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The paradox of the anti-urban origins of the American city

The Urban Idea in Colonial America

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Sylvia Doughty Fries

This book focuses on the paradox of the anti-urban origins of the American city. In her introduction in itself an important synthesis of previous scholarship—Professor Fries surveys the history of the ideas of the city which America's founders brought with them. Ideally, they saw the city in two complementary roles; as a political power center and as an embodiment of cultural aspirations and achievements. However, they were also affected by their experience in real cities and planned their living and communal space in ways that would avoid congestion and commercialism. Ultimately, they envisioned the city as a center for a landed gentry practicing the eighteenth-century virtues of urbane, cultivated life in a rural setting.

The chapters consider the goals and expectations accompanying the establishment of five colonial cities: Boston, New Haven, Philadelphia, Williamsburg, and Savannah. Each city was planned in physical appearance and social organization before it was settled, and each plan underwent radical changes. The chapters compare these design concepts, the city plans, and the forms the cities actually took.

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Urban Studies

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