The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940 / Edition 2

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Winner of the Spiro Kostof Award of the Society of Architectural Historians

Offering a new vision of the creation of the American city, Max Page looks at the infamously transitory nature of New York City and argues that the early twentieth-century city was dominated by the politics of destruction and rebuilding that became the hallmark of modern urbanism.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1904, Henry James noted that New York was "crowned not only with no history, but with no credible possibility of time for history." The image of Manhattan as an urban center so much on the move that it exists only in the present and future has become enshrined in the popular imagination. In eight engrossing, interconnected essays, Page, who teaches history at Yale, traces Manhattan's constant reinvention, often at the expense of preserving a concrete past. Describing this process as "creative destruction"--a phrase first used by economist Joseph Schumpeter to characterize the process of capitalism--Page delineates the complex historical circumstances, economics, social conditions and personalities that have produced crucial changes in Manhattan's cityscape. Focusing on specific events and projects--including the evolution of Fifth Avenue as an elite residential and commercial boulevard between 1824 and 1924; the destruction of Mulberry Bend, "the wickedest of American slums," in the late 1880s; and the constant battle to promote the planting and growth of trees on the island--Page's study teases out such important issues as how social class has been defined in the city and the conflict between nature and urbanization. Carefully setting his miniature portraits of Manhattan history within a vivid panorama, Page raises pivotal questions concerning the role of cities in shaping the framework of everyday life and the broader sweep of history and nationhood. (Dec.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Within the framework of the transitory character of New York City, Page (history, Yale) argues that the early 20th-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 between stability and change, market forces and planning controls that are at the heart of urban life. Page investigates these cultural counterweights with case studies of Manhattan's development, ranging from private real estate development along Fifth Avenue and early slum clearance efforts on the Lower East Side. A central question is the role of the past in the shaping of collective memory. Clearly written and well illustrated, this work is recommended for New York City collections of academic libraries and urban studies collections.--Harry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll., New York Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Mike Wallace
Max Page's book is a stimulating, if not always convincing, effort to explore what he describes as the "tension between creative possibilities and destructive effects" in the years between 1900 and 1940.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226644691
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Series: Historical Studies of Urban America Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 317
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Max Page teaches history at Yale University.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Real Estate Development Along the "Spine of Gotham"
The "Via Appia of Opulence": Sources of Fifth Avenue's Development
"A Compelling Force": The Speculative Market in Space
Real Estate Stories
Protecting Property
Commerce without Commercialism: The Fifth Avenue Association and the "Conservation of the Avenue
Zoning the Avenue, Zoning New York
Conclusion: The Progress of Preservation
The Rise of Slum Clearance as Housing Reform
Jacob Riis and the "Leprous Houses" of Mulberry Bend
"New York's Real Napoleon III"
Decongestant: Embracing Slum Clearance in the 1920s and 1930s
Conclusion: "Cataclysmic" Reform
Historic Preservation and the Valuing of Space
"Sacred Stones": Early Preservation in New York
St. John's Chapel
"Life Thread" of the City
Inventing and Displaying the Past at the Museum of the City of New York
New York's "Attic"
A "Visualized Biography"
Collecting and Selling a City
Conclusion: "New York's Memory"
Toward a Treeless New York
Natural New York
"A Bit of God's Country": Central Park Tree Battles
Tree Culture: The Decline and Rebirth of Street Trees
The Spirits of the Trees
I. N. Phelps Stokes and the Iconography of Manhattan Island
"Speaking of Old New York..."
Remembrance of Things New York: Producing the Iconography
Frozen City: Photography and Memory in the Iconography
Acquiring New York
A "Chaos of Memories"

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2000

    For ALL of us living in fast-changing places

    I took two stories from Creative Destruction. As a native New Yorker, I found this book a wonderful and thorough analysis of major and minor events that changed New York. These events are not simplified; Max Page tells a story that includes the conflicts and interdependency of commerce, preservation, and progress. As a San Franciscan watching my newly-adopted city go through dramatic changes, I am given guidance and insight into the effects of such turbulence. Max Page helps me identify shortsighted actions as well as deal with inevitability. At the very least, I am more aware; at best, I am a better citizen. For ALL of us living in urban areas going through fast changes, Creative Destruction is great reading.

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