Chronicle of an American Suburb

H. James Gilmore, a native of Park Forest, returned home for the 50th anniversary of the pioneering planned community, which was built during the postwar housing shortage on 2,400 acres of former cornfield south of Chicago. His accessible and affectionate 2001 documentary relates how a trio of innovative developers at American Community Builders decided to erect rental town houses around a shopping center, which became both a cash cow for them and a town commons for residents. Over the years Park Forest developed a national profile as a model suburb: sociologist William H. Whyte Jr. focused on the community in his 1956 best-seller The Organization Man, and in 1967 a Look magazine story, “Negro in the Suburbs,” noted its relatively harmonious integration. Gilmore interviews founding residents and old friends, illustrating his narrative with early sales brochures and clips from his father's home movies. The video conveys his mixed feelings about a place so nice that he had to flee it as soon as he finished high school. 57 min.

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