Ohio History Journal

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W. Reps. (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton

University Press, 1965. xv??574p.; illus-

trations, maps, bibliography, and index.


This massively documented, beautifully

illustrated book is a masterful historical

survey of a long-neglected subject. John

Reps, professor of city and regional plan-

ning at Cornell University, has success-

fully traced, from European antecedents

through colonial and nineteenth-century

experiments, the origins and forms of

urban planning in the United States.

In an exhaustive cartographic search,

the author examined tens of thousands

of maps, charts, plats, and aerial views of

American cities and towns. Having care-

fully selected three hundred and fourteen

of these to reproduce as textual examples,

he not only encompasses most major com-

munities and regional and cultural types

but also clearly dispels the heretofore

popularly accepted myth that American

town designers unvaryingly followed the

standard gridiron pattern.

Readers interested in Ohio will delight

in the author's sympathetic presentation

of early town plans in the Western Re-

serve. Here designers harmonized func-

tional aims with natural site conditions

and provided for ample lots, wide streets,

and commodious, orderly, imaginatively

formed greens, squares, and other open

spaces. To be sure, the founders of such

communities as Canfield, Chardon, Elyria,

Leroy, and Madison were not unmindful

of possible profits, but they were also

concerned with beauty and function as

they applied designs to their town loca-


Marked for respect also are Marietta

and early Circleville, both of whose origi-

nal planners intelligently and adroitly in-

corporated the prehistoric Indian mounds

and natural formations of the town sites

in their plans. Marietta persevered in pro-

tecting and preserving this early legacy;

thus today's citizens and visitors enjoy

the charm and serenity of the old river

city. Circleville, in contrast, permitted

avaricious and short-sighted denizens to

engage in a ruthless redevelopment of

the unique town center which reduced it

to the standard monotonous grid.

While the Western Reserve and the

Ohio Company (particularly in Marietta)

produced a generally high form of town

planning in northeastern and southeastern

Ohio, south-central and southern Ohio

fared less well. Reps rightly concludes that

community planning in these areas re-

flected the primary concern for land spec-

ulation, as well as the southern origin,

of the early settlers. Crudely and unim-

aginatively laid out, as the author main-

tains, "these communities added nothing

to the art of town planning in Western


This book's major weakness is its decep-

tive subtitle; it is not a complete history

of city planning in the United States. Only

five percent of the text is allotted to the