The changing contours of a classic American city
The Evolution of an American Urban Landscape
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St. Louis's story stands for the story of all those cities whose ambitions and civic self-image, forged from the growth of the mercantile and industrial eras, have been dramatically altered over time. More dramatically, perhaps, than mostbut in a manner shared by allSt. Louis's changing economic base, shifting population, and altered landscape have forced scholars, policymakers, and residents alike to acknowledge the transiency of what once seemed inexorable metropolitan trends: concentration, growth, accumulated wealth, and generally improved well-being.
In this book, Eric Sandweiss scrutinizes the everyday landscapestreets, houses, neighborhoods, and public buildingsas it evolved in a classic American city. Bringing to life the spaces that most of us pass without noticing, he reveals how the processes of dividing, trading, improving, and dwelling upon land are acts that reflect and shape social relations. From its origins as a French colonial settlement in the eighteenth century to the present day, St. Louis offers a story not just about how our past is diagramed in brick and asphalt, but also about the American city's continuing viability as a place where the balance of individual rights and collective responsibilities can be debated, demonstrated, and adjusted for generations to come.
"Sandweiss deftly shows his readers how and why 'form' followed a wide range of functionseconomic, political, and socialin St. Louis. [The book] offers a rich and satisfactory account of how city neighborhoods, and especially working-class neighborhoods, were built in the nineteenth century and what happened to them in the twentieth. Sandweiss makes a vital and original contribution to the history of the built environment and does so with unusual acuity, wit, and sympathy."
"In this superbly researched and carefully argued study, Eric Sandweiss presents the hidden history of spatial separation and social inequality in cities like St. Louis. Sandweiss shows how seemingly small decisions about ordinary aspects of urban lifelike the placement of porches in the front or the back of buildings and the purchase of pavement from private or public fundsactivate enduring and seeming irresolvable tensions in urban life. By showing how an unending capacity for change in urban areas frustrates abstract invocations of the common good as articulated by urban planners, Sandweiss directs our attention to more modestbut also more practicalplans for resolving conflicts between the interests of the 'fenced-off corners' of our cities and the needs of the 'wider setting.'"
"Sandweiss engages with an impressive range of sources to tell this story of people's lived experiences and urban imaginations....St. Louis demonstrates how we can think deeply about the spatial dimensions of city life and urban development."
"Eric Sandweiss has written a history of city building in St. Louis from the political economy of land to the arrangement of rooms in apartments. Its ambitious chronology starts from the city's foundation in 1764 and extends more or less to the present, but the book focuses on the years 1850 to 1910, when most of St. Louis was built.... In order to examine interrelations among a variety of scalescity, neighborhood, block, house, and roomSandweiss looks in detail at South St. Louis and in even greater detail at several case study blocks."
"In his well-researched account, Sandweiss uses archival sources, public documents, contemporary newspapers, and a wide variety of secondary materials. St. Louis: The Evolution of an American Urban Landscape is a thoughtful and provocative book that affords a new way of looking at the interaction between neighborhoods and city hall. Of special value is the linking of urban and suburban subdivisions. Sandweiss's work is an important addition to the challenging social urban history."
"As the director of research at the Missouri Historical Society and a well-versed urban historian, [Sandweiss] is in a position to tell us a great deal. And he does."
"...tells us that planners, developers, and residents alike need to be more flexible and try to create a multi-dimensional urban environment for everyone."
"...Sandweiss's argument is powerful and persuasive. St. Louis: The Evolution of an American Urban Landscape is now required reading for anyone with an interest in St. Louis or the trans-Mississippi urban West. Moreover, as its subtitle hints, the book stands as a major contribution to the study of the American built environment. Indeed, this is among the most thoroughly researched and engaging studies of the city-building process since the publication of Sam Bass Warner's The Private City."
List of Illustrations
Part I: Laying the Groundwork
Part II: Building the Fenced-Off Corners
Part III: Conceiving the Wider Setting
8. Epilogue: Rethinking the Contours of Community in the Declining City, 1950 to the Present
In the series
Critical Perspectives on the Past, edited by Susan Porter Benson, Stephen Brier, and Roy Rosenzweig, is concerned with the traditional and nontraditional ways in which historical ideas are formed. In its attentiveness to issues of race, class, and gender and to the role of human agency in shaping events, the series is as critical of traditional historical method as content. Emphasizing that history is itself an interpretation of material events, the series demonstrates that the historian's choices of subject, narrative technique, and documentation are politically as well as intellectually constructed.