In this vivid portrait of life in Chicago in the fifty years after the Civil War, Margaret Garb traces the history of the American celebration of home ownership. As the nation moved from an agrarian to an industrialized urban society, the competing visions of capitalists, reformers, and immigrants turned the urban landscape into a testing ground for American values. Neither a natural progression nor an inevitable outcome, the ideal of home ownership emerged from the struggles of industrializing cities. Garb skillfully narrates these struggles, showing how the American infatuation with home ownership left the nation's cities sharply divided along class and racial lines.
Based on research of real estate markets, housing and health reform, and ordinary homeowners—African American and white, affluent and working class—City of American Dreams provides a richly detailed picture of life in one of America's great urban centers. Garb shows that the pursuit of a single-family house set on a tidy yard, commonly seen as the very essence of the American dream, resulted from clashes of interests and decades of struggle.