Downtown America A History of the Place and the People Who Made It

ISBN-10: 0226385086

ISBN-13: 9780226385082

Edition: 2004

Authors: Alison Isenberg

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Downtown America was once the vibrant urban center romanticized in the Petula Clark song--a place where the lights were brighter, where people went to spend their money and forget their worries. But in the second half of the twentieth century, "downtown" became a shadow of its former self, succumbing to economic competition and commercial decline. And the death of Main Streets across the country came to be seen as sadly inexorable, like the passing of an aged loved one. "Downtown America" cuts beneath the archetypal story of downtown's rise and fall and offers a dynamic new story of urban development in the United States. Moving beyond conventional narratives, Alison Isenberg shows that downtown's trajectory was not dictated by inevitable free market forces or natural life-and-death cycles. Instead, it was the product of human actors--the contested creation of retailers, developers, government leaders, architects, and planners, as well as political activists, consumers, civic clubs, real estate appraisers, even postcard artists. Throughout the twentieth century, conflicts over downtown's mundane conditions--what it should look like and who should walk its streets--pointed to fundamental disagreements over American values. Isenberg reveals how the innovative efforts of these participants infused Main Street with its resonant symbolism, while still accounting for pervasive uncertainty and fears of decline. Readers of this work will find anything but a story of inevitability. Even some of the downtown's darkest moments--the Great Depression's collapse in land values, the rioting and looting of the 1960s, or abandonment and vacancy during the 1970s--illuminate how core culturalvalues have animated and intertwined with economic investment to reinvent the physical form and social experiences of urban commerce. Downtown America--its empty stores, revitalized marketplaces, and romanticized past--will never look quite the same again. A book that does away with our most cliched approaches to urban studies, "Downtown America" will appeal to readers interested in the history of the United States and the mythology surrounding its most cherished institutions. A "Choice" Oustanding Academic Title. Winner of the 2005 Ellis W. Hawley Prize from the Organization of American Historians. Winner of the 2005 Lewis Mumford Prize for Best Book in American Planning History. Winner of the 2005 Historic Preservation Book Price from the University of Mary Washington Center for Historic Preservation. Named 2005 Honor Book from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.
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Book details

List price: $32.00
Copyright year: 2004
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 6/10/2005
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 464
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.00" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.628
Language: English

List of Illustrations
Introduction Beyond Decline: Assessing the Values of Urban Commercial Life in the Twentieth Century
City Beautiful or Beautiful Mess? The Gendered Origins of a Civic Ideal
Fixing an Image of Commercial Dignity: Postcards and the Business of Planning Main Street
""Mrs. Consumer,"" ""Mrs. Brown America,"" and ""Mr. Chain Store Man"": Economic Woman and the Laws of Retail
Main Street's Interior Frontier: Innovation amid Depression and War
""The Demolition of Our O
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