“Little Boxes” – California’s historic Westlake Village

I made a new friend on Flickr recently – Thom Watson, who runs a group for photos from historic Westlake section of Daly City, outside San Francisco. There are so many wonderful postwar communities – which I’ve heard about from retro renovation readers – and I will start posting about them occasionally. This is a great one to start with – the inspiration for Malvina Reynold’s song, “Little Boxes”…which you may also have heard from Pete Seeger.

Rob so very kindly sent me an extra copy of his friend Rob Keil’s book, Little Boxes: The Architecture Of A Classic Midcentury Suburb. I’ve just finished another book – so this is the one I am reading about now, and it looks great. This suburb – and other ones like it — were the story of the 50s…truly fascinating…if there is a big Hollywood producer reading this, there are major motion pictures in these stories, I swear!

Thank you, Thom! And everyone, you of course are invited to buy your own copy of Little Boxes for your midcentury library. I get an itsy bitsy cut of anything sold on Amazon via this site, so buy these items – or any others on your list – here, anytime!

To read a little more about Westlake Village, and also see Thom’s photo pool click here to…:
Rob also runs a great website about Westlake aka Daly City at: dalycityhistory.org/westlake/home.htm

The introduction explains:

The Westlake section of Daly City is a prime example of the postwar American suburb. Attempting to keep pace with the fast-growing population of the Bay Area, developer Henry Doelger, who had built thousands of homes in San Francisco’s Sunset District, purchased a huge tract of land in 1945 just south of the City. His vision for Westlake was a relatively new concept at the time: a pre-planned community where houses would be built along with shopping centers, schools.

  1. Nathan says:

    Hey Pam,
    Wow, I had no idea that this song was about such a cool subdivision. My mom used to sing it to me when I was a little tyke – a memory I will always have. Later as I got older, I realized it was satire of mid century life in suburbia, but to find out now that it was about the very nature of architecture that I dig is amazing. I have a feeling that I’ll be humming this song, with my mom in my ear, for a while!
    BTW, our kitchen remodel is set to start monday……yaya

  2. Laurie says:

    I have seen pictures of this San Fran neighborhood before and I would LOVE to live in one of these. I’d just smile everytime I pulled in the driveway. Someone should really start reproducing these. They’re so much more fun than current suburban neighborhood homes!!

  3. thomwatson says:

    Wow, thanks for the terrific post about Rob’s book, Pam. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. He’s now also finishing up a documentary on the same topic.

    Rob and his wife, Espie, and Jeff and I today went to the Alameda Point Antiques Fair (http://www.antiquesbythebay.net/), which is held the first Sunday of each month. I’d never been before, and it was mind-bogglingly huge, and there was some great stuff. One booth had some really awesome Danish teak furniture in pristine shape.

    I ended up buying an interesting set of Japanese flatware, stainless with black composite material as part of the handle and with starbursts imprinted into the metal (I’ve got a photo of a knife, fork and spoon at http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomwatson/2730663298/ ); some cool starburst cufflinks (I was looking for some great mid-century cufflinks to wear with my tux on our upcoming Alaskan cruise); and a really neat vintage cotton knit shirt (I’ve recently started collecting–and regularly wearing–vintage knit shirts, like Ban-lon, Puritan, etc.). While we won’t be able to make next month’s fair, I think we’ll try to start going regularly after that. And there’s also a great little tiki bar in Alameda, called Forbidden Island, that makes a great post-market stop.

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