In 1932, Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s greatest architect, unveiled a suburban model town he called Broadacre City. Like many utopian plans, it included everything from monorails (for easy transport) to prefabricated housing (for quick setup and lower costs).
Though no Broadacre City was ever built, in 1947, a disciple of Wright’s founded a planned community in Pleasantville, NY, called Usonia — after Wright’s famous single-story ranch house that was the successor to his earlier Prairie style.
Wright himself designed the street plan of Usonia along with three of the development’s homes, including the mushroom-topped 1948 Sol Friedman house, a circular gem that was recently on the market for $1.5 million.
At least four Usonia homes were for sale this year, the 150th anniversary of Wright’s birth. And though none is publicly listed right now, meaning no obvious path to buy into his futuristic vision, there are plenty of other planned communities in and around New York — from Midtown East’s Tudor City to Jackson Heights in Queens — where city dwellers can embrace utopianism and its harmonious, communitarian principles.
Wright was by no means the first visionary to embrace the idea. In fact, America’s first planned community, Llewellyn Park, debuted 70 years earlier in West Orange, NJ. With homes nestled in a bucolic streetscape sculpted by the country’s preeminent landscape architect, Andrew Jackson Downing, the idea was to build a town only 12 miles from Manhattan where residents would be constantly surrounded by nature.
Since its 1857 founding, Llewellyn Park not only continues to embrace its original aim, but is the direct ancestor of every gated community in the country. (Fun fact: Downing’s assistant, Calvert Vaux, would embrace the same picturesque principles when he co-designed Central Park.)
A number of Llewellyn Park properties are currently on the market, from a four-bedroom Colonial Revival at 59 Glen Ave. for $789,000 to a more modern mansion, a five-bedroom, four-bathroom at 100 Mountain Ave. for $1.49 million. Both are repped by Sam Joseph of Berkshire Hathaway.
Despite its pastoral charms, the allure of living in…