Public Spaces in the City

Before the mid-nineteenth century cities were not organized, they were not built with a pre-made plan, but built on the fly. By the mid-nineteenth century reformers, planners, architects, and others began to call for a more organized construction, which led to conciously developed public spaces, the most important of which being great urban parks to provide distraction from the city congestion.
_Frederick Law Olmstead, Calvert Vaux - Landscape designers who joined together in the late 1950's to design New York's Central Park. They purposefully designed the park to look as little like a city as possible. It was from the beginning one of the most popular and admired public spaces in the world, intricately designed to look as natural as possible. Olmstead and Vaux gained such renown they were hired to create similar parks in Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington D.C..

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Olmstead and Vaux's popular Central Park located in New York City, New York.

City Beautification

_ The wealthy people of cities gave massive gifts of funding to create libraries, art galleries, music halls, theaters, museums to provide leisurely distractions from their lives and to acquire social distinction. Despite the selfish nature of the gifts, the end result benefitted the cities as wholes.

Another method that helped make cities more illustrious began, or was atleast showcased, in the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Columbia. The old, grungy neighborhoods were torn down to create monumental avenues.


Housing for the Urban Poor . . . . What My Project is Actually Supposed to be About.


The poor of the city could not afford houses in the city or in it's suburbs. They were forced to rent the smallest apartments possible, because selfish landlords tried to maxamize occupancy levels. They apartments were complete and utter disasters, the landlords were cheapskates and left their wares to rot with no upgrades or fixes over time. In different cities the poor lived in different areas, in New York, the areas were called 'tenements.' Tenements, by the end of the 1800's described the slums, the windowless, plumbing and central heat lacking living spaces.
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One of the tenements described by Jacob Riis.
It was prone to fires and diseas spread rampantly. Due to the horrible conditions, congress passed a law requiring all apartment to have atleast one window, which was accomodated by some landlords by placing a shaft in each room. The terrible comditions of the tenements promtped reform movements such as the settlement house movement, the most prominent of which being the Chicago Hull house under the care of Jane Addams, a wealthy Illinois nobel peace prize winner.
Tenements were the hub of the proponents of political machines, in addition to recieving reform focus, those most likely to support political machines, those unlike Boss Tweed, were located in tenements. The incentives offered by political machines, who focused largely on the underpriveledged, would be well- recieved by those who could only afford the disgusting tenement apartments.


Where did these poor come from?
There poor who flooded into major cities could have possibly been 'new immigrants,' largely illiterate south and eastern European immigrants from countries such as Italy, Russia or Croatia who had difficulty assimilating and as a result brought their culture and made "Little Italy"'s and china towns.
The poor in the cities also could have moved from western farms in search of better opprotunities or African Americans from the south.
Finally, the poor may have merely been born in the city.

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Nast cartoon on Boss Tweed.

Jacob Riis - A New York newspaper reporter held a then-common belief that all the tenements should be burned and then never re-built. While that may get rid of the eye-sore, where would the thousands of people living in the tenements live? He was the author of the 1890 book, How the Other Half Lives.

Sources

historymatters.gmu.edu
A Survey: American History; Alan Brinkley
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/22775894/Unit-III-Progressive-Movement
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/22775894/Unit-III-Progressive-Movement
-- Good example of political machine.
http://www.sonofthesouth.net/Thomas_Nast.htm