Mid-Century Modern residential architects focused on promoting many of the values at the core of American culture through their designs. We’ve discussed some of these MCM design values, such as increased family time, a connection to nature, and improved entertaining. In addition to these, MCM developers also aimed to create a sense of community through individual home design as well as through the layout of the entire neighborhood.
Originally, MCM tract homes attracted young middle class families looking to enjoy the suburban lifestyle at an affordable price. However, the unique design quickly became the deciding factor to purchase. Mid-Century Modern homes featured striking designs boasting of privacy from the front yard with minimal windows, and complete exposure to the private backyard through large glass walls. Despite the front-facing privacy, neighbors opened up to each other, quickly turning from strangers to family.
Naturally, those who appreciated the design were proud of owning and immediately felt a mutual interest with their neighbors. MCM neighborhoods created a sense of identity and common purpose amongst residents. The resulting supportive communities of young families bonded over their mutual interest and became one big family.
The features and layout of each tract were just as important as the architectural design of individual homes to creating a sense of community. Many of these tracts included common areas such as parks, pools or community centers. These public gathering places nestled into the community allowed for neighborhood children to play safely together. Families and neighbors could have gatherings in these places. Block Parties, talent shows and educational meetings were common, with neighbors setting up in the tract’s community center, if one existed, or simply on a particular cul-de-sac or street.
MCM neighborhoods also became known for being progressive, largely due to famous modern home developer Joseph Eichler, the principal purveyor of MCM design values. Eichler was an advocate for fair housing and deeply opposed to racial discrimination. He made his homes available to everyone and even made a public announcement that he would buy out any owners unhappy with their neighbors’ skin color (but not without admonishing them first). His communities quickly became known for their inclusivity and grew strong around these principles.
In many cases, MCM communities included consideration for the locality and/or environment, uniting residents under common regional concepts. For instance, the Forever Homes in Fullerton, constructed by local building firm Pardee-Phillips with Eichler designs between 1953 and 1956, came with an orange tree planted in front of each home in honor of the city’s agricultural history. This seemingly simple accent was and continues to be a point of pride for residents. Some Forever Homes still have their orange trees to this day.
The builders of MCM development Six Moon Hill in Lexington, Virginia, dating back to 1948, were successful in their goal to create a collection of houses integrated into the wooded landscape, leaving the surrounding nature as undisturbed as possible. The resulting effect conveys a rural quality while still reaching the expected tract home density. These homes attracted young creative individuals from the city looking to start a family in an open-minded community.
To this day, Mid-Century Modern communities across the U.S. continue to celebrate the MCM design values and culture of their unique neighborhoods. Many communities have an online presence and even publications on their homes’ and neighborhood’s culture and history. Some host annual tours to bring the outside public in to learn about the design and sense of community that the design fosters.
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