Tag Archives: green

Charleston’s Small Streets, Part II

In our last post, we took a stroll down Tradd Street, a leafy small street in Charleston, South Carolina. As small streets go, Tradd was on a wider side at approximately 28 feet. In this post we’ll walk down a much narrower street. See it?


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Longitude Lane was supposedly built on a line of longitude, but it runs east-west, so its true origins are a mystery to me.

Longitude Lane

Yep, it’s got a real street sign and all! You can tell that it was designed to fit a horse and carriage by the brick tread paths.

Longitude Lane

Walk a little further and you find that this small street has houses on both sides! Like Tradd Street, there’s plenty of greenery. Window boxes, planters and palms. This is a very fine-grained urbanism.

What would it be like to walk a city where every street was this narrow?

Charleston’s Small Streets, Part I

Recently, my partner and I took a trip down to the Carolinas. Naturally, we had to visit Historic Charleston while in the area.

There’s an idea out there that Southerners won’t walk around, especially in the 100 degree heat of summer. A day in Charleston proves that plainly false. In most places in the South, the problem is clearly a lack of appealing places to walk and destinations that can be reached by foot. That’s clearly not an issue in Downtown Charleston.

Walking around, we discovered a number of beautiful small streets. The first I’d like to share is Tradd Street, a residential street around 28 feet wide.

The best lesson this street has to teach is that it’s not necessary to put a yard in front of every house in order to have a green street.

Tradd Street

Check out that tree canopy! Nearly stretching the whole width of the street, these trees form the “ceiling” of this outdoor room. Their shade provides much-needed relief to people walking on hot summer days. And yet all the space they consume on the ground is around six square feet.

Tradd Street

You need not live in a tiny house to live on a small street. This house, three bays wide and two stories tall, is approximately 2500 square feet, which is larger than the size of an average house built today in the United States. Its window boxes and balcony soften the edge of the street, making for a more pleasant walk.

Tradd Street

More balconies and planters, and a different view of the tree canopy. The parked cars make for a tight squeeze on one sidewalk, but otherwise they don’t detract significantly from the ambiance of the street.

Tradd Street

It’s clear that the residents of this street care for the place they live. In neighborhoods like this one, there’s a universal ethic that every household should make a contribution to the public realm.

Tradd Street

What a treasure! Again, you don’t need yards and grass to enjoy a green street. And your experience of this natural beauty isn’t limited to looking at it. These are flowers and plants you can touch and smell. Apparently I’m not the only one who admires this house, either. Even the Google Street View camera caught this woman red-handed!


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Historic houses and historic streets like these deserve our love. With a few gestures of our affection, a bright color of paint here and some flowers there, the architecture and urban design reciprocates by continuing to offer us beautiful places to enjoy for generations.

Tradd Street

Small Streets and Single-Family Houses Go Together, Too

Not everyone likes rowhouses, and that’s OK with us. Maybe you love living in a single-family detached house, but love small streets. You look around your environment and fear you’re doomed to live your life on a suburban street that’s far too wide. Well, you’re in luck because small streets and detached houses CAN work together!

Toronto Island

The streets of Ward’s Island, one of the Toronto Islands in Canada, really are this narrow—and this beautiful. More than 200 residences are located on the Toronto Islands, but that’s not nearly enough to meet the demand. According to a 2009 article from the Torontoist, the current wait for a house on the Islands is around 35 years.

It’s our best guess that the actual streets on the Islands are around 8 feet wide, and a little Google Maps measuring indicates that it’s around 30 feet between the houses. That fits our definition for a small street.

Toronto Island

Doesn’t life look peaceful here? Look at all the outdoor furniture. You can tell that people who live here spend a lot of time outside. And this house is at an intersection! Think about how your perception of an intersection would change if there weren’t any cars around, and the streets were scaled for people. You wouldn’t run a red light and crash into a car, you’d run into a friend and start a conversation. 

Toronto Island

People always ask about access for emergency vehicles, especially fire trucks. Emergency access is not a problem for small streets. It’s easy to find simple solutions, like using smaller trucks. That’s exactly what the City of Toronto decided to do. The Mini Pumper is 94 inches wide, which works for the small streets, and it meets National Fire Protection Association standards in the USA.

Toronto Island Fire Truck

Because the Islands’ houses are made of wood, residents take precautions, but they haven’t lost a building on one of the fire truck-accessible islands since 1939. Most urban small streets’ rowhouses are constructed of brick, so the fire dangers there are much lower. Urban small streets in the United States are also substantially wider than the streets of the Toronto Islands, so fire response is even less of an issue in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, or other cities.