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City

City: Urbanism and Its End

DOUGLAS W. RAE
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 544
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1np937
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  • Book Info
    City
    Book Description:

    How did neighborhood groceries, parish halls, factories, and even saloons contribute more to urban vitality than did the fiscal might of postwar urban renewal? With a novelist's eye for telling detail, Douglas Rae depicts the features that contributed most to city life in the early "urbanist" decades of the twentieth century. Rae's subject is New Haven, Connecticut, but the lessons he draws apply to many American cities.

    City: Urbanism and Its Endbegins with a richly textured portrait of New Haven in the early twentieth century, a period of centralized manufacturing, civic vitality, and mixed-use neighborhoods. As social and economic conditions changed, the city confronted its end of urbanism first during the Depression, and then very aggressively during the mayoral reign of Richard C. Lee (1954-70), when New Haven led the nation in urban renewal spending. But government spending has repeatedly failed to restore urban vitality. Rae argues that strategies for the urban future should focus on nurturing the unplanned civic engagements that make mixed-use city life so appealing and so civilized. Cities need not reach their old peaks of population, or look like thriving suburbs, to be once again splendid places for human beings to live and work.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13475-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xx)
  4. CHAPTER 1 CREATIVE DESTRUCTION AND THE AGE OF URBANISM
    (pp. 1-32)

    An old customer ambles into a downtown New Haven shop looking for a small roll of tape, yet leaves with two larger rolls and a heavy-duty dispenser: “Seven dollars’ worth, I give it to you for six.” Joseph Perfetto is still a businessman after seven decades on the job. He needs to be good, because New England Typewriter & Stationery is under water. As we talk, rain drips into a large coffee can on the table between us, the last of a storm ended the night before. Rust on the can’s rim suggests this isn’t its first tour of emergency...

  5. PART ONE URBANISM

    • CHAPTER 2 INDUSTRIAL CONVERGENCE ON A NEW ENGLAND TOWN
      (pp. 35-72)

      Untouched by coal and steam during the first few decades of the nineteenth century, New Haven remained a town of fenced gardens and uncrowded squares.¹ These genteel features are exactly the ones that least anticipate the coming of industrial capitalism. What they did anticipate was the late twentiethcentury suburb, or rather the fantasy such a suburb’s promoters sought to depict for potential buyers. Amos Doolittle’s 1824 “Plan of New Haven” emphasizes the area—a pre-industrial core organized around a seventeenth-century common—that would five decades later become the administrative and commercial center of an industrial city.² Doolittle’s description reads in...

    • CHAPTER 3 FABRIC OF ENTERPRISE
      (pp. 73-112)

      In the era of urbanism, one could very nearly describe the city as a vast network of implicit conspiracies between businesses and their customers. City life was sustained by a layered fabric of business relationships—large firms and small, wholesale and retail, engaged in manufacturing or distribution, providing transportation or accommodation, creating housing or health services or entertainment or any of a hundred other things people will pay for. Businesses which survived for any length of time, came to know their best customers and learned to accommodate their needs. Perhaps the accommodation was nothing more than a cheerful greeting; perhaps...

    • CHAPTER 4 LIVING LOCAL
      (pp. 113-140)

      The urbanist city was full of citizens who were committed to it—by choice, by chance of birth, by economic necessity, or by some combination of these. A salesman or theatrical performer who passes through a city is not its citizen; he is uncommitted, ungrounded—a mere visitor, from whom no particular loyalty should be expected. Here is a test: Does the city he visits have anything to say about who he is? Probably not. A suburban commuter is perhaps considerably more committed, but for her, life and work are things apart. Her identity is perhaps tied to the city,...

    • CHAPTER 5 CIVIC DENSITY
      (pp. 141-182)

      In 1882, Michael Campbell, born in Ireland, achieved the position of assistant foreman in Sargent’s packing department. Having been educated only to age eleven before joining the labor force, Campbell at age twenty-two was the quintessential “joiner”: he took music lessons at the New Haven School of Music, joined the New Haven Gymnasium to “build up his muscles,” attended night school at the YMCA to hear lectures by Yale faculty, debated and listened to orations at the New Haven Literary Association, was secretary of a martial drill team, was active in the local Republican Party, was a member of the...

    • CHAPTER 6 A SIDEWALK REPUBLIC
      (pp. 183-212)

      When Frank Rice emerged as a dark horse among seven GOP hopefuls for the mayoral nomination in September 1909, young John Day Jackson, publisher of theNew Haven Evening Register,must have burned the midnight oil—or ordered someone else in the paper’s Crown Street headquarters to do so. Emerging only on the second ballot of the GOP convention, Rice would appear to have been a total outsider to those who wrote only casually about New Haven politics. When the general election came, Rice squeaked past Democratic incumbent J. B. Martin, 9,707 to 9,301, perhaps aided by 786 votes wasted...

  6. PART TWO END OF URBANISM

    • CHAPTER 7 BUSINESS AND CIVIC EROSION, 1917–1950
      (pp. 215-253)

      In nearly all we know of precapitalist history, the powers of culture, superstition, authority, and organized violence have been marshaled against the threat of innovation. Capitalism, uniquely among historical economic systems, tilts the battle toward the forces of change: from its European beginnings, “liquid capital proved to be a chemical solvent: it cut through the cracked varnish of the medieval town and ate down to the raw wood, showing itself even more ruthless in its clearance of historic institutions and their buildings than the most reckless absolute rulers.”¹ The great urbanizing technologies of the nineteenth century—coal, steam, rail, steel...

    • CHAPTER 8 RACE, PLACE, AND THE EMERGENCE OF SPATIAL HIERARCHY
      (pp. 254-286)

      Until early 1943, a muddy canal near Pike Road, just outside a hamlet called Pantego, had traced the northern rim of Arwildie Windsley’s experience. Never had the name of Frank Rice, or any of the white mayors who came after him, occupied even the smallest place in the young woman’s imagination. The suburban lawns of Racebrook Estates would never be part of her life. Nor would Joe Perfetto and his downtown store matter a whit to this child of the agricultural South. Unknown, cold, and distant, New Haven nevertheless loomed before her as a child’s bad dream. There had been...

    • CHAPTER 9 INVENTING DICK LEE
      (pp. 287-311)

      Richard C. Lee—arguably the greatest mayor of New Haven’s twentieth century—inherited a great deal from the urban past, including a political style as personal as Democratic Town Chairman John Golden’s thick right hand and as local as his mother’s upstairs parlor. Like Golden, Lee is a product of the Irish ascendance in New Haven’s Democratic Town Committee (DTC). In 1922, when Lee was six years of age, one person served his party as “registrar’s assistant” in each of New Haven’s thirty-three wards. These folks were entrusted with the legal alchemy required to “make voters” every day of the...

    • CHAPTER 10 EXTRAORDINARY POLITICS: DICK LEE, URBAN RENEWAL, AND THE END OF URBANISM
      (pp. 312-360)

      By the time he settled into the mayor’s office in the first week of January 1954, Richard Charles Lee knew he was very good at politics. In this, he was a lot like Frank Rice—skilled at cultivating relationships, bringing people together in agreement and leaving them to their own devices when agreement could not be expected. He was, if anything, even better than Rice at regular politics. But there was an important difference: Rice had figured, more or less correctly, that ordinary politics of high quality would get him through his years as mayor. In contrast, Lee knew with...

    • CHAPTER 11 THE END OF URBANISM
      (pp. 361-392)

      The Lee administration had struggled, often valiantly, to retain New Haven’s manufacturing jobs. Some supposed that having the new interstate highways 1-95 (which was originally called the Connecticut Turnpike) and 1-91 meet in the center of New Haven would encourage manufacturers to locate in the city much as the convergence of rail lines had done a century before. They were mistaken: the highways decentralized everything they touched (figure 11.1). New facilities totaling roughly 500,000 square feet were created for Sargent hardware and Gant manufacturing along the Long Wharf landfill in the harbor, snug against 1-95.¹ Subsidies were gathered and disbursed....

    • CHAPTER 12 A CITY AFTER URBANISM
      (pp. 393-432)

      In the years immediately after Dick Lee’s reign, it became apparent that New Haven would not become the slumless city once advertised, that its fabric of enterprise was in tatters, that its industrial might was all but gone, that the vitality of its civic fauna was being supplanted by professionally staffed service organizations, that crime was a growing problem, especially in lower-income neighborhoods, and that the inner city would continue to house the neediest households in the region in wildly disproportionate numbers. The central city had, moreover, become a zone of specialization in services to the poor, to the recently...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 433-476)
  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 477-498)
  9. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 499-502)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 503-516)