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Main Street Revisited

Time, Space, and Image Building in Small-Town America

Richard V. Francaviglia, Wayne Franklin

Publication Year: 1996

As an archetype for an entire class of places, Main Street has become one of America's most popular and idealized images. In Main Street Revisited, the first book to place the design of small downtowns in spatial and chronological context, Richard Francaviglia finds the sources of romanticized images of this archetype, including Walt Disney's Main Street USA, in towns as diverse as Marceline, Missouri, and Fort Collins, Colorado.

Francaviglia interprets Main Street both as a real place and as an expression of collective assumptions, designs, and myths; his Main Streets are treasure troves of historic patterns. Using many historical and contemporary photographs and maps for his extensive fieldwork and research, he reveals a rich regional pattern of small-town development that serves as the basis for American community design. He underscores the significance of time in the development of Main Street's distinctive personality, focuses on the importance of space in the creation of place, and concentrates on popular images that have enshrined Main Street in the collective American consciousness.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page, Quote, Dedication

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Wayne Franklin

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pp. xi-xiv

Although the particular places we inhabit may seem resilient, unique, as far from each other in character as they are in space, we all recognize that the great majority of them repeat themes found all over the place. Like language, the human environment in fact is built from a few disarmingly simple elements. The variations on those elements produce difference without destroying intelligibility....

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pp. xv-xvi

Small-town America inspires many people in many walks of life: from townsfolk on the street willing to share impressions with me to scholars in diverse fields who write and speak about small towns. Without their help this book could never have been written....

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pp. xvii-xxvi

When Henry Howe wrote these humorous words more than a century ago, he spoke from more than forty years' experience as a chronicler of American townscapes. Those of us who record small towns today, camera in hand, get much the same reaction; people often ask questions such as "What do you find so interesting about this town?"...

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Section 1. Time and Main Street: The Origins and Evolution of an Image

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pp. 1-64

Main Street, like all places, has developed its personality and identity through time. As it is now commonly understood, the term "Main Street" signifies the built-up commercial area, or downtown, of small communities. Geographers and planners know it as the "Central Business District" (or CBD); economists call it the "commercial core"; writers portray it as the "heart" of the town. For more than two centuries, writers and travellers have commented on the look or appearance of towns, and in...

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Section 2. Space and Main Street: Toward a Spatial and Regional Identity

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pp. 65-129

Because "property developers are dedicated followers of fashion," I the changing architectural styles or fads along Main Streets of American towns help to define the character of individual buildings and link them to particular periods, episodes, or events in history. But the architecture of individual buildings tells only one part of the complicated story of what is called "townscape" - all the physical features and amenities that contribute to...

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Section 3. Image Building and Main Street: The Shaping of a Popular American Icon

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pp. 130-192

As it evolved in time and space, Main Street became the commercial and social heart of the American small town; as it developed in our collective thought, Main Street became an integral part of American culture. Because many people left small towns in the early to mid-twentieth century, these places became repositories of memories. Main Street was always associated with place; now it also became an intrinsic part of...


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pp. 193-202


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pp. 203-206


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pp. 207-216


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pp. 217-224

Series Page

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pp. 225-225

E-ISBN-13: 9781587290718
E-ISBN-10: 1587290715
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877455424
Print-ISBN-10: 0877455422

Page Count: 251
Illustrations: 77 photos, 18 drawings
Publication Year: 1996

OCLC Number: 44961477
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Main Street Revisited

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Subject Headings

  • City planning -- United States.
  • City planning -- United States -- Maps.
  • City planning -- United States -- Pictorial works.
  • City and town life -- United States.
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