garden city lives within five minutes’ walk of his place of employment. No costly transportation system takes him from a point 10 miles out in the suburb to a plant in the centre of the city requiring him to spend two or three hours a day in going to and from his work.
It was decided to maintain control of the land in perpetuity for the benefit of the people. At Letchworth the so-called “unearned increment” is conserved for the benefit of those who create it. The land was bought at $200 an acre. The value of that land had now increased to $1,000 and $2,000 an acre and the whole of that increase in value goes to the reduction of taxes or to the development of the estate and the provision of new public services. There can be no private property in land at Letchworth. A lease can be acquired for 99 years with the right to renew at the end of that period, subject to re-evaluation, and it has been found that this system gives the practical feeling of ownership while the important power is reserved by the trustees of the community to prevent misuse of the land by incongruous and undesirable development.
The profits also from these public services are retained for the benefit of the community and it has been found by the people of Letchworth that the largest profits in the early years of development were secured from the distribution of such utilities as gas, electricity, water and other necessities of life and that these results were due to proper planning. It is common knowledge that the profits from such undertakings are usually handed over to private concerns.
An important and interesting feature of the Garden City scheme is the agricultural belt around the city. The city area comprises about 1,200 acres, laid out for a population of 20,000 persons. In 1902 there were about a dozen farm houses and labourers’ cottages on the site. At present there are 20 factories and 13,000 people. Two thousand six hundred acres of the original area, with an additional 700 acres recently acquired, are reserved as a permanent agricultural belt around the city. The charter of the city provided that this belt must be reserved permanently for agricultural purposes, or for such recreations as golf, tennis, or other outdoor games. Thus the inhabitants have a large open area all around the city that can never be built upon and the produce of this agricultural area is brought close to the door of the consumer.
If the city increases its population over 20,000 it must extend by leaping over the agricultural belt. The industry of farming is thus linked up with the manufacturing in one community, avoiding the usual separation of town and country and the unsightly, ragged and uneconomic development on the fringe of the city that is so common in Canada.
People are apt to assume that model housing enterprises can only be carried out by wealthy philanthropists or governments with limited resources. The Letchworth experiment was experiment by a number of social reformers, including the founder, Mr. Ebenezer Howard, – who was a court stenographer, – the late Sir Ralph Neville, a judge, Mr. George Cadbury, and Mr. Alfred Harmsworth – now Lord Northcliffe, proprietor of The Times and though some of these men wealthy and put a little money into the project the bulk of the capital was subscribed by persons of quite moderate means who had faith in the project. It was undertaken on a capital of little more than $500,000, and the whole of the capital raised has not been more than $500,000. That money is now beginning to pay the limited dividend of 5%.
The main lesson of Letchworth is that when scientific methods are applied to the development of industrial and social life as they are to the actual operations of individual industries and especially to the complicated operations of the war the housing problem is not insoluble. At Letchworth the solution of it has been found in proper town planning.
LETCHWORTH SLIDES (tentative)
5) HAMPSTEAD GARDEN SUBURB AND OTHER GARDEN SUBURBS RESIDENTIAL COPARTNERSHIP
The founder of the Hampstead Garden Suburb was Mrs. Henrietta Octavia Barnett, upon whom has been conferred by the King with the Order of the British Empire. Mrs. Barnett was the wife of the late Canon Barnett and was his co-worker for many years in the east end of London. There the two reformers founded the university settlement, Toynbee Hall, and recently 400 similar settlements in America were able to testify to Mrs. Barnett of the social value of this project.
By much study and much tragic experience Mrs. Barnett came to the conclusion that the only way to solve the housing problem in the cities was to get the people out into the country. She built a garden village at Hampstead on town planning lines and there she mixed the rich and the poor, because, she said, if the poor were properly housed the social contact would be as good for the rich and the poor. By her personal influence Mrs. Barnett gathered around her a band of reformers who adopted the details of her scheme, one by one, and made them practical. Because of her singleness of purpose – the better housing of the people – her appeals to the wealthy were seldom in vain.
With Letchworth, Hampstead Garden Suburb has now become a place of pilgrimage for visitors from all parts of the world, and its example has been followed by many other large towns and cities in Britain. Though the garden suburb is purely residential and does not embody some of the more vital economic features of the garden city scheme its social value as an experiment in better housing in beyond question.
6) WAR HOUSING: INDUSTRIAL AND RESIDENTIAL
At Well Hall, near Woolwich, there was built during the year of 1915 a town of 6,000 persons. This town was built and occupied within nine months of a time when the whole organization of the country was devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, the raising and transportation of troops and many other war activities. The Government decided that good houses and social contentment, with good wages and reasonable hours of labour were the best and most direct way to arrive at the maximum of production of war materials. If it is a sound policy to build good homes and provide pleasant surroundings for workmen in the middle of war in order to increase the output of munitions is to not obvious that method must also prove sound in times of peace for the maximum of production of the necessities of life? Under the war strain the British people were working at high pressure and it would not have been unnatural to say to the people that as patriots they should be content with unpleasant and unfavourable and unpleasant housing conditions. But it was considered wiser, even in the time of war, to follow the bold policy of building permanent and healthy houses with agreeable surroundings. At Gretna Green, once the refuge of romantic couples who wished to get married in a hurry, the same experiment in sociology was adopted.
For efficiency in industry rest and recuperation are necessary and these are impossible in overcrowded and insantiary rooms and in congested districts where there is no outlet for the natural and necessary demand for change and recreation – as essential to adults as to children. These war villages were planned with regard to these human needs. The houses were built with the utmost economy, but it was considered the best spiritual economy to provide dense halls, moving picture theatres, club rooms, churches, reading rooms and outdoor recreation facilities.
7) CANADIAN HOUSING AND TOWN PLANNING
At a joint conference of the provincial premiers and the Dominion Government held at the close of the year 1918 one of the important subjects of discussion was that of the need of creating better housing conditions in Canada for working people. As a result of this conference the Federal Government decided to make loans to the provincial governments to the extent of $25,000,000 for the promotion of better housing in Canada. It was frankly recognized that in the provision of houses of small cost and low rental private enterprise has practically ceased to operate during the years of the war and that the shortage of such houses had become a menace to national health and industrial peace. The plan adopted was to lend money to the provinces at the low rate of 5% and to make the provinces responsible for the distribution of the fund to municipalities, housing societies or private persons who should be owners of building lots.
With the exception of Alberta and Saskatchewan all the provinces have passed Housing Acts in conformity with the Federal project and progress is being made with the building of comparatively low-priced houses. In Ontario nearly a hundred local housing commissions have been appointed and houses have been built and occupied.
But only in the province of Quebec is there a manifest determination to profit by the lessons of town planning. There encouragement is being given to the creation of comparatively large areas of cheap suburban land with a view to the creation of garden suburbs or garden villages where the advantages of town planning may be demonstrated. A slide will be shown of a proposed Confederation Garden Suburb which it is intended should be completed to celebrate the golden jubilee of Confederation.
The Toronto Housing Company built a number of cottages a few years ago and showed what can be done on small areas on town planning principles to provide safe playgrounds for children and common lawns for the residents. A few slides are shown of cottages arranged in quadrangular fashion. Slides are also shown, taken from Mr. Thomas Adams’ book on “Rural Planning and the Development” to show the treatment of a ten acre plot built around an open space.
Most of the provinces of Canada have now town planning Acts on the statute books but much pressure of educated public opinion is needed to bring them into operation. The Acts of Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia have compulsory clauses which come into operation three years after passing of the Act. In Britain the experience of ten years has proved that merely permissive acts are of little avail and town planning of new building areas has been made compulsory in the interests of public welfare.
In Canada the Ontario Planning and Development Act is the least satisfactory of all and urgently needs amendment. It is concerned primarily with the planning of streets and roads and does not touch such vital matters as the height, density and character of buildings, the building lines on street frontages and air space surrounding buildings; the relation between width of streets and the buildings thereon; limitations of the number of dwellings on a given area of land; the zoning of cities so as to separate factory, business, residential, and agricultural areas; the grouping of dwellings with a view to convenience and architectural effect and the provision of open spaces and recreation grounds. The time is more than due when a satisfactory town planning act should be passed for the great province of Ontario.
SLIDES OF TORONTO HOUSING COMPANY
CONFEDERATION GARDEN SUBURBS (not available)
The pictures that have been shown of modern housing conditions in the Old Country are not intended to suggest that the problem has there been solved and that housing conditions are worse in Canada than in England. They are intended to show that a determined effort has been made in Britain to solve the problem and we need the inspiration of what the Mother Country is doing in better housing of the people.
Canada is a young country and at present has comparatively little to show in the way of organized effort in housing reform, but a beginning has been made at Toronto by the Toronto Housing Committee and at Ottawa in the development of two garden suburbs. At Kipawa Mr. Thomas Adams is assisting the Riordon Pulp and Paper Company with planning a model village for houses for millworkers.
The Housing Commission of the province of Quebec are spending the chief part of their grant from the Federal Government in the promotion of garden suburbs and garden villages.
There are, speaking generally, worse housing conditions in England than in Canada, but as a new country we have the advantage of learning from the mistakes of others, and it would be to our perpetual discredit if we did not take such steps as are necessary and practical to prevent the development of slums in our Canadian towns and cities.
The founder of Port Sunlight has pointed out that it is wiser and more economical to prevent the misfortune of slums than to help the unfortunate.
There is also another point for notice in these English experiments. The most successful of them have been due to private enterprise of the best kind and have not depended on government money. They have been based upon co-operation and goodwill between employers and employees, and they have promoted co-operation in all kinds of social effort that are not less important than housing itself. They have solved the industrial as well, as the housing problems, and they have established that good-will among men that is the only condition of industrial peace and social welfare.