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DomoshTOCintro 1996 - IHVEHIEd 011168 The Creation of...

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Unformatted text preview: IHVEHIEd 011168 The Creation of Landscape Yale University Press New Haven and Landau 7m.‘-_..,...hmn ”mquxamfimm —‘_ AdJ—"-_Jm' .42. ..w:._..M_.x_.yT_Mh.:~.H a Mona Domosh in Nineteenth-Century New York II Boston UNIVERSITY OF DKLAHOMA LIBRARIES F g. Copyright © 1996 byYale University. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, including illustrations,in any form (beyond that copying permitted by Sections 107 and 108 of the US. Copyright Law and except by reviewers for the public press), without written permission from the publishers. Designed by Deborah L. Dutton. Printed in Hong Kong. Library of Congress Catalogmg-in-Pnblication Data Domosh, Mona, 195 7— Invented cities : the creation of landscape in nineteenth-century New York and Boston / Mona Domosh. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0400-0623?!) (acid-free paper) 1. City planningsNeWYork (N.Y.)—History—w19th century. 2. City planningfiMassachusetts~Bostoanistory— 19th century. 3. Landscape—New York (N.Y)—I-Iistory—19th century. 4. Landscape— Mnssachusetts—Boston—History— 19th century. I. Title, HT168.N5D66 1995 307‘.1’216'09747109034—dc2 956740 CIP A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. The paper in this book meets the guidelines for permanence and durability of the Committee on Production Guidelines for Book Longevity of the Council on Library Resources. 10987654521 Acknowledgments in introduction 1 1. New iorlr and Boston in the First Hell of the Nineteenth Century 7 2. Greeting New York's Retail District 35 3. Constructing New York’s Sligline 65 4. Developing Boston’s Boole Bag 99 5. Preserving Boston’s Common and Planning its Perk System 127 viii Conclusion 155 Notes 159 / Sourcesfor Illustrations 177 / Index 17.9 Contents - - ._-_.i;u; ‘.-. .'_._... ....... _. . «..s .._.. ... Introduction The built forms of late nineteenthcentury New York City and Boston differed dramat- ically. New York's landscape exemplified the ultimate material expression of a capital- ist city. Its commercial and residential districts were experiencing unlimited expan— sion, both horizontal and vertical, and its mercantile and financial elite class continued a never~ending search for outlets for conspicuous consumption, using their residences and commercial buildings as the most evident forms of display. NeWYork was in many ways What Christine Boyer calls the “quintessential bourgeois society."1 In contrast, Boston’s bourgeois classes fashioned their city and its landscape into a cultural capital and a center of intellectual society. The expansion of commercial districts was limited by certain civic values that were translated into a ban on skyscraper construction and regulations that prevented development of the Boston Common.T he city’s elite class maintained its residential stake near the central business district, and conspicuous 2 Introduction consumption was moderated by standards of good taste. If New York was the quintes— sential bourgeois society, then the social scene in Boston in the late nineteenth cen- tury was characterized by its urban gentry. However, this divergence between New York and Boston was not always so apparent.Throughout the eighteenth century, New York and Boston were economic rivals and followed similar patterns of development in their built form. In the first half of the nineteenth century, when the social and economic structure of each city began to take on distinct characteristics, the middle and upper classes of each city began to use those distinctive characteristics to define themselves, and part of that process was the shaping of the urban landscape. Faced with the massive upheavals characteristic of the Victorian eraM—industr‘ialization, immigration, and spatial expansion—the mid- dle and upper classes of each city attempted to secure for themselves a stable social position and physical location in the city on which they could imprint their own values and aspirations.The cultural landscape of the city became a form of self-representation. This book will describe how the middle and upper classes of Boston and New York inscribed their visions of social order and social Life on the landscapes of their cities in the latter half of the nineteenth century. It tells how people create the worlds they live in and, in so doing, produce visible representations of their individual and group beliefs, values, tensions, and fears.This study also shows how landscape, like other forms of representation, is created within specific economic and social contexts that give it shape and meaning. So, as New York and Boston began to diverge in the nineteenth century, so did their two-dimensional locational patterns and three-dimen- sional architectural forms-.This is not to say that this divergence indicates some essen- tial difference in the functioning of the two cities. Upper-class life in New York and Boston was characterized by a commitment to both commerce and culture. New York’s vision of itself as a city of commerce did not preclude cultural maneuverings. Its skyscrapers were more than economic vessels for capital investment—most Were commissioned by entrepreneurs and carefully designed by architects to represent wealth, prestige, and status. Conversely, Boston’s cultural ambitions as expressed in the formal design of the Back Bay were used to insure investments and make speculative fortunesYet Boston’s Back Bay and New York’s skyscrapers indicate quite different visions of urban life and culture .T hese landscape forms of self-representation were not just artificial creations used for publicity, but were also integral to the social, econom- ic, and spatial structuring of the city. The social behavior determined by the layout of the department store and the architectural style of residences were as much forms of self-representation as were paintings of those houses and stores. In other words, the built environment was used by the controlling classes as forms of personal, group, and civic representations.This book is an attempt to examine the material construction of -_. um; i .wMMWW._-._.M.am.4+hu mmmesmama-‘m ' Fm' ‘4 Introduction 5 each city's landscape as it developed in the mid- to late nineteenth century, and to see those landscapes as forms of representation, as “constructions” of each city’s middle and upper class’s sense of identity. Urban landscapes are created as much out of local social structures and ongoing social and cultural processes as they are out of macroeconomic forces.The symbolic landscapes of nmeteenth-century NewYork and Boston are rooted in and, in turn, rep- resent the complex economic, social, and cultural reaiity that characterized New York and Boston in the latter half of the nineteenth centuryThis comparative study shows that, contrary to many of the assumptions in urban geography, city builders and city buildings in the nineteenth century did not always follow similar paths of develop- merit.2 By comparing the visions and ideologies that guided city builders in NewYork and Boston, I argue that two urban development trajectories, although similar in their broad contours, differed considerably given their distinctive cultural contexts. This project has at its base two conceptual frameworks: an understanding of the interplay between socioeconomic structures and individual actions and intentions; and a critical understanding of the processes that produce built form, including the influence of architects, planners, political systems, and the general aesthetic and cul- tural environment. My analysis, therefore, will require extensive forays into social, eco- nomic, and political history, architecture and architectural history, historical geogra- phy, and urban planningTO understand the cultural contexts in which the landscapes of NewYork and Boston were embedded, I used the tools of economic and social his- torians, examining and interpreting archival material and secondary sources that help explain social structure in general and the intentions and meanings of particular indi- viduals. I followed the cross—sectional approach of urban historical geography, a method that provides consecutive pictures of a landscape at regular time intervals, to clarify data derived from historical atlases and city directories concerning the chang- ing locations of key elements of the landscape. The most challenging methodological issue concerned the interpretation of the relationship between landscape patterns and the contexts from which those patterns derive their meaning. My general method, based loosely on techniques borrowed from art history, is what Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels refer to as iconography.3 A variation of this method, which I have discussed elsewhere, involves interpreting the landscape at several levels, from the individuals directly responsible for its develop-— ment, to the particular social world in which that individual operates, to the general cultural and economic situation that shapes that world.4 If the city can be thought of as a work of art, as Donald Olsen has suggested,then it can also be read as both a prod- uct, a creation of individuals living in a particular time period and place, and as a com mentary on that time and place.5 I will be treating the landscapes of New York and 4 Introduction Boston as both cultural products and cultural commentary, looking to cultural context to understand and explain landscape, and interpreting the landscape to understand and explain cultural context. Robert Darnton, in his collection of essays entitled The Great Catt Massacre, makes sense of documents within the cultural framework of eighteenth-century France by being able to “tease meaning from documents by relating them to the surrounding world of significance, passing from text to context and back again 3’6 The relationship between landscape and the people who inhabit or create that landscape is also one of context and text. A particular type of social structure will provide the contextual clue to understandingfor example,the displays of architecture in Boston’s Back Bay, which is itself the context for understanding Boston’s upper class. Landscape will be treated as both text and context; as both the center of meaning— ful activity and the framework in which such activity occurs. The latter half of the nineteenth century, a time of considerable turmoil in urban America, was, according to one of the most original interpreters of the era, a time when "all that is solid melts into air.”7 Yet only in retrospect do the massive upheavals of the time come into focus; for most people living through those years,the concerns of the imme- diate future blurred a recognition of long-range trends. Thus, I will focus my discussion on the forces of major disruption—immigration, industrialization, and spatial disloca- tion—only as they pertained to and impinged upon people's everyday life and decisions. This study differs from traditional historical geographies in several ways. First, whenever possible, .I will focus on case studies in order to fully explicate the rela- tionship between individuals and the landscapes they createl make no claims to the representativeness of these individual studies—it is impossible to argue that one story can characterize all others.These close analyses illuminate the processes of produc- tion of landscape, revealing a contextual knowledge more specific than one based on generalizations. By centering my analysis on the cultural meaning of landscape, instead of its functional or technological underpinnings, my explanations are site and time specific and therefore not readily applied to other matters. Second, rather than com— paring the cities point by point,1 will be following the general concerns outlined above in my discussions of both cities, focusing on different themes: the most illumi- nating aspects of landscape representation in nineteenth-century NewYork pertain to its displays of wealth in its commercial landscape (retail and financial buildings), whereas Boston's wealth was most evidently displayed in its domestic landscape (parks and residential architecture). Landscapes that were considered the best forms of self-promotion by contemporary observers were the most fertile territory to explore; for example, no contemporary account of New York in the 18805 was com- plete without extolling the wonders of the city’s skyscrapers, just as Boston’s chroni- ciers were sure to dwell on the beauty of the Back Bay. These four landscape repre- a - unewflh'A-Rm-KJ introduction sentations (NewYork’s retail district and commercial skyscrapers,the Boston Common and the Back Bay) frame a comparison of 110w urban visions were translated into urban forms in the latter half of the nineteenth century in New York City and Boston. Third, I make no claims that this study will cover all classes of society. My focus is on the middle and upper classes in each city, which were, in general, empowered to shape the urban 1andscape.This is not to deny that other classes in society had a role in creating their worlds—tlu’ough the efforts of such organizations as labor unions and women‘s community associations, factory workers and clerical workers often shaped their own environments. But I focus on the powerful middle and upper classes precise- ly because the expressions of wealth .and power in the landscape constitute the focal point of this study. Certainly the working classes provided the labor necessary to the wealth accumulation of the upper class, and in this sense they appear in these stories as important yet secondary players in the social and economic context. In addition, although women and gender ideology were certainly involved in the creation of nine~ teenth—century landscapes, I have only emphasized their role in my analysis of the cre- ation of New York's retail district, since in this case gender ideology was integral to my interpretation of the origins of modern consumer districts. Because nineteenth-century gender ideology was used to legitimize consumption, women and the qualities they were thought to embody played significant roles in shaping the retail landscape. My explanation of the differences in the retail districts in New York and Boston requires an understanding of how nineteenth—century gender ideology was articulated and deployed within those differing socioeconomic structures. Because the intent of this book is not to examine women in the city, but to explore how particular social structures and ide- ologies shape the urban landscape, gender ideology was considered only when it was an important factor in guiding development of two such different built environments. Numerous studies have suggested that work on the built environment must incorporate an understanding of the individuals who shape that environment and the socioeconomic context in which those individual decisions are made.8 This type of work has been referred to as “new” cultural geography because it adds to the tradi- tional landscape theme a concern for social, economic, and cultural context and theo- ry.9 However, relatively few empirical studies attempt such an interpretation of land" scape.10 Within the American context, studies of the relationship among economy, society, and urban form have been limited to the contemporary landscape, or to a single building type. Few scholars have attempted detailed studies of the history of American urban form in its relationship to societal structure. Much of the work that relates the built form of nineteenth-century American cities to a broader context has focused on the material expressions .of major economic transformations.” These studies provide a good base for understanding the general form of Boston and New t. E. :;*5.'1§*—-§ Ali‘is'éfi" 5' ‘ ‘ '- ' '5' 47-. .\.r ,nmia'; ..icumm-..mum Introduction evolution of central business districts but festations of those districts, not the architectural fO' two types: surveys of buildings that are of architectural mei- it in each city, and thematic analyses of particu— lar buildings, types of regions, or time periods.16 The surveys, useful sources of data, do not provide a comprehensive picture of a city because they only focus on the parts of the built form that are of architectural interest. The thematic works offer a better picture of portions of the architectural fabric of the city, but they fail to link their spe- arts of the building pattern. In addition, few of these studies ' ' - " .77.,-'..".-=,;:>_-5, a j “walriu, 1 ,m, Aimkmfln, AA ,, ! ! . ! i i t ! l l a Notes lultodurllon .l. M. Christine Boyer,Minabrtttcm Mmmerr:Architecture and SUM. 1850—1900(51er York: Rizzoli. 1985). l. 2. Embedded in most theoretical constructs of urban geogmphy is an assumption that cities generally follow similar courses of spatial expansion coincident with stages of economic development. See, for exampleJames F.Vance.jr.. The Continuing Cir)- (Baltimorezjohns Hopkins University Press. 1990.): Harold Gotten/1n Introduction. to Urban Historical Geography (London: Edward Arnold, 1989); MilUl‘iL‘C‘ Yeates and Barry Garner. The NormAmerican City (New York: Harper and Row. 1976). 5. Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels. edit. The [cartography of Landscape (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1988). 4. Mona Domosh.“A Method for Interpretlng LandscapezA Case Study 01' the New York World Building." Area 210989)?)111553. 5. Donald J. Olsen, The City as .a Work afArr (New H;wen:‘{alc University Press‘ 1986). 160 Notes to pages (HS 6. Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre and Other 51) York:Vintage Books. 1985), 6. 7. Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air (New York: Simon 8. See John Agnew. John Mercer, and David Sopher, eds, The City in Cultural Context (Bost0n1Allen and Unwin, 1984); Marwyn Samuels,“The Biography of Landscape,” in 1' he interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes, ed. 11W. Meinig (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979); Anthony D. King, ed., Buildings and Society (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980);.Iohn A.Agnew and James 8. Duncan, eds, The Power of Place: Bringing Together Geographical and Sociological Imaginations (Boston; Unwin Hyman, 1989). 9. Denis C05grove and Peter Jackson,“New Directions in Cultural Geography,"Area 19 (1987): 95~101; Denis Cosgrove,“A Terrain of Metaphor: Cultural Geography 19884989." 15 (1989): 566—575. 10. For exceptions, see James Duncan, The Ci isoa’es in French Cultural History: (New turd Schuster, 1982). Progress in Han-nan Geography ty as Text (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels, eds, The lconography of Landscape (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Kay Anderson and Faye Gale, eds, inventing Places: salaries in Cultural Geography (Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1992);)ames Duncan and David Ley, eds, Pott'eiVCniture/Representation (London: Routledge, 1993). 11. Richard Walker,“The Transibrmation of Urban Structure in the Nineteenth Century and the Beginnings of Suburhanization,” in Urbanization and Conflict in Market Societies, ed. Kevin Cox (ChicagorMaroufii Press, 1978); David Gordon, “Capitalist Development and the History of American Cities,”in Marxism and the Metropolis, ed.William Tabb and Larry SaWer (NewYorlc Oxford University Press, 1984). 12. See, for example, Raymond Murphy and James E.Vai'ice,jr.,“Delimiting the CBD,"Econonttc Geography 3 0 (1 9 54): 189—222; and Martyn J. Bowden, “Downtown Through Time: Delineation, Expansion, and Internal Growth," Economic Geography 47 (1971): 121—134. 13. See, for example, David Ward,Cih'es anti Immigrants (NewYork: Oxford University Press, 1971), and Sam Bass Warner, Streetcar Suburbs (New York:Atheneum, 1976). 14. Michael Conzen,“The Maturing Urban System in the United States, 1840—1910,”Annais oflhe Association ofArnerican Geographers 67 (1977): 88—108; David Meyer, “Emer...
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