Political Terrain: Washington, D.C., from Tidewater Town to Global Metropolis / Edition 1

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Washington, D.C., President John F. Kennedy once remarked, is a city of "southern efficiency and northern charm." Kennedy's quip was close to the mark. Since its creation two centuries ago, Washington has been a community with multiple personalities. Located on the regional divide between North and South, it has been a tidewater town, a southern city, a coveted prize in fighting between the states, a symbol of a reunited nation, a hub for central government, an extension of the Boston-New York megalopolis, and an international metropolis.
In an exploration of the many identities Washington has taken on over time, Carl Abbott examines the ways in which the city's regional orientation and national symbolism have been interpreted by novelists and business boosters, architects and blues artists, map makers and politicians. Each generation of residents and visitors has redefined Washington, he says, but in ways that have utilized or preserved its past. The nation's capital is a city whose history lives in its neighborhoods, people, and planning, as well as in its monuments and museums.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Beneath the vignettes of visitors and residents lies a solid framework of analysis.

The Journal of American History

[A] fascinating urban history.

Journal of American History

This provocative book does much to complicate our ideas about the city.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

[L]ucid and revealing.

Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

After reading this book, no one will see Washington in quite the same way.

Howard Gillette Jr., George Washington University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807848050
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1999
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Carl Abbott is professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University. His books include The Metropolitan Frontier: Cities in the Modern American West and The New Urban America: Growth and Politics in Sunbelt Cities.

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Table of Contents


Preface Chapter 1. Placing Washington Chapter 2. The Grand Columbian Federal City Transitions. From Town to Metropolis Chapter 3. A Two-Sided Mirror Transitions. Women, Work, and Region Chapter 4. A City of a Novel Type Transitions. Los Angeles on the Potomac Chapter 5. Global Capital Chapter 6. Washington at 2000: Place, Region, Network Notes Essay on Sources Index


City of Washington from beyond the Navy Yard, 1834
General view of Washington, ca. 1840
Robert Weir, The Embarkation of the Pilgrims
John Gadsby Chapman, The Baptism of Pocahontas
High society in Washington Freedmen's memorial to Abraham Lincoln Southern Railway Building, 1910s The Carolina-Washington Connection Women clerks at Treasury Department Mrs. Rev. Stephen Brown and Mrs. Patti Lyle Collins Destroying old greenbacks Arlington Memorial Bridge under construction Pension Building Dulles Airport terminal Chesapeake Bay Bridge


Washington and the zone of regional indifference Colonial culture regions The Northeastern megalopolis in 1960
John Mitchell's map of North America, 1755
National road schemes, 1815-30
Washington City, from Harper's Magazine, 1852
District of Columbia, by J. H. Higginson, 1860
District of Columbia, by J. Melish, ca. 1820-30
Washington as commercial gateway to the South, 1958
Washington in 1893
Problems and potentials for the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers The Monumental Core and Washington's rivers Migration to Washington Chesapeake Crescent


2.1. Slaves and Free Blacks as a Percentage of the Washington City Population, 1800-1860
3.1. Place of Birth of District of Columbia Residents, 1870-1930
3.2. Place of Birth of Washington Business Leaders, 1890-1940
4.1. Washington: Federal Civilian Employment in Relation to Total Employment, 1860-1990
4.2. Washington: Growth of Federal Civilian Employment in Relation to Total Employment, 1861-1990
4.3. The Information Economy in the Ten Largest Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Areas, 1990
5.1. Geographically Identified Names of Washington Businesses and Organizations, 1880-1991
5.2. Metropolitan Area Rankings on International Indicators
6.1. Percentage of All Regional Terms in Names of Washington Businesses and Organizations, 1912-1997

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