This innovative and absorbing book surveys a little known chapter in the story of American urbanism—the history of communities built and owned by single companies seeking to bring their workers’ homes and place of employment together on a single site. By 1930 more than two million people lived in such towns, dotted across an industrial frontier which stretched from Lowell, Massachusetts, through Torrance, California to Norris, Tennessee. Margaret Crawford focuses on the transformation of company town construction from the vernacular settlements of the late eighteenth century to the professional designs of architects and planners one hundred and fifty years later. Eschewing a static architectural approach which reads politics, history, and economics through the appearance of buildings, Crawford portrays the successive forms of company towns as the product of a dynamic process, shaped by industrial transformation, class struggle, and reformers’ efforts to control and direct these forces.
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“In her brilliant exploration of company towns from 1790 to 1925, Margaret Crawford has created the definitive book on this major topic in American economic and urban history, as well as a model of fine analytical writing about the politics of design. Her work reveals the potential of architectural history to illuminate the contested terrains of housing, urban design, and social life.”—Dolores Hayden, Professor of Architecture, Urbanism and American Studies, Yale University.