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City on a Grid: How New York Became New York
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Gerard Koeppel
City on a Grid: How New York Became New York by Gerard Koeppel at Abbey's Bookshop,

City on a Grid: How New York Became New York

Gerard Koeppel


Da Capo

City & town planning - architectural aspects;
History of the Americas;
Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900


336 pages

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You either love it or hate it, but nothing says New York like the street grid of Manhattan.

Created in 1811 by a three-man commission featuring headstrong Founding Father Gouverneur Morris, the plan called for a dozen parallel avenues crossing at right angles with many dozens of parallel streets in an unbroken grid. Hills and valleys, streams and ponds, forests and swamps were invisible to the grid; so too were country villages, roads, farms, estates, and generations of property lines. All would disappear as the crosshatch fabric of the grid overspread the island: a heavy greatcoat on the land, the dense undergarment of the future city.

No other grid in Western civilisation was so large and uniform as the one ordained in 1811. Not without reason. When the grid plan was announced, New York was just under two hundred years old, an overgrown town at the southern tip of Manhattan, a notorious jumble of streets laid at the whim of landowners. To bring order beyond the chaos - and good real estate to market--the street planning commission came up with a monolithic grid for the rest of the island. Mannahattan - the native "island of hills" - became a place of rectangles, in thousands of blocks on the flattened landscape, and many more thousands of right-angled buildings rising in vertical mimicry.

The Manhattan grid has been called "a disaster" of urban planning and "the most courageous act of prediction in Western civilization." However one feels about it, the most famous urban design of a living city defines its daily life. This is its story.

By:   Gerard Koeppel
Imprint:   Da Capo
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   First Trade Paper Edition
Dimensions:   Height: 233mm,  Width: 155mm,  Spine: 24mm
Weight:   392g
ISBN:   9780306825491
ISBN 10:   030682549X
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   June 2017
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Gerard Koeppel is the author of Bond of Union: Building the Erie Canal and the American Empire and Water for Gotham: A History. He has contributed to numerous other books, including the Encyclopedia of New York City, of which he was an associate editor. Before writing mostly about the past, he wrote, edited, and produced the present at CBS News. He was born on the grid and has lived all over it since.

<p/>Wall Street Journal, 12/13/15 Koeppel's ventures into early-19th-century political malfeasance are intriguing...[His] narrative is breezy and highly readable.

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