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In the first section, Campanella chronicles the problematic founding of the city. Early European settlers struggled against malarial mosquitoes and hostile swampland as they sought to establish a commercial post near the mouth of the Mississippi. Sites as far away as present-day Natchez were attempted before New Orleans took root in its permanent location.
Next, Campanella examines the precarious topography that formed New Orleans and inspired its nickname, the Crescent City. Situated between the imposing Lake Pontchartrain and a curve in the mighty Mississippi River, the early city clung to a narrow crest of higher ground. As New Orleans expanded, developers were forced to reclaim usable land from both the river and the swamp. The city's high water table and below-sea-level situation resulted in not only basement-less homes, but also in the great levees and complex drainage systems. These bold structures, advanced feats of engineering genius when they were constructed, still protect New Orleans today.
In his final chapter, Campanella takes a unique approach and explains how the city's geography informed its culture. He explores the cultural elements that defined the New Orleans cityscape, discussing paths, edges, districts, nodes, and landmarks. The influence of the city's location on its development is everywhere, from the maze of its old-fashioned street pattern to the shifting importance of its dominant industrial centers.
By focusing on the geographical history, Richard Campanella has written a history of New Orleans like no other. A valuable case study for civil engineers and city planners, Time and Place in New Orleans is also an innovative and readable history, sure to interest anyone fascinated by the Crescent City.
Richard Campanella is the assistant director of environmental analysis at the Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane and Xavier Universities. His first book, coauthored with his wife, Marina, was New Orleans Then and Now, also available from Pelican. The New Orleans Times-Picayune selected it as one of the best local books of 1999.
Praise for New Orleans Then and Now:
"A splendidly researched example of the evolution of an American city."
--The Bloomsbury Review
"The Campanellas seemed to have turned over every stone, reached into every cranny to turn up historical minutiae on their subject. . . . The logistics of the Campanellas' task are almost mind-blowing. . . . [New Orleans Then and Now] is a fascinating tour from faubourg to river, from canal to lake."
--Hammond Daily Star
"A detailed study in architectural contrast and urban change . . . a thorough history of the city's development."
--AB Bookman's Weekly
"An important and well-researched book . . . an excellent introduction . . . a wealth of informative text and images . . . New Orleans Then and Now is a must for local history buffs and preservationists."
--New Orleans Times-Picayune
"A photo album as unique as its subject . . . a photographic documentation of a century and a half of changes in New Orleans . . . painstakingly photographed."
"An almost block-by-block comparison of the city . . . gives an interesting view of history, urbanism, and preservation (or lack thereof)."
--Society of Architectural Historians--Southern California Chapter
"Magnificently illustrated . . . [New Orleans Then and Now] is highly recommended for students of architecture, history, urban development and historic preservation."
--The Midwest Book Review