Founding
The idea of Chatham Village came from Charles F. Lewis, director of the Buhl Foundation, which is one of Pittsburgh's leading charitable trusts. Lewis was interested in addressing Pittsburgh's shortage of decent and affordable housing and in demonstrating a solution that was economically viable without government support. He was also committed to developing quality housing and believed that good housing, and strong vibrant communities, were inextricably intertwined.

It was Lewis who had the foresight to hire architects and urban planners Clarence Stein and Henry Wright.
 
The Buhl Foundation stated its objectives for Chatham Village at the ground-breaking ceremony in 1931:
  • To demonstrate the social and economic advantages of a large-scale, planned community of garden homes.
  • To demonstrate the advantages of social and economic security provided through rental—rather than purchase—in a community that is managed from a viewpoint of long-term investment.
  • To demonstrate that is possible to build and operate such a community to yield a moderate but satisfactory investment return. The project is in no sense philanthropic. It is designed to be commercially practical.
  • To develop new ideas and higher standards in house design and large-scale community planning.
  • Particularly, to develop an appreciation for the contributions that competent site planning can make to large-scale hillside development.
Chatham Village: A model for urban planning
Chatham Village began receiving accolades when it was completed in 1932 and 80 years later the praise continues. Year after year architects, urban planners, and students tour Chatham Village to understand how its original planners could have "gotten it so right."
 
Planning Principles - Architects Stein and Wright refined the Garden City ideas initiated by Sir Ebenezer Howard in Great Britain at the turn of the 20th Century and distilled their approach into five basic principles which are easy to recognize at Chatham Village:
  1. "Superblock" - Open green spaces were consolidated within a large parcel for use by the residents and through streets were minimized or eliminated.
  2. Keep roads on the perimeter - Automobile circulation was located on the perimeter and garage courts or compounds were provided for parking cars.
  3. Separate pedestrians and cars - Automobiles were separated from pedestrians, isolating noise and fumes, improving safety for children, and improving the aesthetics of green spaces.
  4. Face houses toward gardens and parks - Houses were oriented "outside in" so living room and master bedroom windows faced the quiet court yards and green spaces instead of the street.
  5. Make parks the backbone - The site plan allows the landscaped green spaces to dominate, rather than streets.
Significant Events and Recognition
1976 - A survey of architects, historians, and critics designates Chatham Village one of the “proudest achievements of American architecture in the past 200 years.”
1956 - Clarence Stein, who with his partner Henry Wright, planned and designed Chatham Village, receives The American Institute of Architects highest honor, the AIA Gold Medal, for his "significant body of work of lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture."
1951 - Clarence S. Stein authors Toward New Towns for America, which includes a chapter
on Chatham Village.
1950 - Lewis Mumford uses the phrase “incomparable Chatham Village” in a New Yorker article.
1940 - Chatham Village is included in the Toledo Museum of Art’s exhibition on modern housing.
1934 - Catherine Bauer, in her book Modern Housing, terms Chatham Village “probably the best example of modern planned housing in the country.”
1898 - The Garden City Movement is conceived in England by Sir Ebenezer Howard. He envisions a style of community having all the advantages of an active town together with the beauty and delight of the countryside as an antidote to the evils of the Industrial Revolution. This movement was the inspiration for Chatham Village as well as for other planned communities.
Charles F. Lewis,
Director of the Buhl Foundation from 1928-1956
 
"A small house must depend on its grouping with other houses for its beauty, and for the preservation of light, air, and the maximum of surrounding open space."
 
- Clarence Stein 
 
Historic Photos: In 1932, Chatham Village was not only a new concept but one of the largest construction projects in Pittsburgh. As pubic interest swelled, people began to take pictures—from ground-breaking though the first public open house in 1932. When residents moved in, the photo documentation continued. 
 
Click here to view our album of historic photos of the Village.