An annotated bibliography of recommended print sources on mid-century architecture and the history of North American suburbia. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, but it identifies the starting points for exploring these topics. Many of the books can be be borrowed from the excellent collections at the Toronto Public Library. If a particular title is not available at the TPL, it can be secured from another library through the interlibrary loan service.
Postwar Residential Architecture
Friedman, Stephen. “Car Town: The Suburbs, the Strip, and the Mall.” City Moves: A User’s Guide to the Way Cities Work. McGraw-Hill, 1989, pp. 112–126.
A guide to reading and understanding the most common features of the suburban landscape and their origin in the postwar period. A reading list of recommended books accompanies the chapter.
Hubka, Thomas C. Houses without Names: Architectural Nomenclature and the Classification of America’s Common Houses. University of Tennessee Press, 2013.
A detailed, illustrated field guide to the common architectual styles of private residences constructed in the postwar suburbs, such as split-level, bungalow, and Cape-Cod houses. Although this book doesn’t study Canadian houses, many of the domestic styles it describes can also be found north of the border.
Lane, Barbara M. Houses for a New World: Builders and Buyers in American Suburbs, 1945-1965. Princeton University Press, 2015.
A fascinating, award-winning historical study of the communities that developed in suburban areas in the postwar period. The content is accompanied by hundreds of historical images, plans, and maps. The author provides a detailed analysis of the most common styles of suburban architecture, including split-level and new-ranch houses.
Hollis, Tim. Wish You Were Here: Classic Florida Motel and Restaurant Advertising. University Press of Florida, 2011.
Arranged like a scrapbook, this lighthearted review of the most interesting and advertising depicts the hotels, motels, and restaurants that catered to Florida’s tourists before Disney. It includes reproductions of postcards, brochures, magazines, billboards, placemats, and photographs, which the author had collected over fifty years.
Witzel, Michael Karl. The American Motel. MBI Publishing Company, 2000.
Witzel, a renowned pop culture historian examines the evolution, architecture, and decor of the American motel in all its forms, from the traditional motor court, log cabins, and tourist courts to the franchised, leisure motels of today. He also chronicles such traveling rest-spot innovations as giant icemakers, public “cement ponds,” coin-operated radios, and a TV in every room.
Mid-Century Modern Style
Bradbury, Dominic. Mid-Century Modern Complete. Thames & Hudson, 2014.
An excellent overview of all aspects of the style, including furniture, lighting, glass, ceramics, textiles, product design, industrial design, graphics and posters, as well as architecture and interior design.
Marcus, George H. Design in the Fifties: When Everyone Went Modern. Prestel, 1998.
The book examines the innovative style that reflected the new optimism and consumerism of postwar culture, tracing its development not only in the context of art and design but also in terms of history.
Sprawl & Life on Toronto’s Outskirts
Boag-Strong, Veronica. “Home Dreams: Women and the Suburban Experiment in Canada, 1945–60.” Canadian Historical Review, vol. 72, issue 4, 1991, pp. 471–504.
A peer-reviewed article by a leading historian of Canadian women, analyzing the suburban developments as a “gendered landscape” that contributed to the enforcing the rigidity of separate spheres ascribed to men and women, paralleling the physical and social separation between the city and the suburb.
Clark, S.D. The Suburban Society. University of Toronto Press, 1966.
Clark, a distinguished sociologist, conducted extensive research into several mass-developed communities outside of Toronto in order to understand the impetus behind the relocation to the suburban areas during the fifties.
Harris, Richard. Creeping Conformity: How Canada Became Suburban, 1900–1960. University of Toronto Press, 2004.
Written by a leading historian of suburbanization in Canada, the book traces the origins of suburban areas as places characterized by social conformity and material standardization.
Lorimer, James, and Carolyn MacGregor, editors. After the Developers. James Lorimer, 1981.
An edited collection of essays examining the postwar pattern of urban growth in Canada and how it was shaped by basic government economic policies and analyzing the fundamental changes that altered Canadian cities in the forties and the fifties.
Sewell, John. The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto’s Sprawl. University of Toronto Press, 2009.
Sewell, an activist, urban affairs columnist, and former Toronto mayor examines the relationship between the development of the suburbs and the policies adopted by Toronto-area governments to show how the suburbs spread, and how they have in turn shaped the city.
Last updated: 14 November 2021.