Pennsylvania's Historic Suburbs

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) Bureau for Historic Preservation (BHP) is working to provide a website that chronicles the suburban development history of Pennsylvania. Our objective is to provide information and avenues of research that will help researchers in their efforts to document these resources by providing the following:

  1. Establishment of significant themes and events in the suburban development of Pennsylvania
  2. Identification of property types associated with Pennsylvania's suburban development
  3. Description of architectural styles and character-defining features representative of suburban development in Pennsylvania
  4. Establishment of registration requirements for Pennsylvania's historic suburbs

The BHP has determined that five periods of suburban development took place in Pennsylvania: 19th Century Railroad and Horsecar Suburbs, Late 19th and Early 20th Century Streetcar Suburbs, Early and Mid 20th Century Automobile Suburbs, Postwar Suburbs 1945-1965 and Modern Suburbs 1965-1990. Currently, PHMC is concentrating on Postwar Suburbs and this website will reflect that period of development.

For your convenience and easier navigation of the website, we have included a Site Map:

Research Need Page
Overview of Suburban Development in the United States Developmental History
Attitude of the Times (Postwar) Postwar Suburbs 1945-1965
Transportation, Housing Legislation and Subdivision Design in the United States (Postwar) National Trends
Transportation, Housing and Population Trends, Land Use, Planning, Developers and Builders, and Discrimination (Postwar) Pennsylvania Trends
Research (Postwar) Research Tools- Postwar Suburbs
BHP guidance for determining significance of the common postwar subdivision (Postwar) Guidelines for Developing Postwar Context
Various avenues of research including newspapers, commission, bureau and regulatory records, county and municipal records, and oral history (Postwar) Primary Research
Using aerial photography, historic maps, and datasets to profile statewide, county or municipal suburban development across Pennsylvania (Postwar) Maps
Documentation on postwar resources located in Pennsylvania (Postwar) Historic Resource Survey Forms
Nationwide nominations, surveys, and thematic studies (Postwar) National Register Nominations
Web resources - general (Postwar) Links to Web Resources
Books, dissertations, studies, plans, articles, etc. specific to Pennsylvania and in general (Postwar) Bibliography
Information on house styles and types, subdivision layouts and associated components of subdivisions in Pennsylvania (Postwar) Suburbs Field Guide
Varying Perspectives (Urban Development) Urban Development 1945-1974
National Legislation, Transportation, Planning (Urban Development) National Trends
Urban Renewal; Urban Transportation, Planning & Legislation; Public Housing in Pennsylvania (Urban Development) Pennsylvania Trends


Contact Information

If you have photos or comments you would like to share regarding suburbs in Pennsylvania or more general concerns, please contact:

PHMC, Bureau for Historic Preservation
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, 2nd Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0093
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission website

Comments via email should be directed to Cheryl L. Nagle at or Andrea MacDonald at