Lindmark’s Bookstore -- Infrastructure and Civilization

Authors: Kafui Attoh*, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
Topics: Urban Geography, Land Use, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Infrastructure, progress, urban renewal
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 32
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the 1960s, the city of Poughkeepsie, New York received more urban renewal funds per capita than any other city in the US. Over the course of just two decades, the city was transformed through a series of massive infrastructure projects, as well as the concomitant demolition of huge swathes of “slum” housing. In exploring this period, this paper begins with the story of John Lindmark who owned and operated a popular used bookstore in the city. In 1964, the bookstore – along with over 400 other properties -- was razed to make way for a new highway. Lindmark enjoyed brief but notable attention when it was revealed that following his eviction, the city chose to incinerate a significant portion of his books when he refused to clear them from the property. Referring to a photo accompanying the New York Times story on the event, one writer described Poughkeepsie residents as “The new barbarians.” Drawing on the work of Lewis Mumford, Gordon Childe, and David Harvey, this paper uses the Lindmark case and the context of the postwar city to explore the relationship between infrastructure, the political economy of cities, and our more normative conceptions of “progress” and “civilization.”

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