The Good Life in Shaker Heights

In the March 1963 edition of Cosmopolitan, a feature article titled "The Good Life in Shaker Heights" declared the spotlighted residential community to be the closest thing to a utopian society as could be found anywhere in the U.S. Using the most recent Bureau of the Census figures as evidence, the author portrayed the suburb as both an idyllic society and the new demographic face of prosperity in the United States. While the Cleveland suburb seemed an unlikely candidate for this distinction, it was statistically the wealthiest community in the country.

The appeal of Shaker Heights, however, spoke to something larger. Life in the suburb reflected and embodied a pervasive conservatism that characterized 1950s culture. Shaker Heights was not an emerging city. The homes were not modern. There were few large estates with multimillion dollar mansions, and the city lacked a night life, celebrities, and cultural institutions. Displays of extreme excess were frowned upon, and a very suburban-esque semblance of uniformity permeated the affluent community. Churches, country clubs, and schools acted as the centers of the community. The streets were quiet. There were no slums. Consumerism flourished, and the troubles of unemployment and crime were virtually nonexistent. Even the problems associated with race relations that had become increasingly pronounced over the prior decade seemed to have passed the utopian city by. Within this context, the designation of Shaker Heights as the wealthiest community in the United States reaffirmed the ideals associated with both suburban living and the American dream.