Edward Norton, known for his roles in movies like “Birdman” and “The Incredible Hulk,” has a second claim to fame: He’s the grandson of Columbia’s visionary founder.
Norton, now 47, lived in Columbia from age 2 until he graduated from Yale University in 1991. He attended public schools, graduating from Wilde Lake High, and socialized “with kids who were very diverse in every socio-economic sense.”
“A lot of my memories of youth were of going off on bikes with my friends, always with a strong sense of where we were and how the neighborhoods were organized around the village centers,” Norton says.
It wasn’t until much later in life, as a pilot flying over the country looking down at tract developments, that he realized how “ill-conceived so much suburban development is.”
“I hope Columbia retains its spirit of community,” he says. “It had an intense sense of that in the ’70s and ’80s because it was much more progressive.”
His grandfather conceived the integrated city during the height of the civil rights movement, just ahead of legislation that made housing discrimination illegal.
Norton called Columbia “a truly pioneering and brave vision” and says community was at the heart of everything his grandfather aspired to.
“People think he was trying to engineer a city, but he really believed that cities were for engineering people and helping them dream bigger and be better,” he says.