Where is Terrace Park?

Anyone who has ever lived in another town, city or suburb knows that there is something unique about Terrace Park I could go on and on with platitudes about “community” and “involvement” but that’s not really it.

Terrace Park is “Somewhere”.

To explain, I will have to mention a book that came out in the 1990’s called “Home from Nowhere”, by architecture critic, James Kunstler. The point of his book is that most of our built environment is unfit for human habitation.

From a review by Publishers Weekly: “in a brilliant critique of the philosophy (or lack thereof) underpinning today’s dismal American cities and isolating suburbs, Kunstler argues that our streets, malls, parks, civic buildings and houses frustrate innate psychological needs, violate human scale and thwart our desire to participate in the larger world.”

Does this sound familiar? When I encountered this book, I was living in the heartless sprawl surrounding the city of Atlanta, Ga. This is a world designed for cars, not people. The dense pattern of highways splits the landscape into islands. Traffic moves at hyper speed, furious and relentless and the roar of the roads never ceases.

Sidewalks? What’s a sidewalk? Who walks? Bikes were out of the question in most places. Children were ferried from house to house in cars, even for trick-or-treating. Playgrounds? You were lucky if there was an indoor playground at the closest fast food restaurant.

Now consider Terrace Park. The roads are as much for bikes and walkers as for cars. Drivers try to be as unobtrusive as possible. (We may grumble about the stop signs but they do make a difference!) Shady trees arch overheard. Houses are a colorful sprinkle of size and shape and history. Some are very old. Families have come and gone and left an ephemeral sense of character behind.

The government building, a repurposed church from the 1890’s with big airy windows and a cobwebby cellar, has a history of its own, so unlike the massive brick behemoths found in other places. Even the main highway, Wooster Pike has been “calmed” and quieted with the addition of median islands and lower speed limits. And, there is a “village green” that actually functions as a village green!

Does the sense of community flow from the environment, or is it the other way around? Perhaps we are drawn to this place because we appreciate these increasingly rare qualities. I can’t say, but I have frequently heard something like this from residents: “As soon as I got here I knew this was where I belonged”.

Even though Terrace Park is not a “planned” community, but evolved over time, the many contributing builders and developers managed to get it right – they created a Somewhere.

(For a thorough and fascinating description of the history of every house and building in Terrace Park, please visit the TP Building Survey, a project of the Terrace Park Women’s Club: tpsurvey.org).