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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
From the knowledge you have of your city's history, if you could freeze frame it in the one era when it was at its best:

• when would that era have been?

• what made it such a special time for the city?

If you think it is today, tell why, but also tell us which historical era would have come in second place and why.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I'd like to answer my own question (so what else is new) but not with my own city:

• I would have loved to have been in NYC during the 1920's when it truly began its rise to its current global status. New York for so many years was in a special world no US city could touch. As the US burst into world prominence in the 20th century in technology and its incredible contributions to mass culture and entertainment, New York led the way. Every time I hear Gerwhin's "Rhapsody in Blue" I think of the incredible optimism and the rise of New York. I would extend that special into the 1950's. America was on a high during the post war years and New York was still the center of everything.

• San Francisco thrieved in the 1950's. That era was still conncted to the city's past when SF to a large extend escaped some of the worst aspects of the American urban experience. I would hark back to that time in the sense that SF, for all its tourist attractions and all its tourists, was less tourist oriented and more (IMHO) genuine (the same could be said for most cities). Attractions like Fisherman's Wharf were real...still a working wharf. The working class still could afford to live in the city and enjoy its delights. The skyline was almost organic, following the curves of the hills, and the California Dream was gearing up big time with much of its eyes on the city by the bay.SF & Bay Area population had the mobility to enjoy this incredible man made and natural enivornment without fighting crowds. In in 1958 with the arrival of the Giants, SF became what it always knew it was: major league!
 

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Seattle's best time is now. Never have we been so large, dense, or vibrant. (Still a long way to go!)

Sure, Downtown's role as the center of everything declined after WWII, particularly starting in the 60s. And sure, we didn't have freeways before roughly that time. But Seattle was small, monocultural, and provincial. Pictures of Downtown back then showed a small center and not a ton of density around it.

I suppose the late 60s would be ok. We hadn't had the widespread teardowns of our cheap downtown housing yet -- these were caused by code revisions spurred by a fire that killed about 20 people in the early 70s. Downtown had more department stores. The world's fair happened in 62, bringing a moderate prominence and some nice toys. We got a new tallest in 69 and would see a lot of construction in the coming years.
 

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Let me give my opinions for America's three biggest cities.

I think Chicago was at its best in the late forties and early fifties before it was split apart by the expressways, neighborhoods were replaced by projects and before the urban decay set in that claimed most of the south and west sides. Intrestingly, I think my second choice would be today though, following the remarkable urban renewal that has taken place in the past twenty years. Skid row is gone. The near south side is being rebuilt. The projects are coming down. The city looks better than ever.

For New York, it would definitely be the fifties, before the boroughs got overbuilt and during the golden age of Broadway, before the South Bronx fell apart and before fortress neighborhoods like Co-op city became common.
New York must have been wonderful in the fifties.

For Los Angeles, I think I would have liked to live here in the thirties, when the Red and Yellow Cars still ran, the sea side ammusement piers in Venice, Ocean Park and Long Beach existed, when Hollywood was really glamorous, when the city was not so built out, and orange groves and truck farms existed all over the county, when property was cheap and when the promise of a better tomorrow was in the air along with the citrus blossums.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Seattle's best time is now. Never have we been so large, dense, or vibrant. (Still a long way to go!)

Sure, Downtown's role as the center of everything declined after WWII, particularly starting in the 60s. And sure, we didn't have freeways before roughly that time. But Seattle was small, monocultural, and provincial. Pictures of Downtown back then showed a small center and not a ton of density around it.

I suppose the late 60s would be ok. We hadn't had the widespread teardowns of our cheap downtown housing yet -- these were caused by code revisions spurred by a fire that killed about 20 people in the early 70s. Downtown had more department stores. The world's fair happened in 62, bringing a moderate prominence and some nice toys. We got a new tallest in 69 and would see a lot of construction in the coming years.
i think the most compelling arguments for "today" come from cities that truly made their mark in the last half of the 20th century, long after the eastern and midwestern cities along with SF and LA made their presence felt.

Cities like Seattle, as well as places like Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, etc., have really come into their own in the last half century, giving them an allure today that may easily make this their best era.

In my part of the country, I'd say Indianapolis easily fits that mode. And though longer established as a truly major city than Indy, I would also include Minneapolis in that respect.

Milwaukee today is creating an exciting and truly distinctive urban environment that may well place its best years ahead of it...and not tha far ahead. Neat things are happening there.
 

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For Washington I have two answers:

1820: 25 years after the founding of Washington (although 125 years after the founding of Georgetown) the city was only the shell of a real city. With less than 20,000 residents a large percentage of Washingtonians were Representatives, Senators, Ambassadors, Cabinet Members or other powerful government officials. During that time, it wouldn't have been odd to see someone like Henry Clay walking on the street by himself. In short, 1815 Washington provided a 100% political atmosphere and was a caricature of how Washington is today, a bunch of grand neoclassical buildings and a bunch of politicians.

Today: Washington is the fastest growing city outside of the sunbelt, and really, the only city in the country with massive population growth that has almost completely accepted new urbanism. Economic growth, especially from the private sector, is catapulting Washington into a position as a well rounded global city. Furthermore, the prominence of the United States in global affairs and the vast expansion of the Federal Government have made Washington one of the most influential cities on the planet. It's truly an exciting time to be in Washington (despite the cover of this weeks Time Magazine).
 
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Milwaukee-

I think it would be pretty cool to live in the city back when it was the "Deutsch Athens"--perhaps from the late 1840's to WWI. It would interesting as an English speaking American to live in my city when there were more German speakers than English speakers (even into the 20th century). Not only that, but living in the only socialist city in American history. I can imagine myself enjoying the grand beergardens, listening to some good music, and visiting the historic Turners Hall ( http://milwaukeeturners.org/Milwaukee-Turners/index.shtml) discuss political and social issues--as well as work out in their gym. Plus, the architecture was beautiful.







 

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interesting discussion as usual.

San Francisco thrieved in the 1950's. That era was still conncted to the city's past when SF to a large extend escaped some of the worst aspects of the American urban experience. I would hark back to that time in the sense that SF, for all its tourist attractions and all its tourists, was less tourist oriented and more (IMHO) genuine (the same could be said for most cities). Attractions like Fisherman's Wharf were real...still a working wharf. The working class still could afford to live in the city and enjoy its delights. The skyline was almost organic, following the curves of the hills, and the California Dream was gearing up big time with much of its eyes on the city by the bay.SF & Bay Area population had the mobility to enjoy this incredible man made and natural enivornment without fighting crowds. In in 1958 with the arrival of the Giants, SF became what it always knew it was: major league!
I totally agree with that. Although San Francisco is a great city now (you could argue it's better than it was in many aspects) there is something missing, that element of reality. I think the 50's were SF's canonic era. Glamorous, vibrant and exciting, but still had that down-to-earth-ness that is missing now in what has become some sort of strange hippie/yuppie/gay/tourist theme park.

I also think svs is spot on in his comment. 50's New York and 30's LA is where it's at.
 

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Asheville in the 1920's was one of the most glamorous resort cities in the nation. Toward the end of that decade, especially after 1927, all the grand art deco buildings were under construction downtown, and anybody who was anybody was in town. It was a wild, wide-open town, Prohibition be damned -- all the famous men and women were in town to drink and party. For a while, there was an actual push for Asheville to become the next Miami. It was a grand era, although whether it was our golden era or our silver era remains to be seen. How we guide our growth now, when the city is experiencing its biggest building boom and population growth in 80 years will determine which is which.
 

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I don't think San Diego has reached a 'golden age' or been ever at a best.

Something has always been there to knock or pull back from reaching some sort of zenith.

Our early history is as interesting as an other sunbelt city. Spanish taders, missions, indians...
Then WW1 pretty plainly. There were some exhibitions between the great wars, those were noteworthy, but city wide not a peak. SD also grew as a naval port and we all know what sailors bring to a town.
WW2 brought on growth, but not the kind of growth that leads to great things. (sprawl)
60s-70's-80's were a time urban decay, even though our "urban" wasn't really urban.
Then today. Its much better I would assume. The city has grown up significantly. But there are issue that hold her back. Small airport. Height Limits. Resistance of the old order to change. The fact that the city is financially a sunken ship.

So San Diego really hasn't had its glory days, although I'm sure other might disagree. Things will get better if the conservative nature here dies sometime soon.
 
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