Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is recognized as one of the best places to live and do business on the east coast. The city’s urban planning showcases the city’s vibrant, diverse, historic, and unique neighborhoods. Urban planning began there in the 19th Century. Urban populations rose drastically, and a host of problems came with it: unsanitary conditions, overcrowding, and corruption of government. Economic depressions promoted a climate of social unrest, violence, labor strikes, and disease (Rose, 1997). In the beginning of the 19th century, development of American cities often took a compact, mixed-use form, reminiscent of that found in places like old town Alexandria. By the early 20th century, the focus was on the geography of water supplies, sewage disposal, and urban transportation (Virginia Places, 2010). This paper will discuss the city’s historical and current sanitation program and housing accommodations for sewage disposal.
Before the 19th Century, sewage disposal was virtually unknown until the first American cities were built around the 1700’s. Human waste was originally disposed of in the woods, but some wealthy Virginians built large houses and used chamber pots to "do their business" indoors, and the contents would be thrown into the back yard. Later, as towns developed, waste was tossed into the streets to decompose or be washed away in the rainstorms (Virginia Places, 2010). Privies or outhouses were also built in back yards and were commonly used to dispose of waste. Toilets, also known as “water closets,” were put into homes in the mid 19th Century in the United States. The water closet had indoor plumbing where piping was run through the roof, and a gravity water system was setup allowing water to flow downhill. Today, “almost everyone uses ceramic toilets, and the waste goes quickly out of sight and out of mind” (Virginia Places, 2010).
The first real sanitation (waste/sewer) system was developed in England. This sewer system was called “water carriage.” This system promised to be the most efficient way to eliminate waste for households (Levy, 2011). The simple invention was a pipe made with a relatively small diameter cut, with a cross section for a sufficient amount of water to flow through making it self-cleansing, which easily could carry away fecal matter (Levy, 2011). This new “water carriage” showed great promise, but the planning would be a challenge for the city to determine where to install sewer lines (Levy, 2011).
In the development of new areas, planning was essential to utilize sewer systems in communities. The community had to be designed in such a way to be adequate for both sewage and storm water drainage (Olmsted, 2009). One of the most well known Architects of the 19th Century was Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted was the leading landscape architect of the post-Civil War generation and has long been acknowledged as the founder of American landscape...