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Urban Villagers By Herbert J. Gans Essay, Research Paper

Urban Renewal in Boston

the West End and Government Center

Boston & # 8217 ; s West End is the most good documented vicinity destroyed by urban & # 8220 ; reclamation, & # 8221 ; made celebrated ab initio by Herbert Gans & # 8217 ; s book, The Urban Villagers, 1962. Although about 63 per centum of the households displaced by urban reclamations were Afro-american or Latino, this Boston community was chiefly inhabited by working category Italians. It was a small piece of Italy, with narrow weaving streets alive with urban societal life. Too crowded and unAmerican for the in-between category gustatory sensations of City contrivers, it fell to the bulldozer in 1959 and was replaced by high rise, expensive flat edifices.

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It is hard for me to insulate the impact of *URBAN VILLAGERS* . In

my experience it was but one part to turning unfavorable judgment of urban

reclamation in the early 1960s and, with that, the physical orientation of

urban planning that urban reclamation represented. Shortly after it was

published I was both a authorship my thesis in urban geographics at

Clark University and a undertaking manager in urban reclamation, so I

witnessed the impact in both urban reclamation planning circles and in the

more academic sphere. It was portion of the membranophone of unfavorable judgment that led to

the 1966 Model Cities Act and the redefinition of urban reclamation and

rethinking of the field of urban planning.

I think the impact of the *URBAN VILLAGERS* might best evaluated as

portion of a creeping bombardment of critical authorship led off by Jacobs and

*Death and Life. . . * in 1961. *Urban Villagers* was published in

& # 8216 ; 63 and Martin Anderson weighed in from the right in & # 8216 ; 64 with *The Federal

Bulldozer* . At the same clip contrivers such as Paul Davidoff ( & # 8221 ; Advocacy

and Pluralism in Planning & # 8221 ; JAIP, 1965 ) were mounting a review within

the field of planning. ( Jay Stein & # 8217 ; s *Classic Readings in Urban

Planning* 1995 includes some authorship from this period. ) In 1965,

The National Council of Mayors published *With Heritage So Rich* which

documented the devastation of historic edifices caused by urban reclamation

and served as the authorization

for the National Historic Preservation Act of

1966. Although non concerned with urban reclamation straight, Blake & # 8217 ; s

*God & # 8217 ; s Own Junkyard* ( 1964 ) was a popular and diagrammatically collaring

intervention of the trashing of the built environment. My ain memory is

that so much was being written that we were reacting to the larger

tendency more than to specific books.

At the same clip the Federal urban reclamation plan was seeking to travel

off from the great accent on renovation by destruction with the

induction of the Community Renewal Program ( CRP ) in 1959, which was

more vicinity and socially oriented. And the concluding component I will

throw in this fret is the Highway Act of 1962 which started the

metropolitan transit surveies, the end of which was to convey the

interstate system to metropoliss. Many metropoliss such as Hartford tried to

organize the urban interstate system with urban reclamation ; elsewhere

the transit planning of the province and the local urban reclamation

planning was non good coordinated.

I would state, talking from being in the trenches at that clip, that the

*Urban Villagers* did non hold a large direct impact on urban reclamation in

metropoliss but, along with others, laid the basis for altering

plans and pattern. Urban reclamation was a steamroller, and work such as

Gans and others may hold intensified urban reclamation as its adocates and

protagonists sensed they had a limited clip to acquire their work done. The

value of Gans & # 8217 ; book was that it moved some of Jacobs & # 8217 ; generalisations

into a specific vicinity and cultural context that could be related

to other countries. To those of us working in Massachusetts who knew the

history of the BRA and the North End, it was a peculiarly scathing


I hope this aid. I would be really interested in what you find because

I think the *Urban Villagers* has become as of import for its symbolism

as for its penetrations into community.

David L. Ames

Professor of Urban Affairs and Geography

University of Delaware


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