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

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Against the dominant 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 counter weights 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. 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.
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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
  • Sales rank: 1,373,290
  • 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
1 The Provisional City 1
2 Fifth Avenue's "Restless Renewals": Real Estate Development along the "Spine of Gotham" 21
3 The Foul Core of New York: The Rise of Slum Clearance as Housing Reform 69
4 Priceless: Historic Preservation and the Valuing of Space 111
5 "A Vanished City is Restored": Inventing and Displaying the Past at the Museum of the City of New York 145
6 Uses of the Axe: Toward a Treeless New York 177
7 Pro Urbis Amore: I. N. Phelps Stokes and the Iconography of Manhattan Island 217
8 Landscapes of Memory and Amnesia 251
Notes 261
Index 299
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