Strip Malls in America

1.“About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.” – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“T.J. Eckleberg from The Great Gatsby”

Today, strip malls are a great American tradition. They are a pillar of Suburban Sprawl and the face of American architecture. Patrick Gallagher of the American Bar Association describes Suburban Sprawl as “uncontrolled development that expands outward from city centers and consumes otherwise undeveloped land.” (219). Strip malls and small shopping centers consume the journey between urban districts and affluent suburban neighborhoods. They create a wasteland of passerby’s and short-term renters. F. Scott Fitzgerald provides an excellent description and foreshadow in The Great Gatsby’s Valley of Ashes. Since the 1920s strip malls have defined the American aesthetic and provided a platform for the impediment of upward mobility. As a result, the demise of the American Dream can be traced to the introduction of small-scale shopping centers.

2. “Modernism is about space. Postmodernism is about communication. You should do what turns you on.” –Robert Venturi

“Strip Mall, 1960”

Baltimore, 1907. Pilot shopping centers were introduced in Baltimore as social spaces for community engagement. By 1931 these shopping centers began to be built deliberately beyond walking distance, begging the need for cars. The Highland Park Shopping Village in Dallas, TX began this automobile-dependent economy. Richard Feinberg of Purdue University explains “Whatever and wherever its start, the phenomenal growth and development of shopping centers naturally followed the migration of population out from the cities and paralleled the growth of the use of the automobile.” (426). This phenomenon is referred to as Suburban Sprawl and defined the spatiality and subsequent social structure of America. As the nation moved into the 20th century their homes became bigger, their cars faster, and their neighbors whiter. In this sense strip malls became a necessary redistricting mechanism, which had profound ramifications on group identity.

3. “In the 1954 Internal Revenue Code, a Republican Congress changed forty-year, straight-line depreciation for buildings to permit ‘accelerated depreciation’ of greenfield income-producing property in seven years. By enabling owners to depreciate or write off the value of a building in such a short time, the law created a gigantic hidden subsidy for the developers of cheap new commercial buildings located on strips.” – Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000

Strip malls emerged and took hold of Suburban America as white families began their “sprawl” beyond city lines. Following World War II city planners deliberately built these quasi-malls in order to offset the formerly rural suburban towns. Strip malls created a sense of purpose for white suburban dwellers. Residents hoped their new neighborhoods would become a hybrid between urban and rural neighborhoods. Moving beyond city limits they yearned for spacious, crime-free, demographically homogenous landscapes to raise their children. However, many families were weary to settle too far beyond a sense of civilization. The popularization and affordability of automobiles allowed middle-class white families access to out-of-reach areas. City planners jumped at this opportunity by creating small shopping centers just far enough out of site to avoid obstruction of the spacious landscape.

4. “It was very unusual to employ prettiness as part of a building.” –Robert Venturi

Strip malls are notoriously ugly. However, wealthy, well-kempt neighborhoods across America depend on strip malls in order to maintain their status. This paradox stems from the functionality of strip malls; their scale and semi-accessibility allow them to be near wealthy suburbs, but just far enough out of site as to not diminish status. Jane Gross defines this functionality as allowing suburban dwellers to “have our cake and eat it too”. Gross uses Westchester County as her primary example. Westchester includes many of these affluent, well-kempt neighborhoods, however, it also includes 10-miles of consecutive strip malls. The two are able to coexist, and even flourish simultaneously due to their extreme concentration.

5. “It was clear that there needed to be a movement for the architects of the middle ground, once the elite became inaccessible.” –Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, architect, Seaside, FL.

“Housewives shopping, 1950”

Whoever said housewives don’t do anything was seriously disturbed. Strip malls acted like a kryptonite for these white, middle-class housewives, and they still do. The end of World War II diminished female roles in society. As men returned home, women were no longer required to pick up their slack on the home front. As a result, most women quit their industrial jobs, married, and settled down. Bored at home and searching for purpose while their husbands went to work, housewives took to these shopping centers. As shopping centers moved out of cities, so did housewives and their families. In fact, housewives acted as the “invisible hand” behind the so-called “uncontrolled development”. For this reason, housewives deserve far more recognition for their contributions to American national identity as well as the many ramifications resulting from Suburban Sprawl.

6. “Modern architects contradict themselves when they support functionalism and  megastructure. They do not recognize the image of the processed city when they see it on the Strip, because it is both too familiar and too different from what they have been trained to accept.” –Robert Venturi

“Randy’s Donuts, Los Angelos, California”

Strip malls can teach us a lot about urban planning. Architects began studying strip mall culture during the post-modern era. By this time strip malls were an established feature of American architecture and worthy of deeper study. Famed architect Robert Venturi of the University of Pennsylvania and founder of the Philadelphia School, a philosophy of post-modernism in America, devoted his studies to strip mall architecture. With the help of his students he used the Las Vegas Strip as the focal point of his study. The Las Vegas Strip exemplifies how strip malls have come to established cultural dependencies on spatial constructions. Venturi introduced the “Duck v. Decorated Shed” theory as an exploration of the use of signs over space.

“Robert Venturi’s Duck v. Decorated Shed model”

Venturi advocates for structures that exemplify their intended use through their shape and structure, also known as a the “duck” approach. Signs dominate the Las Vegas Strip telling drivers and passerbies where to go and what they need. Venturi explains that strip mall parking lots are essential to the workings of this phenomenon. Strip malls do not offer window displays; therefore, they depend upon signs to lure shoppers into stores. These signs and advertisements are more easily read as shoppers approach their parking lots, which play host to many stores allowing choices. Choices increase a driver’s likelihood to approach a shopping center.

7. “Cars moving through neighborhoods are only borrowing the public space of the dwellings facing the street.” –Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk architect, Seaside, FL

“Las Vegas Strip, Nevada”

Strip malls invented U-turns. Busy roads alongside strip mall-ed areas, such as along the Las Vegas Strip, developed U-turns in order to allow drivers to easily return to a center they may have driven past. Storeowners and investors lobbied for the current turning systems in order to aid their own economic growth. Venturi explains, “the continuous highway itself and its systems for turning are absolutely consistent.

“Las Vegas Strip”

The medium strip accommodates the U-turns necessary to a vehicular promenade for casino crawlers as well as left turns onto the local streets pattern that the Strip intersects. The curbing allows for frequent right turns for casinos and other commercial enterprises and eases the difficult transition from highway to parking.”. In other words, the U-turn was invented to propel strip mall culture.

8. “Strip malls are history.” –Jeff Bezos CEO, Amazon

“Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, Virginia”

There are many negative impacts of strip malls on the population, including air and water quality, and urban decline. Sprawl propelled the automobile industry, and, with it atmospheric carbon emissions. With the population influx to rural areas, Sprawl begged the need to increase water consumption. This meant a higher dependency on ground-water digging. However, by implementing pavement suburban areas are not conducive to ground-water digging. As a result, water must be transported into suburbs. Most concerning is the abandonment of smaller urban areas. Sprawl diminished municipal tax bases by removing wealthy residents from urban areas. This problem persists today.

Richard A. Feinberg and Jennifer Meoli (1991) ,”A Brief History of the Mall”, in NA – Advances in Consumer Research Volume 18, eds. Rebecca H. Holman and Michael R. Solomon, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 426-427.

Gross, J. (2001, Mar 31). Westchester’s 10-mile strip mall. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

Gallagher, Patrick. “The Environmental, Social, and Cultural Impacts of Sprawl.” Natural Resources & Environment, vol. 15, no. 4, 2001, pp. 219–267. JSTOR, JSTOR, 

Venturi, Robert, et al. Learning from Las Vegas : The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. Rev. ed. ed., MIT Press, 1977.

Venturi, Robert, and Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.). Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Museum of Modern Art, 1966.

The Evolution of U.S Prisons

The idea of crime and punishment is not new to society, as every group of people establishing a set of rules must decide what happens when those rules are broken. The authority of law is dependent upon the idea that breaking rules results in consequences. Yet, the ways in which societies have dealt with crime and punishment looks different depending on the geographic location and time period. The following points aim to capture the evolution of prisons in the United States as an adopted solution to crime. 

1. Crime and Punishment as a Colony

Prior to independence, the colonies established through England’s rule practiced forms of punishment that mirrored England’s existing structure. For instance, the presence of certain jailhouses existed in the colonies with a pre-trail role rather than detaining individuals for long periods of time. Upon being found guilty of the crime (not in a trial the way we imagine today), the person faced a  form of punishment based in public humiliation and torture. Public whippings, pillory, and in extreme cases castration are referred to as sanguinary punishment. It wasn’t until after the American Revolution and the expansion of new legal principles that role of jails/prisons shifted.

2. Population Growth

As the American Revolution approached, people were tasked with organizing a
government and set of rules and practices that would guide the society. Rather than being based on public humiliation, punishment shifted to being rooted in the use of hard labor as a deterrence against crime but also as a way to maintain a particular set of values deemed socially as “good.” Corporal punishment that was rooted in England’s intellectual basis of crime and punishment was replaced with an movement towards intense physical labor. Many proponents of the prison over corporal punishment associated prior forms of punishment as cruel and outdated. So a system where people are instead held for extended periods of times, have their movement controlled, and are forced to work endless hours a day: sounds like something familiar in U.S history. That is because the adoption expanded use of penitentiaries is heavily influenced by the prospect of economic productivity similar to persistence of slavery.  

3. Penitentiary Movement

Reforms in state penal codes allowed for the expansion of prisons to occur by providing judges with the option to sentence those found guilty to imprisonment, which differed dramatically from a judge simply deciding a physical punishment appropriate for the crime. Legislative shifts in the context of population growth, social mobility, and economic opportunity created a perfect storm by which prisons became the tool used to address crime and punishment. Proponents of penitentiary viewed it as a more humane way to address crime, while opponents (especially in the South) argued against this institution. 

4.  Newgate Prison

In 1797, New York State built its first penitentiary: Newgate Prison in Greenwich Village. This institution only remained open for 27 years, as several design flaws led to its ultimate destruction. The idea to move away from corporal punishment because of its violent nature was significantly undermined by the presence of violence for several reasons, one of which were cell designs that placed eight people in one cell to sleep. Prisons were justified as a place where human lives could be rehabilitated to prevent future criminal activity. The construction of Newgate and subsequent prisons call into the question the possibility to achieve that goal given the environment that results from the physical design of these institutions.

5.  Auburn System

Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania was a prison built in the context of the the “Auburn system.” A central idea behind the physical designs of prions fitting this model encourage separation/isolation as a form of rehabilitation, where the only “services” provided was a daily visit from the Warden. There were many complaints about cell designs, which aimed to minimize threats to the guards, yet it made it extremely difficult to pass food and transport inmates, presenting various human rights concerns.

6. The Reconstruction Era and Prisons

During the Civil War and Antebellum period, ideas about punishment shifted as well as the reality of overcrowding in prisons. The Jackson Era is well known for its negative influence on prisons, especially in regards to the physical deterioration the physical structures endured, which exacerbated conditions for people within the prisons. Several strategies – now viewed as cruel – were implemented during this time period, such as solitary confinement, straightjackets, the iron cage, etc.

7. Debt & Prison

While most people associate prison as a place where violent criminals are sent, this institution has been used as a tool to punish people for uncollected debt. The term “debtors prison” captures the ability of the state to punish people for unpaid fines through imprisonment. As an institution, prisons promote capitalism through the profits gained through privatization as well as the ability to use it as a tool for those who do not have the ability to pay a fine, child support, garnishments, etc.

8. Gender and Prisons

Gender identity within the prison context has become increasingly more known to people as women – especially women of color – started facing incarceration at higher rates during mass incarceration. Moreover, prisons are separated based upon a gender binary, which often forces people in the trans community to be incarcerated based on their sex rather than gender identity, which often creates violently dangerous situations.

9. Prisons Today: Guantanamo Bay

One of the most controversial prisons in existence today is arguably Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, which is a U.S naval base. A large part of the controversy is two-fold. On one hand, it is well known that people often end up in Guantanamo Bay for long periods of time without a trial, eliminating any presumption of innocence and directly contradicting the U.S Constitution. On the other hand, a huge focus on the use of torture against people being detained is repeatedly cited as a reason for advocating for the prison to be closed.

10. Prisons Today: Mass Incarceration

Mass incarceration can be understood as the system by which people of color are subjected to disparate rates of policing, arrests, and imprisonment. Several books and even documentaries outline the inherent racial bias of the U.S criminal justice system, which can be understood through various institutions and laws. Today, the privatization of prisons – in the context of the prison-industrial complex – has led to a system where economic profit drives incarceration rates, leading to the connection of mass incarceration being the new form of enslavement.

                        Works Cited 
1. James, Kirk. "The History of Prisons in America." Huffington Post. 

2. Meskell, Matthew W. "An American Resolution: The History of Prisons in the United States from 1777 to 1877." Stanford Law Review 51, no. 4 (1999): 839-65. doi:10.2307/1229442.
3. Barnes, Harry E. "Historial Origin of the Prison System in America." Am. Inst. Crim. L.,& Criminology. 1921. 

4. O'connor, Rachel. "The United States Prison System: A Compartive Analysis" (2014).
5. Alexander, Michelle (2012), The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, New York.

6. McKelvey, Blake (1936), American Prisons: A Study in American Social History Prior to 1915, Chicago.

7. Blackmon, Douglas A. (2008), Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, New York.

The American Vacation Town

  1. How vacation towns came about…

Vacationing became increasingly popular in the 20th century, as commercial airlines came into existence which allowed for families that did not live near places like the beach to see these things. Ultimately, this leads to certain places across the country to become somewhat designated “vacation towns” or “beach towns” many of these communities are found throughout the northeast such as Maine and Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The introduction of commercial plains and trains made this easy for Americans to move throughout the country, to go to destinations such as beach towns or places such as ski resorts as well.  [1] 

2. How did beach vacations come about anyway?

To many, beach vacations seem to be a classic vacation, and one that they had ventured on throughout their childhood, and if asked you would probably say it was a classic American Vacation. While true, beach goers actually started in Britain in the lat


e 18th century. People originally attended the beach for the seas supposed “medical qualities” as well for the writings in the bible of the sea. [2] Ultimately this fad became popular throughout Britain, which lead to railroads being directed to the coast, and the introduction of the first Seaside resort called Blackpool. This tradition then spread to the United States, specifically New England and the Northeast first, and eventually to southern coastal states.

3. Vacation Towns are often made up of like minded people…

According to professor Gieseking’s article titled “U.S. National Park Service Essays on LGBTQ History Released”, people in communities such as LGBTQ communities go to places where they can be with like minded people. This is seen with communities such as Provincetown, MA on Cape Cod, where there is a very large LGBTQ community. This happened because of homophobia across the United States, and people within this community wanted to have a place of their own where they were able to escape the hate that they had seen in their old communities on a day to day basis. [3] Vacation towns are places that allow for people to gather, whether thats year round, or for a portion of their year, in order to be with people who are like them.

4. Why places like Provincetown need to continue to thrive…

While researching vacation towns, and then specifically Provincetown, there seemed to be a question as to why they need to still exist as we are trying to move towards a more excepting community overall. To that I say, there still needs to be a place where these like minded people I have mentioned are able to gather. Similar to this, why should any historical community need to change? This community specifically represents hope and change, and should continue to do so in order to shine a light for those who feel disenfranchised within the LGBTQ community.

5. In many towns, there is a divide between rich and poor…

In towns like Nantucket, MA, there is an idea that the island is an oasis for all. But a New York Times article poi

nts out that this is not the case for year round residents. In the summer, towns like Nantucket flourish with business and tourism, but they lack a steady economy in the offseason for year round residents. According to this article, there is also a severe drug problem on Nantucket, where many young men and women are abusing opioids and heroin. Unfortunately, this has been a problem for years, the New York Times article was written in 1985 and notes an apparent drug problem on the island, and it continues to be a problem to this day. [4] [5]  Not everyone in these towns are living the “lifestyle of the Rich and Famous”

6. Economic “roller coaster”

Ever think about the fact that those vacation towns probably don’t see a ton of action in winter/off months? Well you’re right. Many “vacation towns” have steep drop off in employment during their off months in fields that have to do with tourism. According to an article from City Lab, the national drop in leisure and hospitality employment is roughly 3% nationally between August and September, but big vacation spots in the northeast see a much more drastic dip.


For example, Barnstable, MA in cape cod sees a roughly 20% drop in this time frame. [6] Many of these vacation towns, specifically in smaller locations such as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard,  see very steep drop-offs in their economies strictly because of their isolated locations.

7. Year round residents are fleeing…

Many people that love where they grew up and watched their towns turn into tourist destinations are now leaving and heading to other places. This has to do with a few factors, first of all many of these towns become too expensive because of increased popularity, and secondly they become over populated.


Not only that, but people are becoming more intrigued with moving west rather than staying home in a place where homes cost more than they ever had. [7] It is interesting to see that many residents are actually leaving their once beloved towns. Many leave simply because the tourist season seems to be too much for them, or they were pushed out due to an increase in property cost. This is seen in Nantucket, where the median house cost on the island is more than $1 million. [7.1] This has forced many longtime residents to downsize significantly, or to move all together.

8. Once pristine coast lines destroyed because of development…

As people continue to move to coastal regions, there is a need for more infrastructure to contain the massive amounts of people who are looking to move to coastal regions and vacation towns. This unfortunately causes problems both for the towns themselves, as well as the beach, because while the beach is destroyed, erosion becomes a problem as coastlines are being washed away. [8] [9] People want to keep moving to these beaches, but eventually they won’t be there because of all of this increased development that is happening on and around the beaches.

9. Vacation towns no more…

Although there are still seemingly distinct vacation towns throughout the north east, there seems to be people wanting to move to ‘vacation towns’ year round. This is seen throughout the south and even the midwest, people wanting to ditch city lifestyle to live in a mire quaint town, that still seems to be a tourist destination. “Every year, thousands of working-age people move from big cities to smaller cities, often in scenic areas, that are better known for drawing seasonal tourists and retirees.” [10]

10. Will Vacations end?

Many people love taking vacations, and going to their favorite vacation town. Although, studies have shown that Americans are taking fewer days off on average every year. For the longest time, the average American would take 20 days off from work every year, this number has moved to 16.2 in 2015. [11] People are working harder than ever, which is a good thing, but people also need to understand

that it is necessary to take time off from time to time, in order to keep working as hard as they do. At this rate, it would not be surprising if vacations as a whole became a thing of the past, which would make ‘vacation towns’ a thing of the past as well. Personally, I think that vacation towns are already evolving anyway, becoming regular old towns with many year round visitors as well as full time residents, with a few exceptions. But the message is, keep vacationing, it is good for your health as well as the economies of big and small towns that are visited every year by tourists.

End Notes:

1. Travelex. “History of the Holiday.” Travelex,
2.  Swanson, Ana. “The weird origins of going to the beach.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 3 July 2016,
3. Gieseking , Jack . “U.S. National Park Service Essays on LGBTQ History Released.”, 3 Nov. 2016,

4. “FOR YEAR-ROUND RESIDENTS, NANTUCKET IS NO OASIS.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Oct. 1985,

5. Graziadei, Jason. “ISLAND EPIDEMIC.” Nantucket Magazine, 29 July 2016,

6.  Florida, Richard. “The Roller-Coaster Economies of Vacation Towns.” CityLab, 27 Aug. 2014,

7.  McIntyre, Douglas A. “10 states where the most people are moving (And leaving).” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 3 Jan. 2018,

7.1. Thomas, G. Scott. Nantucket has the highest housing prices of any U.S. county.,

8.  “Illegal Sea Breeze Development & Hurricane Ingrid: Great Example of Bad Idea.” Waiting for the next swell.,

9. Vidal, John. “World’s beaches being washed away due to coastal development.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 15 Dec. 2014,

  10. Martucci, Brian.@Brian_Martucci. “Topics.” Money Crashers,

11.  “The State of American Vacation: How Vacation Became A Casualty of Our Work Culture.” Project: Time Off, 7 June 2017,

The Two Faces of Urban Public Squares

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A popular concert and festival in the Zócalo (Plaza de la Constitución), Mexico City, Mexico. The urban public square as a medium for artistic expression. Photo curtesy of
Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. This square was the site of a deadly confrontation in 1989 between the Chinese military and university students seeking freedom of speech. It is also the largest public square in the world. Photo curtesy of Touropia.


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A mass of protestors in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt. Tahrir Square was the site of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Photo curtesy of Touropia.

Since the skeleton of the modern city began to ossify thousands of years ago, the public square has always been at its heart, pulsating the urban lifeblood of commerce, politics, religion, art, and culture throughout the city’s veiny streets. The physicality of the public square as an urban space is quite simple with only two essential ingredients – a breakup in a city’s density to allow for open space and people – but what occurs when those two elements are combined is a complex diversity of interactions, developments, chance-encounters, and confrontations. From Madrid’s Plaza Mayor and New York’s Times Square, to Rome’s Saint Peter’s Square and Mexico City’s Zocalo, the urban public square is an extraordinarily prominent, varied, contested, and beautiful part of the modern urban fabric. The square is where the joyous serendipity of everyday urban life can best be experienced, but also where revolutions begin when that urban life becomes threatened or oppressed.

Aerial view of the ancient Athenian Agora. Photo curtesy of The Athens Key.

1. Various forms of public squares have existed since people first began to congregate in dwellings, but it was the Greek Empire’s creation of the agora that made the public square an infamous and essential part of everyday urban life. When Greek civilization entered its classical period around 600 B.C., almost every city of ancient Greece had an agora (Glancey). The agora, which translates to ‘meeting place,’ was located at the center of the city, making it easy to access for peasants and aristocrats alike, cementing the idea of a truly public space, open to all classes of people (Whipps). The agora consisted of a large central square surrounded by public buildings with space for market stalls where merchants sold their wares.

An imaginary depiction of the Agora of ancient Athens at the time of Pericles.
An artist’s rendering of the ancient agora in Athens. Photo curtesy of The Athens Key.

2. The hub of ancient Greek civilization was the Athenian agora, which was the largest public square of the time that stretched for more than 30 acres. Athens’ agora included numerous markets, three teaching porches or ‘stoas,’ two theaters, a gymnasium, five temples, a courthouse, and a prison (Light). This mixed-use agora was more extensive than the public square of today – resembling a modern civic center – but it attracted an equally diverse crowd as today with traders, scientists, politicians, slaves, state officials, and philosophers regularly brushing shoulders and conversing in the agora. Indeed, it was this high level of interaction between different classes of people that the agora facilitated, where “the sacred and the profane met on a daily basis,” which contributed to the creation of democracy in the Athenian agora (Light and Whipps). The concept of the Greek agora was transferred to the Roman empire under the new name of ‘forum,’ but continued the same traditions and structure as the agora.

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Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. A good representation of a typical Renaissance city square. This space is now most commonly used by tourists seeking an authentic piazza experience. Photo curtesy of Wikipedia.

3. The grandiose scale of the first public squares, the Greek agoras and Roman forums, was gradually reduced to its current size and function as the products and services provided in public squares grew into entirely new industries requiring separate space (Light). As the Catholic Church gained power during the Middle Ages, space for worship was removed from the public square and placed inside of a church, separating the city square and the temple forever. During the Renaissance, simple peasant trades grew into full-blown, respected professions: architects, sculptors, and painters could no longer preform their work or advertise their products effectively within city squares, so they set up shop in buildings around the square and throughout the city (Light). Industrialization further shrunk the square’s marketplace due to mass merchandising, but also limited the social contributions of the public square. As more urbanites began grueling industrialized work, time became constrained between factory shifts, which allowed for less time spent lingering and conversing in the public city square. The advent of supermarkets, home refrigeration, and eventually freeways and office towers, further stripped the public square of its auxiliary uses, now only occasionally becoming a market place on weekends for small farmers and artisans (Light).

A bustling Times Square in New York City. An example of a modern, pre-designed square. Photo curtesy of Giffy

4. The modern form of the public square is completely redefined from its original agora structure, but the social and cultural effects radiating out from these open spaces in the middle of dense cities are equally important to society as the Greek agora was to the formation of democracy. As temples, marketplaces, and courthouses expanded out into the city from the public square, it allowed squares the increased freedom to be programmed in whatever way urbanites needed it to be – a need that can change on a daily basis. Today, public squares are divided between two categories: “one that is older, organic, chaotic, and populated; and one that is recent, planned, orderly, and deserted” (Marron Et Al). The first of these two variants grew organically to accommodate the needs and culture of ordinary urbanites as they arose throughout history, and usually results in a shared space with bustling activity. The second type of public square is built according to a pre-designed master plan to embody the values of the city in an attempt to reap the social benefits from the chance encounters of public space.

The above video from The Urban Land Institute awards six cities for their outstanding public squares and parks in 2015. Video curtesy of the Urban Land Institute

5. The issue with the second variety of public square stems from its artificiality that leaves no corner unplanned, largely defeating the public square’s greatest asset: it’s customizable, programmable quality, which allows citizens themselves to shape and appropriate the space through constant daily use. In the book City Squares, writer George Packer criticizes the newer generation of public square for its tendency to “leave nothing to chance. It tells people that they are subservient to the state and, in a sense, irrelevant to it” (Marron Et Al). When urbanites occupy a square designed for the sole purpose of glorifying a city or nation’s achievements, they feel a sense of powerlessness and lack of belonging, for they sense the space is monumental and not intended for their lived urban experiences. Moscow’s Red Square and Beijing’s Tiananmen Square are both examples of this “ceremonial model of public space,” in which civic planners create large-scale squares in dedication to the nation or city’s accomplishments (Iveson 187). Most public squares however, blend these two styles of public space together, so that urbanites shape the character of the square along with civic planners that incorporate national pride and triumph. The Three Cultures Square (Plaza de las Tres Culturas) in Mexico City has a rich history and represents a hybrid modern/ancient public square.

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Three Cultures Square in Mexico City, Mexico. The three cultures are represented by the Aztec ruins, the Spanish church, and the Modernist Mexican high-rises. Photo curtesy of Esoteric Survey.

6. Three Cultures Square is located in the Cuauhtémoc borough of Mexico City and was first built in the mid-1960s. The space was originally planned to be a Corbusierian-style housing block and was included in the master plans for a modernist, one million square meter, high-rise housing project called Tlatelolco (Gallo 58). The sparse, high-rise apartments soared up, surrounding Three Cultures Square on all sides, but the Mexican developer responsible for Tlatelolco, Mario Pani, dared not touch the square due to what lay just underneath the surface: the ancient remains of an Aztec pyramid that had been razed by Spaniards in the sixteenth century. The stones from the pyramid were repurposed to build a Catholic church directly opposite the  partially destroyed pyramid. In a strange repetition of history, Pani sought to finish the job the Spanish started by clearing the remains of the pyramid and the colonial church to make way for a modernist, block-housing project of unbelievable scale. Luckily, archaeologists and Mexican authorities prohibited Pani from building on the ancient site. As a compromise, Pani incorporated the ruins into his design of the Tlatelolco housing project by making it into a public square (Gallo 59). Three Cultures Square is a unique blend of the two styles of public square – it is at once ancient and has been used as a congregating space for centuries, but has subsequently been highly planned and modernized, partially negating that history and the natural development of public squares. After Pani finished its design and construction, the square was named by Mexican officials to reflect the site’s contested history between the three cultures that each laid claim to the square at one period in history.

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An alternative view of Three Cultures Square in Mexico City, Mexico. The three cultures that also represent the three races are prominently displayed. Photo curtesy of Mexico Lore.

7. Three Cultures Square is named after the three cultures that are visible from within it: Native Aztec, Colonial Spain, and Mexican. City officials created and promoted the name of Three Cultures Square due to the post-Revolutionary ideology that “modern Mexico was a new mestizo culture born out of the encounter of two previous civilizations: the Aztecs and the Spaniards” (Gallo 59). Thus, the ancient pyramid is a reminder of Aztec architecture, the church as an example of Spanish construction, and Pani’s modernist housing project serves to show how modern Mexico builds and lives today. A plaque located within the site reveals that Three Cultures Square is not only named in honor of the three different architectural styles and cultures, but also after the three separate races: “On August 13, 1521, after being heroically defended by Cuauhtémoc, Tlatelolco fell to Hernán Cortés. It was neither victory nor defeat, but the painful birth of the mixed-blood country that is Mexico today” (Gallo 60). Three Cultures Square is then also Three Races Square, allowing Pani’s modernist high rises to represent the mixed-blood inhabitants of modern Mexico. Pani honored this idea of intermixing by centering the housing project around the square and designing the tallest building in the Tlatelolco development to be a modernist interpretation of a pyramid (Gallo 60).

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An aerial view of Pani’s Tlatelolco modernist housing project with the Three Cultures Square in the center. Photo curtesy of Pinterest.

8. The developer of Three Cultures Square and Tlatelolco, Mario Pani, the son of a diplomat, was born in 1911. He studied at École des Beaux Arts in Paris during the 1930s, which is when he discovered the philosophy and work of Le Corbusier. He cultivated a love for urban planning during his time in Paris, and upon his return to Mexico, began lobbying the Mexican government for large-scale urban transformation. In the late 1940s, he was commissioned to build the first Corbusierian housing project in Mexico City (Gallo 56). City officials had originally planned to build smaller houses or duplexes, but Pani convinced them that modern urbanism was the best route; so one thousand apartments were built within 12 large complexes. The Tlatelolco development was Pani’s third project and his largest and most monumental yet, setting out to build enough apartment blocks for one hundred thousand residents in fifteen thousand apartments (Gallo 56). Pani commented on his vision and reason for Tlatelolco: “We still need to regenerate over half of Mexico City, which is full of awful neighborhoods. The one advantage is that most of these neighborhoods are so awful that they are just waiting to be regenerated, to be torn down and rebuilt properly” (Gallo 55). Clearly a descendent of Corbusier’s style of urbanism, Pani had no regard for the history of place or patience for the accompanying urban chaos. Messy urban history would form within Pani’s master-planned Tlatelolco housing project nonetheless.

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A memorial to the massacre victims at Three Cultures Square. Photo curtesy of Wikipedia.

9. Only two years after construction was finished on the last building in the Tlatelolco housing project, a student protest in Three Cultures Square ended in the massacre of hundreds of students at the hands of Mexican police. In 1968, student movements and protests were breaking out across the world, and Mexico City was no exception. Thousands of National University students gathered in Three Cultures Square on October 2nd, just a week before the opening ceremonies of the 1968 Summer Olympics, to protest government repression and violence against students. As the rally was ending, soldiers arrived to arrest the student resistance leaders, but were greeted by gunshots from the surrounding high-rise apartments. The soldiers then opened fire on the crowd, turning the peaceful protest into a shooting that lasted two hours and took and estimated 200-400 student lives (NPR). It has since been revealed that a branch of the military, the Presidential Guard, had posted snipers in Pani’s high-rises surrounding the square with orders to shoot at the incoming soldiers to make them believe they were under fire from the students, resulting in the soldiers killing hundreds of people. The massacre at Three Cultures Square demonstrates the potential power held within the open spaces of public squares, and the consequential violence that can erupt when that power clashes. The massacre also reveals a government so desperate to present a civilized, peaceful image of Mexico City to the world during the 1968 Olympics, that they were willing to murder their own citizens to create it.

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Gammeltorv Square in Copenhagen, Denmark. Copenhagen is known around the world for their vibrant and leisurely urban spaces. The city is sometimes referred to by residents as ‘our urban living room.’ Photo curtesy of NPR.

10. The creation of Three Cultures Square and subsequent protests and violence demonstrate the contrasting functions of public squares across the world: they are the spaces where urban life most visibly thrives, but also the first space people mobilize to when that urban life is prevented from thriving. An urbanite can read about civic unrest in Syria or watch a North Korean military parade that each make use of public squares for their respective ideologies, while sitting in a beautiful and serene public square, filled with people sipping hot mugs on outdoor café tables and children playing in fountains. The public square is simultaneously the arena of political confrontation and a destination for the foreign tourist; it is the platform through which the local merchant can sell her wares to busy urbanites passing through, while also being the site of immense bloodshed and loss in the name of a movement or revolution. It is this incredible dichotomy in how public squares are utilized that makes them the most vital organ in any city, where anyone from any walk of life can come together to organize, speak out, observe, or just be. Public squares are the ultimate physical manifestations of the sense of freedom urbanites experience in cities all over the world, so it is no surprise the public square gave birth to democracy.

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Protesters participate in an anti-corruption rally in Palace Square, St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo Curtesy of NPR.



Anzilotti , Eillie. “What Public Squares Mean for Cities.” CityLab, 9 May 2016.

Gieseking, Jen Jack., et al. The People, Place, and Space Reader. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014.

Glancey, Jonathan. “The Violent History of Public Squares.” BBC, 3 Dec. 2014.

Light, Richard. “The Agora from Athens to Atlanta: Public Space as Marketplace, Park and Center of Urban Life.” Planetizen – Urban Planning News, Jobs, and Education, 15 Apr. 2015.

Marron, Catie. City Squares: Eighteen Writers on the Spirit and Significance of Squares around the World. HarperCollins, 2016.

“Mexico’s 1968 Massacre: What Really Happened?” NPR, NPR, 1 Dec. 2008,

“Putting the Public Back into Public Space.” The People, Place, and Space Reader, by Kurt Iveson, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014, pp. 187–191.

“Tlatelolco: Mexico City’s Urban Dystopia.” Noir Urbanisms: Dystopic Images of the Modern City, by Rubén Gallo, Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 53–73.

Whipps, Heather. “How the Greek Agora Changed the World.” LiveScience, Purch, 16 Mar. 2008.


The Vacation Home: An Encouraged Staple of American Family Life

How did the idea of the vacation home start?  Why are vacations such an idealized concept? Think of any vacation homes that you have visited and their surrounding areas…now here are the top ten facts you did not know about vacation homes.

Some families consider having a vacation home the ultimate goal. Although the American Dream consists of having a nice house with a backyard and a pet, many people believe that having a vacation home is an element of the fantasized notion. Not only do they let families relax, but also come together, meet new people, and explore new places.


1-One of the first known accounts of a vacation was in 1744 when Dr. Alexander Hamilton left his home in Maryland for four months for relaxation and leisure purposes. At the time, there was no reason to believe that people needed breaks to relax. It is also apparent that people did not take vacations because carriages were not an adequate source of transportation and therefore they could not travel very far. Dr. Hamilton for instance, traveled on horseback. Taking a vacation was a very unusual habit during the mid-eighteenth century in America; however, perhaps Dr. Hamilton started the trend. By the 1760’s, American upper-class families were traveling to one of America’s first vacation destinations, Newport, Rhode Island which happens to still be a very popular vacation spot today. [1]


2-Ironically, after Dr. Hamilton took his four-month-long vacation in 1744, doctors all over America began encouraging their patients to get away. However, it was not until the 1820’s that this idea of going on vacation began. Reasons to escape from daily-life included: health issues, weather conditions, and more generally, a need for relaxation. Doctors emphasized the importance of the climate, air, and water, and how it relates to one’s health in balancing bodily fluids. They also believed that warmer temperatures could cure diseases such as asthma, gout, and rheumatism. Thus began the movement of families vacationing in warm places. [2] Still to this day, doctors encourage their patients to take vacations and rest. It is not only vital to one’s happiness but also their health. Companies have to let their employees take a certain amount of vacation days for their well-being.


3-Baby boomers during the late 20th century had a great effect on the vacation home market. In 1995, 44% of households believed they would be able to buy a second home within the decade up from the 26.2% in 1990. In 1994, 4.8 million households owned vacation homes or time-share condos. It was also reported that the group of people most likely to invest in second homes were those aged 35 to 50-year-olds whose kids had already left home. The article also discusses how demographics do not affect the investment in a vacation home because at the time, prices were expected to increase by an average 5% ever year. [3] It is interesting to compare these numbers to the 2000 census listed below. Surprisingly, the number of vacation homes decreased between 1994 and 2000, perhaps due to the market stability at the time.


4-Despite the belief that most people who own vacation homes occupy much of the Northeastern part of the United States, that is not true. According to the United States Census Bureau in 2000, vacation homes take up space predominantly in the northeast, south, and west coast. The Historical Census of Housing Tables: Vacation Homes shows that in 2000, there were 3,604,216 vacation homes out of 115,904,641 total homes in the United States. Out of the 3 million homes, the leading states with the most vacation homes were, Florida with 484,825, California with 239,062 and New York with 235,793. [4]


5-Not all well-known vacation destinations have always been meant for vacations. Nantucket Island is a great example of this. Situated off the southeastern part of Massachusetts, Nantucket is a small island that is known today for its beautiful beaches and quaint town. Although the island is occupied by residents all year round, it thrives during the summer months with both tourists and visitors who vacation there year after year. However, from 1800-1805 the island focused on whale fishery and was occupied by ocean-going vessels. Then in the latter half of the nineteenth century, it ultimately became a desired vacation spot. Residents of the island formed the Nantucket Agricultural Society in 1856 which helped the island create a system that could support itself. In 1840, under 10,000 people lived on Nantucket full time and that number was returned again in 2002. [5] Although there are a good number of residents, the majority of houses on Nantucket are rented out during the summer because their owners can get desirable prices from renters who are just looking to be there for a mere three-month vacation.


6-In 2008, a website called “Airbnb” launched and is now one of the world’s leading online hospitality services used to rent vacation homes, cottages, apartments, etc. In 2017, Airbnb announced that it had 4 million listings worldwide in more than 191 countries, and it had over 200 million users since its launch in 2008. The website also reported that of the 4 million worldwide listings, the United States is the top country, with 660,000 listings. [6] With technology and fairly easy access to transportation, it seems as though people are beginning to travel more and are eager to visit new places. Websites like Airbnb are taking away from vacation home sales because people do not want to feel obligated to revisit the same town or home over and over again. That being said, Airbnb is benefitting many vacation towns as people have readily access to visiting almost anywhere they so desire.


7-Many people who do not own vacation homes might not know that there have been controversial tax implications in the past regarding second homes. In 1976, Congress added section 208A to the Internal Revenue Code because there was a concern that people who owned vacation homes were renting them out in order to subtract their own personal expenses. This section was intended to limit the amount of deductions those who owned vacation homes could benefit from. Owners were required to distinguish their personal expenses regarding the vacation home from their rental expenses. [7] This tax reform act of 1976 shows how the government does pay attention to those taxpayers who own second homes. Although it is clear from the United States Census Bureau that many people in the US own vacation homes, this tax reform also points to that. There was enough concern about deducting expenses regarding the vacation home that it was brought to the governments attention.


8-Although there are many benefits associated with vacation homes, such as having a generally relaxing and enjoyable experience, there are also some negative impacts. Many people neglect to consider the potential problems that arise when vacation homes take up an area, specifically a rural setting. Despite many wealthy American families having second homes in typical vacation towns such as Cape Cod, Nantucket, and the Hamptons, many less affluent families resort to more rural lands to purchase vacation homes especially if they are interested in recreational activities such as fishing and hunting. In a journal article about vacation homes, the author, Richard Ragatz, argues that in rural towns with many vacation homes, public services, such as water and sewer systems, security protection (police and fire), and means of access (highways, roads, etc.) often have to be expanded. [8] This issue is more of an economic one; however, vacation homes also generate problems that are more psychological and impact the family itself.


9-The same author, Richard Ragatz, writes about other issues surrounding vacation homes in his article, “Vacation Homes in the Northeastern United States: Seasonality in Population Distribution”. Although vacation homes can improve many towns and bring benefits to new areas, they can also infiltrate on spaces if they become overpopulated. Ragatz argues that if urban settings are very concentrated with people, health issues can arise. If one person catches a disease, it can be spread very quickly. Other problems concerning the congestion of vacation homes can occur on the roads with traffic and speeding, the loss of agricultural land due to the increase in homes, and the negative impact the densely populated areas can have on the environment. [9]


10-Similar to the ideas of Airbnb, timeshares allow people to rent and share a variety of homes. The family who is looking to travel signs up in advance for a week and a place they want to go. For instance, in December they will sign up to go to Los Angeles for the week of July 4th the following year. Another family will occupy the same house the next week and so on. In 2008, it was reported that there were more than 1,600 timeshares throughout the United States with an economical effect of more than $92 billion. In 2002, a timeshare survey of 1,062 owners discovered that 62% of them intended to participate in renting a timeshare within the next year. [10] These numbers show how popular timeshares are and how those involved continuously use the program. Between Airbnb and timeshares it seems as though the public is generally moving towards renting second homes rather than owning them because they do not want to feel obligated to revisit the same vacation spot time and time again.


Works Cited

[1] Aron, Cindy S. Working At Play: A History of Vacations in the United States. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc., 1991. Accessed March 3, 2018.


[3]Smith, Anna Kates, and Mike Tharp. 1995. “The New Vacation Home Bonanza.” U.S. News & World Report 118, no. 14: 64. Academic Search Premier, EBSCO host (accessed March 2, 2018).

[4] Bureau, US Census. “Data.” Historical Census of Housing Tables: Vacation Homes. January 01, 1970. Accessed March 03, 2018.

[5] Alsop, James D. “Island Refashioning: The Nantucket Agricultural Society, 1856-1880.” The New England Quarterly 77, no. 4 (2004): 563-87.

[6]”Airbnb Fast Facts.” Airbnb. Accessed March 4 , 2018.

[7] Lawyer, Jeffrey T. “Vacation Homes, Section 280A and Bolton v. Commissioner: The Right Result for the Wrong Reasons.” Duke Law Journal 1985, no. 3/4 (1985): 793-812. doi:10.2307/1372378.

[8] Ragatz, Richard Lee. “Vacation Housing: A Missing Component in Urban and Regional Theory.” Land Economics46, no. 2 (May 1970): 118-26. Accessed March 4, 2018. doi:10.2307/3145169.

[9] Ragatz, Richard Lee. 1970. “Vacation Homes in the Northeastern United States: Seasonlity in Population Distribution.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 60, no. 3: 447-455. Academic Search Premier, EBSCO host (accessed March 4, 2018).

[10] Sampson, Scott E. “Optimization of Vacation Timeshare Scheduling.” Operations Research 56, no. 5 (2008): 1079-088.

Healing America: Hospitals in U.S. History, Space, and Culture

The evolution of the hospital in America traces medicine’s shifting role in American society, and its interventions—for better and worse—into the lives of its citizens. More than a place to heal, hospitals have a complex political, social, and cultural history that both responded to and shaped every era in American history. By studying hospitals, we can perceive the material, human consequences of design, and trace the ways medical institutions have governed bodies and space in the U.S. Here are 10 facts about hospitals you should know.

  1. The first hospitals established in America were modeled after European ones, which were closer to workhouses or penitentiaries than to the therapeutic and scientific centers of today. Only the destitute and indigent were forced into hospitals. Anyone with means preferred to be cared for at home. The hospital usually cited as America’s first is the Pennsylvania Hospital, chartered in 1751. (Read Ben Franklin’s 1754 account of it here.) However, Marks and Beatty suggest an even earlier hospital existed at Jamestown, as far back as 1612. It contained 80 beds and was staffed by “keepers”—likely male nurses.[1].

    Pennsylvania Hospital (William Strickland, 1755)
  2. Marine Hospitals were instrumental in the consolidation of the early American State. The 1798 “Act for Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen” established a tax on the wages of merchant seamen with which the federal government established and operated a series of Marine Hospitals. While these operated much like other early hospitals by accepting local poor patients, they served primarily for the rehabilitation of sailors. Gautham Ra
    U.S. Public Health service considers the 1798 Marine Hospital Act their founding.

    o explains that Marine Hospitals, which were modeled after similar British institutions, served to maintain an adequate maritime labor force, necessary for the development and expansion of the young state’s imperial and economic interests.[2] Rao argues that the program “fit squarely within the main themes of early American statecraft—associative structure, tax and revenue power, local influence, and contested centralization.”[3] Marine Hospitals provided a basis on which essential functions of the U.S. federal government were later elaborated, and constituted the first federal welfare program.

  3. Hospitals began to adopt their modern form in the mid-18th century, as young adults left family homes and moved to cities. As women got jobs outside the home, and living space became increasingly
    Operating room of the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, ca. 1850 (Southworth, Albert Sands, 1811-1894)

    compact, hospitals began to provide for a growing middle-class the healing functions previously handled by the family. As suburbanization increased travel times between work and home, working family members became less and less available to care for the sick at home. In this way, the emergence of modern hospitals reflected the segmentation and professionalization of services previously provided in the domestic sphere.[4]

  4. Hospitals’ designs reflect the social as well as the scientific conditions of their construction. In the second half of the 19th century, the “pavilion plan” dominated hospital design in North America, wherein patients would live in large, shared dormitories designed to let in light and circulate fresh air. This was in order to dispel “miasma”—an atmosphere thought to be the cause of infection.[5] Even as the germ theory of disease gained acceptance, “pavilion plan” hospitals remained the norm into the 1930s. Starting in the early 20th century, newer hospitals were designed with the goal of segregating patients from each other, both as an antiseptic medical principle and as an effort to appeal to new, paying middle-class customers. Some hospitals began to advertise themselves as akin to hotels, evoking luxury and domesticity. In Medicine by Design, Annmarie Adams discusses Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, a large public hospital which had two separate entrances. One—high on a hill overlooking manicured gardens—was for the paying middle- and upper- class patients, while the other—for its working class and poor patients—ran into the hospital through a tunnel nearly 60 feet below it, out of view and almost underground. As hospitals expanded their reach and services, they transformed from a last-resort site of destitution to an institution of civic pride and high regard that served the varying needs and expectations of different classes of patients.[6]

    Typhoid ward, Royal Victoria Hospital, ca. 1894
  5. Hospitals were starkly racially segregated after the Civil War. Black Americans’ access to hospitals was either limited to “colo
    One of the first “black hospitals” in America.

    red” wards or to a handful “black hospitals,” both offering vastly inferior care than that which was available to whites. In 1948, Mississippi had only five general hospital beds per 100,000 black citizens.[7] Further, many hospitals subjected black patients to non-consensual scientific testing and forced sterilization as part of racist eugenic efforts at population control.[8]

    Second-floor plan, Royal Victoria Montreal Maternity Hospital
  6. The designs of maternity wards reflected and transmitted cultural notions of motherhood. At the Royal Victoria Hospital, Adams notes, the maternity ward catered to two competing versions of birth popular in the early 20th century. One held that birth was a natural event to be treated as routine and normal. The maternity ward for middle-class patients was accordingly decorated to suggest a “homelike” environment, with comfortably furnished social space for the patients designated “maternity lounges.”[9] At the same time, the architects responded to residual notions of birth as pathological, which manifested as “extensive record keeping and observation,” as well as the institutional regimes of a rehabilitative hospital.  In William Rosengren and Spencer DeVault’s fascinating 1958 study, “The Sociology of Time and Space in an Obstetrical Hospital,” they examine the ways American maternity clinics were spatially organized.[10] They note—similarly to Adams—that expecting patients were coded somewhere between “ill” and “not ill.” They examine the ways nurses, doctors, and patients behaved differently in “backstage” areas like offices or break rooms than they did in “onstage” areas such as the labor room, in which delivery nurses were segregated from other personnel by non-functional barriers denoting their authority. Rosengren and DeVault also suggest what they call an “ecology of pain,” remarking that, “spatially there appeared to be a kind of gradient as to the legitimation of pain, with the greater sanctioning of pain found the closer the ‘place’ is to the delivery rooms.”[11] They note that it is the delivery room where nurses and doctors were most able to medically manage pain with anesthesia and were not required, as in other spaces of the clinic, to respond to patients’ pain affectively and emotionally. The space of the clinic is thus organized in order to maintain a professional, “affectively neutral” attitude towards patients.
  7. During the Cold War, American maternity wards began to deploy a clinical practice called “rooming-in”. Shortages of hospital staff and a high birth rate meant that it became effective for hospi
    Preventing neurosis. Source: M. Edward Davis and Catherine E. Sheckler, De Lee’s Obstetrics for Nurses, 15th ed. (Philadelphia: Saunders, 1951), p. 499.

    tals to have infants stay in mothers’ rooms rather than in a central nursery. Elizabeth Temkin explains that this practice resonated with a post-Hiroshima fear of science and a cultural imperative to privilege individuality and family over uniformity and autocracy: “In other words, only Nazis would insist on feeding infants on a schedule in an impersonal central nursery. Rooming-in was not just a floor plan for the maternity ward, it was the basis of democracy.”[12] This development demonstrates the ways hospital designs are negotiations among medical technology, institutional circumstance, and the political moment. It also suggests the power the hospital holds as a national imaginary—a place where the nation is alternatively healed and born.

  8. 99% invisible: the blue yarn.

    An episode of 99% Invisible about the redesign of Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle according to the principles of a Toyota assembly line. The results, in many ways in line with “modern,” patient-focused thought, suggestively recall some principles from 19th-century medical philosophy: the

    Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA

    value of natural beauty, limits on mobility, lots of light. But the redesign also suggests a reconsideration of the hierarchy implied by the “backstage/onstage” nature of modern medical care, as well as the temporalities of treatment. (You can find another great 99% Invisible, this one on an iconic 19th-century cancer hospital in New York, here. )

  9. Since the dawn of the field, psychiatric hospitals in America have operated on the notion that a patient’s environment is instrumental in the therapeutic treatment of mental illness.[13] In the second half of
    Dining Room, Green Door Clubhouse, Washington, D.C.

    the 20th century, however, psychiatric consensus shifted towards outpatient treatment, pharmaceutical management, and deinstitutionalization. Carla Yanni puts it this way: “The profession needed to disassociate itself from the once-grand claims of environmental determinism, because, quite evidently, the environment had not determined many cures.”[14] But Yanni notes that the shift in focus to non-institutionalized patients has left those that previously depended on the structure of the hospital—the poorest, most severe cases—without adequate care.[15] The elimination of the hospital, for all its faults, threatens its original mission of public welfare. Yanni discusses a new kind of institution gaining popularity in American cities. Called “clubhouses,” such organizations provide community and social services to the mentally ill without the institutional and repressive strategies that have historically characterised psychiatric hospitals.[16]

  10. In a New York Times op-ed published last year, Dhruv Khular argues that “bad hospital design is making us sicker.”[17] He suggests rooming patients together exacerbates hospital-acquired illness, and notes that money potentially saved fighting infections could offset the cost of housing patients individually. He advocates design changes that lower sound levels and make patients less prone to falls. He also offers evidence for the therapeutic value of access to nature in treatment settings. Khular’s perspective suggests that future design decisions could be based on research and critical attention to the built environment. At the same time, his concerns resonate with over 200 years of American hospital design and culture by weighing the values of community vs. individuality, idealizing “natural” healing, and affirming the sense that in America, effective and mutually beneficial hospitals are crucial for a healthy democracy.

    The newly built Eskenazi Hospital and Health Campus in Indiannapolis, IN


[1] Geoffrey Marks and William K. Beatty, The Story of Medicine in America (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973), chap. 5.

[2] Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1787: “As a nursery of seamen it now is, or when time shall have more nearly assimilated the principles of navigation in the several States, will become an universal resource. To the establishment of a navy it must be indispensible.” (Alexander Hamilton, Federalist, no. 11, 65—73; press

[3] Gautham Rao, “The Early American State ‘In Action’: The Federal Marine Hospitals, 1789-1860,” in Boundaries of the State in US History, ed. James T. Sparrow, William J. Novak, and Stephen W. Sawyer (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015), 47.

[4] Morris J. Vogel, “The Transformation of the American Hospital,” in Institutions of Confinement: Hospitals, Asylums, and Prisons in Western Europe and North America, 1500-1950, ed. Norbert Finzsch and Robert Jütte, Publications of the German Historical Institute (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 45–46.

[5] The cross-contamination of patients was called “hospitalism.” (Vogel, 46.)

[6] Not to mention religions. Hospitals operated by people of particular faiths were an important feature in the emergence of modern hospital systems in the mid-18th to 20th centuries. For an account of the emergence of Catholic hospitals, see Bernadette McCauley, Who Shall Take Care of Our Sick? Roman Catholic Sisters and the Development of Catholic Hospitals in New York City (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).

[7] Coli Gordon, Dead on Arrival: The Politics of Health Care in Twentieth-Century America (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 149.

[8] Harriet A. Washington, Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Harlem Moon, 2006), chaps. 8–11.

[9] Annmarie Adams, Medicine by Design: The Architect and the Modern Hospital, 1893-1943 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 48.

[10] William R. Rosengren and Spencer DeVault, “The Sociology of Time and Space in an Obstetrical Hospital,” in The Hospital in Modern Society, ed. Eliot Freidson (New York: Free Press, 1963), 266–92.

[11] Rosengren and DeVault, 285.

[12] Elizabeth Temkin, “Rooming-In: Redesigning Hospitals and Motherhood in Cold War America,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 76, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 285.

[13] Discussed in Marks and Beatty, The Story of Medicine in America, 64–70. Benjamin Rush, considered the father of modern psychiatry, believed that “good health depended on the social, political, and economic environment as well as on physical factors.”

[14] Carla Yanni, The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 146.

[15] Yanni, 147.

[16] Yanni, 153–58.

[17] Dhruv Khullar, “Bad Hospital Design Is Making Us Sicker,” The New York Times, February 22, 2017,

The Value We Place On Metal and Stone; Monuments in America

1. Definition of a Monument:

The official definition of a monument is “something erected in memory of a person, event, etc. as a building, pillar or statue.” The name monument comes from the Latin term Monitor, which means “to signify all things which call to mind the memory of some subject to those absent from this place or time.” Since the development of ancient civilizations, such as Ancient Egypt, the practice of memorializing or honoring someone or something came to be. At these times monuments were largely made in honor of the great and powerful. Over the course of history, people created monuments to honor and preserve the memory of a person, place, or event, big and small. In many instances, these statues and monuments honor war heroes or the victims of a war and other influential members of society. These war memorials offer insights into the ways in which national cultures conceive their pasts.

For this reason, monuments can carry political and social implications in how an audience may chose to interpret what they represent. Many factors contribute to the interpretation of a statue and what it may or may not symbolize. The geographical positioning of a statue affects the way the audience values the statue, for example a statue of Robert E. Lee may be received differently in a town in the south compared to a northern city. Monuments are simply objects that we then place value on and emotion into. Since historical events upon retrospective examination can be viewed as controversial, the monuments honoring them can create controversy as well. This relationship between history and a nation show the connection that the people have with that event and how they view and choose to remember a time in the past.

Source: Hamilton, Annette. “Monuments and memory.” Continuum 3, no. 1 (1990): 101-114.


2. Monuments and Memory: 

Monuments carry a deep connection with history and memory. History and memory are not synonymous. Memory is “life, borne by living societies founded in its name” and history is, on the other hand, “the reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, of what is no longer” (8). Various cultures and countries influence how history is portrayed and what is memorialized. “In the United States, for example, a country of plural memories and diverse traditions, historiography is more pragmatic. Different interpretations of the Revolution or of the Civil War do not threaten the American tradition because, in some sense, no such thing exists” (10). The definition of the present as defined by the nation, is greatly influenced by the past and the history of the country.

Monuments and memorials stemmed out of this national desire to preserve a country’s heritage and history. By honoring the past it helps to develop the type of values that the nation hopes to portray and express in the future. The Washington Monument stands tall over the capital of the United States and nothing can exceed its height according to building code in Washington D.C. It symbolizes the power of America and the desire to express this throughout the world.

Source: Nora, Pierre. “Between memory and history: Les lieux de mémoire.” Representations (1989): 7-24.


3. American Example:

The Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. is a national symbol. The “Lincoln Memorial was conceived as a symbol of national consensus, linking North and South on holy, national ground” (141). We know this location as the setting of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In King’s speech he begins by stating, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation” (157). It is where thousands protested the Vietnam War, where the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom occurred.

For decades the Lincoln Memorial represents the history of the past and also represents a symbol of protests to change the future. Not only is it a symbol of the nation, but it also is the location for many historical political protests. In 1939, an African-American woman by the name of Marian Anderson sung the song “My Country ‘Tis of thee” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The concert was held by a civil rights leader and soon it became an exciting new beginning for the Lincoln Memorial as a stage for progressive ideas. It was not the first use of the Lincoln Memorial as a grounds for protest but it was the first mass gathering of black protestors attempting to gain national publicity. This particular setting is interesting given the uncertain relationship between African Americans and Abraham Lincoln himself. Those protesting utilized the memory of Lincoln in their favor as a “political weapon, in the process of layering and changing the public meanings of the hero and his shrine” (136). Pierre Nora called the Lincoln Memorial the best American example of a ‘memory site’ which is a place where “we struggle over the tensions between our experience of the past (memory) and our organization of it (history)… Memory sites are loci of struggle between the official groups that often create them and the vernacular groups that inevitably interpret and reinterpret them in competing ways” (137).

Source: Sandage, Scott A. “A marble house divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the civil rights movement, and the politics of memory, 1939-1963.” The Journal of American History 80, no. 1 (1993): 135-167.

4. Trinity Example:

Directly in the center of the quad we have our own Trinity example of a monument. Originally made to be placed over his grave, the statue of Bishop Thomas Church Brownell who founded and was the first president of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1823, stands tall over Trinity’s campus. In the statue he stands with his right hand outstretched and his left hand holding a Bible, which is a pose representative of traditional orators. The statue first was erected in 1869 and stood on the college’s original location of Bushnell Park and was later moved to Trinity College’s current campus in 1878. The statue is made of bronze and sits on top of a 16-foot-tall granite pedestal. The statue was gifted to the college by Brownell’s son-in-law, Gordon W. Burnham.

He stands at the center of the quad and is the backdrop for matriculation, convocation, and eventually graduation every year for all incoming and graduating classes.


Statue of Thomas Church Brownell at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut

5. Symbolism of Monuments:

As mentioned before, monuments are not just blocks of stone created for people to look at in awe. They are made in representation of someone or something. Sometimes the symbolism of these statues or monuments change over time and develop new meanings. An example of this would be the Statue of Liberty found in New York, New York. The Statue of Liberty, also know as “Lady Liberty” came to the United States as a gift from Frenchman Edouard de Laboulaye. It was created to celebrate and honor the centennial of the American Declaration and the United States of America. Its original name was “Liberty Enlightening the World.” The Americans built the pedestal and the French sculpted the statue. Funding was slow and difficult but eventually she was built and shipped in 350 separate parts across the Atlantic Ocean. She arrived as a symbol of the nation’s birth but grew into much more than that. During this time period, many immigrants were entering into the United States by way of Ellis Island, New York. Those immigrants who sailed past her on their way into the America that they had dreamed of saw her as a beacon of hope. She became an emblem and a mascot of sorts to the millions of immigrants who came to America following a dream of a better way of life than where they had come from. A comfort of sorts that they had at last arrived at their destination.

On October 28, 1936 on the Statue of Liberty’s fiftieth anniversary President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke, “It is the memory of all these eager seeking millions that makes this one of America’s places of great romance. Looking down this great harbor I like to think of the countless numbers of inbound vessels that have made this port. I like to think of the men and women who, with the break of dawn off Sandy Hook, have strained their eyes to the west for a glimpse of the New World.” His profound words further highlight the theme of monuments as areas of emotion and artifacts that symbolize more than they may initially intend.

Source: Lazarus, Emma, and Valenti Angelo. The new colossus. Project Gutenberg, 1949.

6. Term’s Transformation:

Monuments traditionally commemorate veterans, philosophers, and society’s most influential members, but in more modern times we have seen the introduction of pop culture into monuments. An example of this is the Rocky Balboa statue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The scene in the movie shows Rocky running through the streets of Philadelphia with the famous Rocky Theme song cheering him and the Philadelphians that join him along his trek up the Art Museum steps. When he reaches the top he throws his hands up in victory and this is the exact moment that the statue memorializes. The statue was introduced to the city for the filming of Rocky III later donated to the city that now remains as a monument to a fictional boxer…but it is so much more than that to the city of Philadelphia. As one of the city’s most famous pieces of public art the statue sees thousands of tourists each year. Initially, there was much negative response to the sculpture claiming that it was an ugly movie prop and that it should not be at the base of the city’s esteemed art museum, some claiming that they hoped it would be dumped into the Schuylkill River. This debate over whether it was appropriate to keep Rocky where he was, demonstrates a debate over public art and memorialism, in its portray of a moment in pop culture and not in relation to the history of Philadelphia itself. Despite the fact that the statue represents a fictional character the city of Philadelphia continues to rally behind it, believing that it is a metaphor for hope and a symbol that “greatness can come out of this city” and an artistic representation of the hopes and dreams of Philly.

During the Super Bowl LII, the statue came under attack by Vikings fans and Patriots fans, adorning him in the opposing team’s gear. This action rattled the city of Philadelphia in what it represented. Rocky stands for Philly and for all of it means and therefore, Eagles fans believed that the only colors he should be decorated in are green and white. This is an example of the social consequences that statues can create. An entire city can rally behind a statue of a fictional man who they believe embodies the city’s goals and aspirations. People from other places recognize this statue as just that and target it in a way to create an uproar. Although not a political statement or a largely historically significant commemoration, the shift of statues from honoring war heroes to pop culture emblems may not be as terrible as the initial protestors thought.

Source: Burling, Elizabeth J. “Policy Strategies for Monuments and Memorials.” (2005).

Rocky running up the Philadelphia Art Museum steps. (

7. Controversy Behind Monuments:

In the summer of 2017, controversy arose in Charlottesville, VA over a statue of Robert E. Lee. Questions over whether a statue of the Confederate General should be honored and maintained during this day in age and what is represented arose. Riots and protests began all stemming from the statue. The statue shows Lee on horseback with just the words Robert Edward Lee written on it. White nationalists marched on the city to protest its plans to remove the statue that had been there since 1924. Residents of the city, as well as members of the N.A.A.C.P. wished for it to be removed. This debate highlights the overall issue of whether confederate soldiers should be memorized at all. “The violence this weekend was one of the bloodiest fights over the campaigns across the South to remove Confederate monuments, and the statue remains a lightning rod in Charlottesville.” This sentiment demonstrates the severity of the issue at hand. The struggle between the north and the south still holds its roots, one hundred and fifty years later. It goes beyond waving the Confederate flag and showing your ‘loyalty to the South’ but to statues that at one point in time people were accepting of and now questions are arising on why we should memorialize someone who did not support the nation that we currently are a part of.

This highlights the various values and emotions that people place on monuments. The meaning behind a statue or a building created in honor of someone or something can create controversy and conflict. A person viewed as a hero to one group may be viewed the opposite by another.

Source: Fortin, Jacey. “The Statue at the Center of Charlottesville’s Storm.” The New York Times (2017).

8. Animals and Monuments:

In 1925, a statue of a dog (either a Husky, Alaskan Malamute, or Siberian wolfhound), by the name of Balto, called Central Park in New York City his home. Balto was a real dog, he rose to national fame in January of 1925 as the leader of a dog sled team. Balto set out with his team on a 650-mile trek to deliver a diphtheria anti-toxin that would successfully thwarted an epidemic in Nome, Alaska. The trip only took them five and a half days to complete. Nome, Alaska is the town where the Iditarod sled dog race ends and Balto, along with his team, participated in as well. When word of this story of triumph over nature and human and animal connection and cooperation got out to the rest of the world, Balto and his team went from local heroes to national ones. The story would be repeated for generations as the quintessential tale of survival. Soon after the event, decisions were made to create a commemorative statue of Balto in Central Park in New York City.

There is a great human connection between humans and animals and particularly humans and service animals. A statue was erected of Sirius, the only rescue dog to die in the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. We create attachments to animals in the same way that we do to human beings, therefore, it makes sense that we would want to memorialize those creatures who impacted our lives in similar ways to the influential human beings that we see preserved in stone and metal.

Source: Kean, Hilda. “Balto, the Alaskan dog and his statue in New York’s Central Park: animal representation and national heritage.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 15, no. 5 (2009): 413-430.

Balto Statue in Central Park, New York, NY (

9. Famous Speech:

On January 18, 2009 President Barack Obama gave a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. This speech was given two days prior to his inauguration and was in honor of the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech given at the exact same location. He chose to speak at this location for what it means to the American people and the historical significance it beholds. He states “what gives me that hope is what I see when I look out across this mall. For in these monuments are chiseled those unlikely stories that affirm our unyielding faith–a faith that anything is possible in America.” This idea embodies what a monument is to society. How an object can become so much more through the placement of emotions and value on it. He describes the Washington Monument saying, “rising before us stands a memorial to a man who led a small band of farmers and shopkeepers in revolution against the army of an Empire, all for the sake of an idea.” He then references Martin Luther King Jr. stating, “directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King, and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character’s content.” Lastly he references Abraham Lincoln and the memorial created in his honor, “behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible.” As the first black president Obama was referencing the strides that Lincoln took in preparing the nation to reach this momentous day, through compromise and strife he united the two sides of the Civil War and also in the process, emancipated the slaves. He then states that it is not the stone and marble that he finds the most hope in, but in the American people themselves and that these memorials embody these values and that this common thread “runs through every memorial on this mall; that connects us to all those who struggled and sacrificed and stood here before.”


President Barack Obama giving a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial (

10. Fun Facts: 

The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. is 555 feet tall. It was built in two separate phases, one was private from 1848-1854 and the other one was public from 1876-1884. Throughout this timeframe there were many different versions and plans of what it would look like. Eventually, it was built after the shape of an Egyptian obelisk as a demonstration of ancient civilizations and their timelessness. It was built as a tribute to George Washington, the “most essential Founding Father.” At the time that it was built it was the tallest building the world. Originally the elevator installed in the monument was steam-driven and took 10-12 minutes to reach the top of the monument, it was later replaced with an electric elevator that shortened the ride time.

The 13 Colonies

    1. “The Colonies” refers to the thirteen original colonies that comprised pre-revolutionary and revolutionary America (1607-1776).  All located on the East Coast, the colonies included New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  The term “the colonies” has been in use since the early 1700’s.  Each colony was founded on different principals based on its original settlers.  For example, Massachusetts served as a refuge for English Puritans and its society and cultural norms mirrored their strict religious practices.

      Map of the Thirteen Colonies (shown in red). Wikipedia.
    2. What is colonialism?  Colonialism is widely understood as political system that involves one country asserting economic and military domination over another.  This relationship takes on many forms depending on the conditions of the colonizer and colonized.  Due to Western technological advances in the 1500’s colonialism as it is currently understood started to take form: “it became possible to move large numbers of people across the ocean and to maintain political sovereignty in spite of geographical dispersion”[1]. The colonization of the early United States can be best represented by the system of settler colonialism, which consists of a foreign population replacing the indigenous populations of an area. This system differs from the imperial systems of exploitation that was experienced in Latin America, Africa and, Asia for centuries.

      An early 20th century advertisement selling Native American lands to those interested in moving out west.
    3. The Jamestown Settlement in Virginia was the first successful British colony in the United States.  The first English ship arrived on April 26, 1607 carrying 143 Englishmen who would establish a proper colonial outpost modeled after the French and Spanish models in Louisiana and Florida, respectively.  What differentiated Jamestown from other colonies was that its original inhabitants were all men seeking fortunes through landownership, as opposed to families escaping religious persecution.  The colonists’ survival was dependent on a trading relationship with local Native American tribes, despite seemingly constant violent outbreaks between the two groups.  Through this relationship, the early colonists learned how to grow tobacco, which became wildly popular in both the colony and in England.  The tobacco industry ensured the economic success of Virginia, but required a larger workforce.  Therefore, in 1619 the first slaves arrived from Angola, as well as an abundance of indentured servants from the Netherlands and England.

      Arial depiction of the Jamestown settlement.
    4.  The Massachusetts Bay Colony was founded in 1620 when the Mayflower arrived in Provincetown Harbor on Cape Cod.  Those aboard the Mayflower were British Puritans seeking religious freedom for their separatist protestant beliefs.  The pilgrims on the Mayflower intended to create a settlement in Virginia, but harsh weather conditions and a taxing 65-day journey across the Atlantic made finishing the voyage to Virginia implausible.  The Mayflower Compact was signed by all the surviving men on the ship and founded the legal basis for the future Massachusetts Bay Colony by establishing a voluntary government in Massachusetts instead of Virginia. The colony continued to grow and soon Boston was established as the commercial center of the colony, creating a burgeoning merchant class.  Boston would later become a place of key importance during the Revolutionary War.

      Colonists trading their goods on the harbor.
    5. The Colonial Economy: The American colonies grew to be an economic success in each region (South, Middle Colonies, and New England).  Most of these economies were agricultural, but areas with poor soil or terrains that made farming difficult found success in industries such as trapping or fishing.  Regional specialization and seemingly abundant land gave the colonies a comparative advantage over their European counterparts and allowed for their entry into the global economy.  Rice and tobacco that was grown in the South and grains that were grown in the Middle Colonies (the area between the Potomac River and the Hudson River) were referred to as cash crops.  Despite unfavorable agricultural conditions, the New England colonies rose to economic prominence due to their involvement in fishing and shipping industries.  Other colonial industries included shipbuilding, resource extraction, fur trading, and textile production.

      A Pennsylvania farm.
    6. Colonial Society: The character of the societies of the colonies was dependent on its geographic location, their economies, and the general values held by its inhabitants.  What remained constant throughout all thirteen colonies, however, was that white, landowning, protestant men maintained a privileged role in society.  Furthermore, most societies were more or less based on social structures in Europe, creating highly stratified communities.  Slavery and indentured servitude were staples of colonial society until the Revolutionary period in some colonies and remained until the Civil War in others.  Interestingly, due to the seasonal agricultural practices of the Middle Colonies and the lack of a strong agricultural economy in New England, the need for slavery was not as strongly felt: leaving a dramatically different legacy than in the South.  Native Americans were forcibly removed from their lands and were deemed inhuman.  Women occupied an interesting role within the home and in the greater community.  At the dawn of the Revolution, women were expected to raise families based on the notions of republicanism, which turned the norm that a woman’s place was in the home into a patriotic responsibility.

      Painting of the prominent Royall family (Robert Feke 1741). (
    7. The Seven Years Year/ the French and Indian War: Many consider the catalyst for American independence (and the end of the colonies) to be the Seven Years War (also referred to as the French and Indian War), fought from 1756 to 1763.  The war began as an imperialist conflict due to Britain’s desire to expand westward the French controlled Ohio Valley to expand the capacity to trade.  Despite the British victory, the expense of the war caused the British monarchy to levy a series of controversial taxes, such as the Stamp Act in 1765, that was ultimately part of the driving force that led the American colonists to seek independence.

      The Join or Die cartoon was popularized during the American Revolution, but was originally used during the French and Indian War.
    8. Historic Preservation: A number of colonial settlements and areas have been preserved to educate the public about a previous era and how it has informed American life today.  Historic districts bring revenue to cities and states through investment and tourism and can regenerate struggling local economies.  Additionally, they provide a sense of identity and community for the area they are located in.  Examples of colonial historic districts and sites today include Colonial Williamsburg, the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia and Valley Forge, and the Paul Revere House in Boston.

9. In popular culture, the colonies are portrayed in a number of freely interpreted ways that fail to properly depict what the typical day to day would have been for a colonist.  The motifs used most often are the puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the relationships between the colonists and Native Americans.  The New England settlers are often depicted as narrow minded, religious zealots, or used as a vehicle for depictions of horror, often associated with the Salem witch trials.  For example, in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, he conflates narratives of the Salem witch trials with Puritan settlements, while depicting few positive characters (Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism in the 1950’s).            

Popular culture also has a habit of romanticizing the relationships between indigenous Americans and the colonists.  For example, Disney’s Pocahontas uses real historical figures to tell the story of a Native American princess and British soldier defying their superiors by falling in love.  While Pocahontas did marry an Englishman (John Rolfe, not John Smith), it was largely a political relationship and grounds for a truce after her abduction by the Jamestown settlers.

10. When studying colonial America, it is important to recognize that most scholarship on the subject has a colonial bias that can best be described using the saying “history is told by the victors”.  For example, the history of the relationship between Native Americans and the colonists seems to end after the initial settlements of the colonies in the 1600’s, when in reality the effects of these early relationships are still felt in many native communities today.  The current understanding of a number of tribes is based off of primary sources recorded by European explorers and settlers, which creates a seemingly unavoidable conflict when trying to accurately understand the colonial community at the time: “In the past many historians…[portrayed] the Indians as the  helpless victims of European colonizers who had superior technology, broader worldly experience, and more lethal diseases” (Lombard and Middleton, n.p.).  In addition, the role of Native Americans in the survival of many early colonists is quite large, but often overlooked.

A depiction of a Native American offering advice on how to farm.

Bibliography :

Baker, Paula. “The Domestication of Politics: Women and American Political Society, 1780-1920.” The American Historical Review 89, no. 3 (1984): 620-47. doi:10.2307/1856119.

Bremer, Francis J. The Puritan Experiment: New England Society from    Bradford to Edwards. University Press of New England, 1995.

Heinemann, Ronald L. Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia, 1607-2007. University of Virginia Press, 2007.

Kohn, Margaret and Reddy, Kavita, “Colonialism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Lombard, Anne and Richard Middleton, Colonial America: A History to 1763. John Wiley and Sons, 2011.

Phil Rabinowitz, “Changing the Physical and Social Environment: Encouraging Historic Preservation”. 

Rockoff, Hugh and Gary M. Walton, History of the American Economy. Cengage Learning, 2013.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. Columbia University Press, 2004.

The Pitfalls of the City

The Pitfalls of the City:

When considering the American landscape, there are three geographical spaces for living: the city, the rural, the suburbs. Each space has advantages and disadvantages for its residents. Each space containing unique characteristics. The cities that span across this country have the unique quality of representing both wealth and poverty. There is a juxtaposition and the definition of a city varies based on its residents. For one it can be a beautiful apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City, while another lives on the streets just outside. Two polar opposite experiences that are each defined by a city.

City Skyline GIPHY  

1 The “definition” of a city: Can there be one definition for a city? How does one create a definitive and all encompassing meaning for a place that has changed and developed over time? Merriam- Webster defines a city as “an inhabited place of greater size, population, or importance than a town or village”.  In the book, The Organic City, takes an extensive look into the development of the city through 19th and 20th century. As the city became popular “during the late nineteenth century, Americans confronted the challenge of a seemingly new urban form.  Americans [were] attempting to impose order on a rapidly changing society caught in the throes of industrialization and urbanization, the men and women interested in urban affairs embraced the notion of interdependence popular in descriptions of society and started to view the city as an organism- as an interdependent system of complementary parts or neighborhoods.” Urban Sociologist Ernest W. Burgess in 1926 also defined a city as an “organism” (pg 1). Cities are an organism in the sense that they are a system that is both dependent and also interdependent. The city influences the people while the people also influence the city. The rapid increase and development of cities develops a diverse demographic of people and industries. This results in different experiences and the inequalities of life to develop. [1]

2 Housing Divide in Cities: There is no doubt that there are class difference across not only America but also the world but there is no better place to see the clash and divide of class like housing in cities. Although there are classes that help define economic differences there is a clear racial wealth gap. The racial wealth gap between white and black homeownership in cities is significant. Through the process of privatization or “de facto segregation” is commonly thought of as private activity. This private activity is what led to highly segregated cities and the movement of upper class whites to the suburbs. In Richard Rothstein’s book, The Color of Law, he points out that the private activity and segregation would not have been possible without the government laws that explicitly promote white and black segregation. The housing segregation led to the exploitation of the blacks in cities and over time has created a huge wealth gap. The lack of attention paid to those in the lower economic bracket has allowed for the continuation of neglect to these communities and people. [2]

The Color of Law

3 Crime in Cities: In the late 1990’s there appeared to be a decrease in crime throughout American cities. This would make people believe that living conditions in cities were evening out and that the city was becoming gentrified in a positive way. This lack or decrease of crime in cities did not last long. In the mid 2000’s, there was a spike in crime in American cities. The main spike in crime is coming from the poorer areas of cities such as the south side of LA. Police in many of the poor parts of cities say that of the many factors that contribute to this rise in crime that high poverty rates is one of the key factors. People in these poorer parts of the city are joining gangs and getting guns due to the easy access. The desperation many of these people is causing many to commit both senseless crimes as well as crimes out of desperation; “Seventy-one percent of the cities surveyed had an increase in homicides, 80 percent had an increase in robberies, and 67 percent reported an increase in aggravated assaults with guns.” [3]

Police tape across city skyline

4 Housing and Crime: The mix of neighborhoods and crime in cities. The demographic of neighborhoods influences the residents as well as the crime.  A wealthy upper class tends to inhabit the nicer areas of the city while the poorer and generally black class is left with little to live off of. The poor are left in the neighbors with little and generally ignored by the city. In these areas there is a lot of crime. In a study done by the University of Wisconsin, they examine the mix of both crime and the housing crisis in many cities. The start of the problem lies with the white avoidance. [4] While the socioeconomic demographics between whites and blacks is shrinking (albeit not entirely quickly), the mix of neighborhoods does not show this. Blacks are still being segregated in housing even though it is more of a social practice. Whites have said that they would move out of neighborhoods that are 1/3 or more black. [4] This is the start of the problem. The segregation allows of the development of neighborhoods and areas that are not diverse. Without the resources being put in to the development of the poorer areas, these areas continue to remain underdeveloped. The areas that are predominately black are perceived to have more crime. This seems like a chicken and egg situation. Do these areas have more crime because they are underdeveloped? If this is the case, they will never improve if people continue to turn a blind eye to the areas in need. This is causing a stereotype of black neighborhoods to be created and perpetuated across this country. It has incredibly negative repercussions.

5 Atlanta Housing and Crime: The University of Georgia did a case study on Atlanta and crime. They looked at how crime changed the further away from the public housing you got. This is an important study because it assumes that those with a poorer background will have a higher crime rate. Public housing was a huge urban establishment in the early 1950’s where “many have evolved into warehouses for the most disadvantaged segments of the urban population, intensifying racial/ethnic segregation and the social isolation of their residents” [5] Many state the lack of attention paid to this buildings along with the people these buildings attract, that they are resulting in surrounding neighborhoods to also have the same demographic. When looking at the Atlanta crime and public housing the correlation is clear. In Atlanta, “predominantly black neighborhoods in close proximity to public housing exhibit the highest crime rates, but those further removed from public housing sites are no more likely to exhibit high crime rates than predominantly white neighborhoods.” [5] One can assume that this is not unique to just the Atlanta city but also is reproduced in the majority of cities across America.

Chicago Crime: Chicago is one of the most crime ridden cities in America. There are many crimes commit there every day. I personally have many family members that live both in the suburban and urban spaces of Chicago. There are clear areas of the city that one should not go in to alone. Getting lost in downtown in Chicago can be terrifying. This fear arises out of the distrust people feel towards the areas residents. Much of the crime in Chicago is organized crime that steams for gangs. The crimes tend to be violent. Last year as of June 30th, Chicago had already had 1,760 people shot by guns. [6] That is an incredibly high number. That is a problem. Many if not all these shootings were taking place in the most poor areas in Chicago. At this point last year, Trump also decided to send the Feds in as an attempt to prevent further crime. This violence in Chicago is not new, but rather is an epidemic that reoccurs year after year. It is horrible to think that there is an issue that people are turning a blind eye to even though they are aware of the problem. Last year Chicago, which is the third largest city in the country, had more than twice the number of murders as LA or NYC. [7] Although with the intervention of the Feds, the crime still persists. Many of the reasons why there is so much crime in Chicago is because of the racial makeup of certain parts of the city. Those living in the poor area of the city are desperate to live and do whatever they need in order survive.

Cartoon “Fleeing Violence” From the Chicago Tribune
Cartoon from Progress Illinois

Police Brutality in Cities: Police brutality is something not unfamiliar to us. There have many examples in the 21st century that reinforce the idea of unfair policing. Many of the poor policing practices and discrimination that we see today stems from the miss conduct of policing in the 1960s. In the early 1960’s there was the eruption of the Civil Rights Movement. Many blacks fighting for their rights came to clash with the police in certain areas. Police at this time used extreme force as a way to prevent protests from moving forward. This level of force was not necessarily new but now was in the public eye. The idea that police could be brutal to the blacks in this country was instilled in their practice. Out of the violence that was emerging, the US government in 1968 attempted to take action. A commission was created and the ultimate findings were that “the nation is moving toward two societies, one black and one white — separate and unequal” and as the Marshall Project, a non for profit news paper, states these findings still “ring true”. [8] The report found determined that it was not the police’s’ fault rather the fault of the black Americans. This shows the systematic issues that cities face with race and police. The blame is not placed on the government rather the individual. At time when cities were meant to be integrating, there appeared to be more racial segregation than ever. The policing issue of the late 1960’s allowed for mayoral candidates to call for a more integrated police force. [8] This integrated police force in Atlanta at the time is what some site as being the problem in the Atlanta Serial Murders. Over the years and since this report emerged, city police and the unfair violence against minorities has continued to occur. Many state that nothing has changed since the extreme brutality of the policing in the 1960’s. Many lawmakers chose to ignore the racial/class issue and instead attempt to fix the policing. This is the wrong way to go about it because most of the crime issues stems from poverty and inequality on all levels in America. [8]


8 Gender in Cities: The overarching theme of cities is that there is a huge group of people that are being ignored. They are being left out of the story. Although many of those forgotten are because of race, there are also many of the LGBTQ community that are ignored. Their stories not being told and spaces for them to thrive are not being created. A prime example of this is the police raid that occured in NYC at the bar Blue’s in the fall of 1982. [9] Although this event created a huge amount of controversy within the community and on top of that was overly violent, the media paid no attention to this. The raid essentially went ignored. This is an example of the city choosing to ignore those that do not fit its “mold”. The police were discriminating against those different from them. (sound familiar?) This phenomenon is something that blacks have been also facing in cities for years. This is also another example of the housing privatization choice who is ignored. The people in the LGBTQ community were all put in to neighborhoods by themselves. These neighborhoods are still define today. Many policies, whether lawful or not, have created policy violence and exclusion. The gentrification has only proved positive for a certain group and exclusionary to everyone else.

Blues protest 1982

9 The Atlanta Monster: Born and raised in Atlanta, I take tremendous pride in my city but there was also something missing from my knowledge about my beloved home. In 1979-81, 28 young black kids from the downtown area of Atlanta were either missing or murdered. This is an incredibly high number of murders in such a small amount of time. Few people took notice and the murders continued to occur. Finally after people begging for help, the government began to take action. People at the time recall the fear and lack of help they received. It’s hard not to think that had this occured in another part in the city with more affluent white kids that measures would have been taken almost immediately. These kids seemed to be forgotten in a time when they were in desperate need of protection. The podcast “Atlanta Monster” takes an investigative look in to the story of the kids and what transpired in the city at the time. Nearly 40 years later this is still something that goes untalked about in the city. It is almost like they are trying to cover it up, but the reality is this is happening all over the country. Crimes are being committed in cities and because they are not happening to the wealthiest or dominate group they are going ignored. Especially interesting is that at this time Atlanta had their first black mayor. One would have thought that this would have made people pay more attention to the serial killings and yet this is not what happened. This is still present in cities across the country today where people are being ignored because they are not deemed important. [10]

The Atlanta Monster Podcast cover

10 The Future of Cities: The Wired has an article that describes what cities will look like in the future. The only thing missing is that it does not talk about the demographics or the human make up of the cities. The article opens by stating “around the second decade of the 20th century, things changed. Cities started to happen on purpose. Beginning with New York City’s zoning laws in 1916, development began to occur by commission, not omission. Laws and regulations dictated the shape of the envelope.” [11] This current day article talks nothing about the past and the developments of cities rather the improvements cities will make in the future. I included this article because it shows how cities look to move forward but there is no talk about the development of the “problem” areas. How can a city move forward if it continues to ignore the citizens that need help the most. While it is important to celebrate our improvements it is important to recognize the pitfalls and attempt to fix our previous mistakes. [11]



Ferkenhoff, Eric , and Darnell Little. “The Bleeding of Chicago.” CityLab, 27 Feb. 2018,

Gorner, Jeremy. “As feds help Chicago on guns, Trump aide says city’s crime more about ‘morality’.”, 1 July 2017,

Hanhardt, Christina B. “Broken Windows at Blue’s: A Queer History of Gentrification and Policing.”, 14 June 2016,

Larson, Sarah. “”Atlanta Monster”: In Pursuit of Justice and a Hit Podcast.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 12 Feb. 2018,

Library, Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ, et al. “How a Landmark Report on 1960s Race Riots Fell Short on Police Reform.” The Marshall Project, 2 Mar. 2018,

Mcnulty, Thomas L., and Steven R. Holloway. “Race, Crime, and Public Housing in Atlanta: Testing a Conditional Effect Hypothesis.” Social Forces, vol. 79, no. 2, 2000, p. 707., doi:10.2307/2675514.

Melvin, Patricia Mooney. Organic city: urban definition and neighborhood organization 1880-1920. Univ Pr Of Kentucky, 2014,

Nodjimbadem, Katie. “The Racial Segregation of American Cities Was Anything But Accidental.”, Smithsonian Institution, 30 May 2017,

Quillian, Lincoln, and Devah Pager. “Black Neighbors, Higher Crime? The Role of Racial Stereotypes in Evaluations of Neighborhood Crime.” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 107, no. 3, Nov. 2001, pp. 717–767., doi:10.1086/338938.

Rogers, Adam. “8 Cities That Show You What the Future Will Look Like.” Wired, Conde Nast, 1 May 2017,

Rothstein, Richard. “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.” Economic Policy Institute, 2017,

Zernike, Kate. “Violent Crime in Cities Shows Sharp Surge.” The New York Times, 9 Mar. 2007,

Exploring Our Nation’s Playground: A Closer Look at National Parks in America


1. What really IS a National Park?

So…what really is the definition of a ‘national park’? Well, it’s actually a little trickier than it might seem at first glance. The National Park Service (NPS) is an agency under the United States federal government that was created with the purpose of controlling and maintaining national parks, national monuments, and other sites including recreation areas, military parks, historic sites, and urban preserves. So while the NPS is responsible for the conservation of all these lands, true ‘national parks’ are just one category within the whole array. In America, we have 60 protected lands that are given the title “National Parks” they are represented in 28 out of our 50 states and have a total area of nearly 52.2 million acres of protected land! (Runte, 2010)

National parks were created with the purpose of making our nation’s natural wonders “held in trust for all people for all time” (Runte, 2010, p. 1). In order to reach “national park” status, a land must not only exhibit a landscape of natural beauty, but must also contain geological features and ecosystems that are unique in comparison to the rest of the nation, and must have recreational opportunities for visitors to pursue. (Runte, 2010).


2. How the heck did we get National Parks?

We have not always had national parks in America. And they most certainly did not appear all at once. In 1872 Yellowstone National Park was established as the nation’s first national park (Sellers, 2009). And it was not until February 22, 2018 that the Gateway Arch in Missouri was deemed the nation’s most recent national park (Reports, 2018).

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir at Yosemite 1903 (

John Muir is considered to be the “Father of National Parks” because of his early push for environmental conservation and wilderness protection. He advocated for the protection of lands that are now Yosemite National Park. On July 1, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed an Act of Congress that designated Yosemite Valley as state land of California (meaning that private ownership was no longer permitted). Eight years later, in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was created due to the fact that its land was federally governed and there was no state government that could control its management. It not only became the nation’s first national park, but also the world’s. However, it was the efforts of conservationists that allowed national parks to thrive and become what they are today. Theodore Roosevelt was founder of our nation’s oldest wildlife and habitat conservation organization known as the Boone and Crockett Club. Roosevelt and his club headed the efforts to prevent the hunting and poaching of natural resources in Yellowstone National Park. Ultimately, their success  led to laws being developed by the government to protect not only Yellowstone, but all of the parks that would follow. The official federal government branch of the National Park Service (NPS) was later established on August 25, 1916 and today oversees upwards of four hundred units and sixty national parks (Sellers, 2009).


3. Why doesn’t everyone know about Indian removal?
A Different View of Mount Rushmore (

When we think of our national parks we often focus on the natural beauty of pristine landscapes and wild environments that they provide us with. What we overlook is the fact that these lands were not always uninhabited. In order to create these spaces we now cherish, the US had to first dispossess the Native Americans who were living on the land. The earliest national park advocates had the aim of not only protecting the “wild” environments, but also the native people who called those lands their homes. However, advocacy for national parks did not succeed until their concept was changed to instead represent an uninhabited nature that should be set aside for the purpose of American pleasure. Having Native Americans living, cultivating, and hunting on the lands did not fit this picture. In order to achieve these ‘ideals’ it meant the forced removal of the native people (Spence, 2000). 

Claiming the national park lands played an important role in the establishment of the reservation system in America. In fact, Americans soon came to view reservations as the ‘appropriate’ place for Native Americans to live rather than in their original, natural environments. Despite the removal of the Native Americans to reservations, their occupancy and use of the national park lands often continued and new legislature had to be put in place to restrict these ‘violations’.  Although it is seldom discussed when talking about national parks we must remember that before these uninhabited lands were even capable of being preserved, they had to be created (Spence, 2000). 


4. Are these places REALLY protected?

Alt NPS to Trump: you can’t shut down the internet (

In the past, conservationists concerned themselves with decreasing hunting and poaching, maintaining trails after erosion, and encouraging practices of ‘leave no trace’ to keep our national parks safe. Now, a newer, bigger threat lies on the horizon: climate change. The rate at which climate change is affectingour parks varies depending on park location or topography. Forexample, climate warming and drying has been especially prominent win the western regions of America. What this means is that these parks are at risk for increased chance of wildfires, forest drought, and pest outbreaks. AKA large scale forest die off is coming!  (Hansen et al. 2014).

So then…what’s the next step? Well, movements are starting to be made with the attempt to collect data on climate change effects within national parks. This is done with the goal of determining the vulnerability of parks on an individual level so that parks can be addressed on a case-specific basis. Similarly, parks are being assessed on the environment’s capabilities of adapting to change in climate. The hopes of these movements is to better understand how to manage the detrimental effects of climate change as it pertains to each park (Monahan et al. 2014).


5. Why are the so many dang tourists?

The image of National Parks is very positive in the eyes of the public and possibly plays a large role in the good reputation of the western regions in our country. As it turns out, only education and income levels are what mainly determines which tourists are most strongly attracted to national parks. Most of the tourists who pursue the parks are impulsive, adventurous, and action-oriented individuals who view the parks as the perfect vacation spot. They are the types of people who want to explore the great outdoors and escaping people (Mayo, 1975). However…are they really avoiding the crowds nowadays?

Tourism at parks is an ever growing number these days. From 1904 to 2017 a total of 13,918,617,696 people have visited our nation’s parks. 13 BILLION!! From around 100 thousand in the early 1900s to over 300 million in the early 2000s – and the number is just going up and up every year! (National Park Services, 2017) Tourism has been accused as “loving a park to death” (Eagles et al. 2007, p. 72).  And indeed this is true. High levels of tourism in national parks has the potential to lead to detrimental environmental impacts including destruction of species habitat, disruption of migratory patterns, or negative impacts on water or air quality (Eagles et al. 2007).

Grand Canyon National Park Tourism (


6. How are the animals doing in these parks?

National Park Service if you can keep it (

Given the fact that human population in America is ever growing and taking up more and more land, national parks are really the only place that much of our nation’s animals and plants have to go.  However, the fact of the matter is that our national parks are just too small to support many large mammalian species! All around park boundaries exists the construction of new roads, housing developments, and vast deforestation. This forces species to be isolated within park boundaries. In a way our national parks are said to be becoming islands of natural habitat that are entirely surrounded by manmade oceans. (Newmark, 1995)

As a result of this isolation of species, large mammals have been exhibited striking losses in many of our parks. Many parks have seen loses as big as 35-40% of the species originally found there. Larger parks such as Yosemite or Mount Rainier are close behind these smaller parks, loosing more than 25% of the original species. The parks are no longer the vast expanses of open nature that they were 70 to 90 years ago and we must adopt our conservation efforts to account for this. No longer should we focus our attention on the parks themselves but also the surrounding areas, or sooner or later we may not have parks left (Newmark, 1995).


7. Where do women fit into this thing?

At the start of the creation of national parks, the Park Service held a male-defined culture. Not many women were represented within ranger ranks and even as the organization began to grow, women were primarily hired in clerical positions. Old-time rangers believed that their job was solely a man’s work and could not be adequately accomplished by a woman in the same role. Women have historically struggled to be heard in settings that were related with the outdoors. The male-driven culture of conservation eventually led to women creating their own environmental organizations run entirely by women (Norwood et al. 1997).
National Park ranger female meme (

In the national parks system women brought a culture that focused on communication rather than confrontation. Women also found less intrusive ways to organize landscape designs within the national parks and were more willing to be the ones to speak out against those who threatened national park integrity than the men had been. Little is known about the presence of women in the history of our national parks, yet they took on a larger role than many might initially think (Norwood et al. 1997).


8. How about people of color?

It has been long noticed that one main thing missing from our country’s national parks are people from racial and ethnic minority groups. But just why is that? Well it’s quite simple really. The US national parks were literally built on top of upper- and middle-class ideals of what ‘pristine’ nature is…in a sense, national parks were designed to represent a ‘White nature’. They were originally designed in a way that made exclusion of minority groups inevitable (Byrne et al. 2009).

I know what you’re thinking. That’s a historical explanation for its, but why is it an on going problem? There have been a number of possible explanations for that very question. First and foremost it has been speculated that it is a result of marginality – that minority groups are unable to visit national parks as a result of economic disparities.  It has been suggested that minority groups as a whole (but more specifically black Americans) historically suffer from economic disadvantages and therefore cannot afford the luxury of visiting a national park. Another reasoning is that it is due to differences ethnicity – that minority groups are underrepresented due to the fact that they hold cultural values that differ from white Americans. Lastly, there is their underrepresentation stems from discrimination – that minority groups do not feel welcome in national parks and therefore do not visit them. Findings have indicated that there is not just one explanation for why we do not see minority groups adequately represented in our national parks, but rather all three possibilities play a role in this issue (Krymkowski et al. 2014).


9. How about that government shut down?

National Park Service Arrowhead (

Both national parks as well as national monuments were previously managed on an individual basis within the US Department of the Interior. Stephen Mather and J. Horace McFarland both played influence roles in the push to create an independent agency to be in charge of national parks. They spearheaded campaigns and wrote articles that eventually lead to the creation of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1916. Up until 1966 effortswere put toward conserving unique landscapes within the country. However, as NPS celebrated its 50th anniversary, a new emphasis was placed on an effort to make the parks more accessible to the public (Everhart, 1983).

Government Logic (

Since the National Park Service is an agency of the US Federal Government and therefore must operate under the same conditions that the government itself operates under. Essentially meaning, if the US Government shuts down…our national parks shut down along with it. In both 2013 and 2018 Congress failed to pass a bill to provide funds to the government and so the government went into a full shut down. What this meant for national parks and other units controlled by the NPS is that they had to close their doors. Now, I know what you’re thinking, it’s hard to close the doors on national parks given the fact that they a essentially protected landscapes. In these cases, park staff were required to close visitor centers, museums, memorials, full-service bathrooms, and essentially any other indoor structures they maintained. All events including educational sessions, hiking tours, and even weddings were cancelled. In reality, a government shut down can’t prevent visitors from taking  walk in the woods or through the desert, however, it can cause significant financial hits for the NPS and its employees (Gardner, 2018).

Donald Trump’s Stance on the Environment (


10. Which National Park should be at the tippity top of your bucket list?

It’s the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in America – how could that not make it automatically end up at the top of your bucket list? Death Valley National Park straddles the border of California and Nevada and is one of the most diverse environments in the United States. Landscapes include: below-sea-level salt flats, canyons, valleys, sand-dunes, badlands, as well as towering snow-capped mountains. If those didn’t catch your attention yet – have you

Mysterious moving rocks.
Jeffery Aiello (

heard about Racetrack Playa? It’s been a phenomena and an unsolved mystery for a long time now, so you’ve been missing out it you haven’t. Racetrack Playa is a dried lake which has hundreds of tracks left by moving rocks. Yes…MOVING ROCKS! It has been since discovered that these rocks move when a specific thickness of ice forms on the ground’s surface and the rocks are then moved at unbelievably slow speeds (2-5m/min) in directions  determined by the wind and water flow beneath the ice sheets (Norries et al. 2014).

One internet craze that I stumbled upon while doing research for the listicle were people absolutely obsessed with finding and reading one-star reviews of national parks. And I can’t help but say I joined the craze for a bit myself. Below you’ll find ones for Yellowstone, the Badlands, Arches, and of course, Death Valley. I hope you can appreciate these as much as I did.

Yellowstone yelp review
Badlands yelp review
Arches yelp review
Death Valley yelp review















Byrne, J., & Wolch, J. (2009). Nature, race, and parks: past research and future directions for geographic research. Progress in Human Geography, 33(6), 743-765.

Eagles, P. F., Halpenny, E. A., Moisey, R. N., & McCool, S. F. (2007). Tourism in national parks and protected areas: planning and management. Wallingford: CABI Publishing.

Everhart, W. C. (1983). The National Park Service (2nd ed.). Boulder, Colo: Westview Press.

Gardner, J. (2018, January 20). What Does the Government Shutdown Mean for National Parks and Park Visitors? Retrieved March 04, 2018, from

Hansen, A. J., Piekielek, N., Davis, C., Haas, J., Theobald, D. M., Gross, J. E., . . . Running, S. W. (2014). Exposure of U.S. National Parks to land use and climate change 1900–2100. Ecological Applications, 24(3), 484-502.

Krymkowski, D. H., Manning, R. E., & Valliere, W. A. (2014). Race, ethnicity, and visitation to national parks in the United States: Tests of the marginality, discrimination, and subculture hypotheses with national-level survey data. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 7-8, 35-43.

Mayo, E. (1975). Tourism and the National Parks: A Psychographic and Attitudinal Study. Journal of Travel Research, 14(1), 14-21.

Monahan, W. B., & Fisichelli, N. A. (2014). Climate Exposure of US National Parks in a New Era of Change. National Park Service, 9(7).

Newmark, W. D. (1995). Extinction of Mammal Populations in Western North American National Parks. Conservation Biology, 9(3), 512-526.

Norris, R. D., Norris, J. M., Lorenz, R. D., Ray, J., & Jackson, B. (2014). Sliding Rocks on Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park: First Observation of Rocks in Motion. PLoS ONE, 9(8).

Reports, F. S. (2018, February 23). Gateway Arch National Park gets presidential seal of approval. Retrieved March 04, 2018, from

Runte, A. (2010). National parks: the american experience. Lanham: Taylor Trade Publishing.

Sellars, R. W. (2009). Preserving nature in the national parks: a history: with a new preface and epilogue. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Spence, M. D. (2000). Dispossessing the wilderness: Indian removal and the making of the national parks. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

10 Most Visited Units of the National Park System(2017) National Park Services. Retrieved from: