The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940
ISBN 13: 9780226644684
Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
Publication Date: 2000
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"It'll be a great place if they ever finish it," O. Henry wrote about New York City. This laconic remark captures the relentlessly transitory character of New York, and it points toward Max Page's synthetic perspective. Against the prevailing motif of a naturally expanding metropolis, Page argues that the early-twentieth-century city was dominated by the politics of destruction and rebuilding that became the hallmark of modern urbanism.
The oxymoron "creative destruction" suggests the tensions that are at the heart of urban life: between stability and change, between particular places and undifferentiated spaces, between market forces and planning controls, and between the "natural" and "unnatural" in city growth. Page investigates these cultural counterweights through case studies of Manhattan's development, with depictions ranging from private real estate development along Fifth Avenue to Jacob Riis's slum clearance efforts on the Lower East Side, from the elimination of street trees to the efforts to save City Hall from demolition.
In these examples some New Yorkers celebrate planning by destruction or marvel at the domestication of the natural environment, while others decry the devastation of their homes and lament the passing of the city's architectural heritage. A central question in each case is the role of the past in the shaping of collective memory--which buildings are preserved? which trees are cut down? which fragments are enshrined in museums? Contrary to the popular sense of New York as an ahistorical city, the past--as recalled by powerful citizens--was, in fact, at the heart of defining how the city would be built. Beautifully illustrated and written in clear, engaging prose, THE CREATIVE DESTRUCTION OF MANHATTAN offers a new way of viewing the development of the American city.
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