Lay of the Land: Social Structure and the Platting of Industrial Towns

Authors: Amy Rock*, Humboldt State University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Landscape, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: company towns, urban planning, industrial revolution
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Riverview I, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 41st Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Urbanization was an important part of the history of industrialization, drawing workers from rural areas and overseas to cluster in communities around the workplace (Thomas and Grigsby, 2000). Company towns are perhaps the most notorious of these, and sprang up in regions that supported specific industry types (Crawford, 1995). Their identity is often associated with paternalism and internal colonization, a combination of social engineering and economic expedience that was evident in the physical structure of the community. The arrangement of buildings and streets was often a direct reflection of the power dynamic between residents and town officials.

The platting of the town formalized these social structures, and company towns were typically given a very different layout than those of other industrial settlements from the same time period. This paper hypothesizes that industrial towns developed during the second Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America will exhibit identifiable patterns, with company towns following the linear, paternalistic structure and non-company towns following a more radial pattern, reflecting development of a more egalitarian social structure. A sampling of town plats from towns which were laid out or substantially enlarged during the late 19th to early 20th century will be examined, using case pairs from the Pacific Northwest, Appalachia, and the United Kingdom.

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