APRIL 17, 1939
SEATTLE, Sunday—Friday morning I saw a most unique method of experimentation in building. In a loft in Washington, D.C., the United States Housing Authority has set up a life size model of a small house with walls that can be pushed out in every direction. You can experiment with a larger living room, a larger kitchen or a larger bedroom and move all your furniture around to see how it best fits in all the different rooms.
The more I visit housing projects, the more I am impressed by the fact that housing is not just a question of improving an economic situation, by starting the wheels of certain industries turning again. It is not just a question of giving people better shelter for less money than they ever paid in rent before. Much more than this is involved in thinking and planning how best to arrange a house. The aim is to encourage certain habits and situations by making it easy to live according to certain standards set up in the home environment.
For instance, what difference does it make whether the kitchen is big enough to hold a table around which all the family can sit down together for a meal? I have seen children who never sat down with their parents for a meal, who simply snatched handsful of food from a dish set out on the table. That food became something necessary for existence, but never an opportunity for social intercourse and education. This is the reason why planning a house has social implications.
Is it better to plan for a small kitchen and dining room and living room combined for families of certain sizes? This is not just a question of personal preference, but it is important because of the atmosphere it will create for the family life of the family. I know one family of eleven children, where the father made the long, narrow dining table. It takes up one corner of the living room with benches on either side. There they eat together, but on a rainy day you may find half the family using the table, some for a game, some for study, some for a particular hobby. You may find the table used as a sewing table for cutting patterns or, when young guests come in, games are played around it. It has become the center of the family life.
Housing is not just a question of bricks and mortar or wood and stone. It goes far deeper into the life of the people.
In the afternoon, I went with the President to Mt. Vernon to the celebration of Washington's notification. Now the re-enactment of his journey to New York City to take over the arduous duties of the Presidency has begun. It will be done partly by coach and then the actual ceremony of taking the oath of office will be gone through. These dramatizations of the past are very interesting, I think.
I flew up to New York late on Friday, had a very busy day Saturday, until I flew out again on my way to Seattle.