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No Communication with the Sea

By Tim Sullivan

Publication Year: 2010

Few other places in the United States are as high, dry, sparsely inhabited--and urbanized--as the Great Basin of Utah and Nevada. The great majority of the population of this rapidly growing region lives in the two metropolitan areas at its edges, Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Front, and Reno and the Truckee Meadows. These cities embody the allure and the challenge of the contemporary American West, deemed by some "The New American Heartland."

No Communication with the Sea is a journey through this urbanizing Great Basin landscape. Here, the land fosters illusions of limitless space and resources, but its space and resources are severely limited; its people live clustered in cities but are often reluctant to embrace urbanity. These tensions led journalist and urban planner Tim Sullivan to explore the developing centers and edges of the Great Basin cities and the ways some are trying to build livable and sustainable urban environments.

In this highly readable book of creative nonfiction, Sullivan employs a variety of methods--including interviews, research, travelogues, and narrative--to survey the harsh landscape for clues to the ways cities can adapt to their geography, topography, ecology, hydrography, history, and culture. No Communication with the Sea embarks on a quest for a livable future for the heart of the interior West. In the process, it both unearths the past and ponders the present and future Great Basin cities.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. ix

List of Illustrations

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

The Great Basin, that vast, dry hole in America, is not often associated with great cities. It’s understandable. The region is the most sparsely inhabited in the continental United States. The cities at its edges, chiefly the metropolitan regions surrounding Salt Lake City, Utah, and Reno, Nevada, are regarded as overgrown mining camps, Wild-West theme ...

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pp. xvii

I give many thanks to my family, friends, and colleagues who supported me on this long journey. Michael Teitz, Michael Southworth, Mark Brilliant, and Vicki Elmer at UC Berkeley all read and commented on early versions of this project and offered needed encouragement. Paul Groth provided insight and a great reading list on modernity at a critical period ...

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1. Of Sin and Salvation: The Architect and the Gardener

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pp. 1-31

No one told Gary K. Estes that the Wild West left Reno a long time ago. Estes had just taken on a project in a downtown casino, the Comstock, on the block of West Street just north of the Truckee River. Actually, the sixteen-story building wasn’t a casino anymore. The saloon-style doors on the slanted entrance at the corner of Second Street were boarded shut...

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2. Scaling the Basin: Peak to Playa

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pp. 32-66

Rising above Truckee Meadows, the broad basin that has become home to Reno, Sparks, and the scattered settlements of unincorporated Washoe County, are two major mountains visible from almost anywhere in the region. The first is Mount Rose, the crest of the Carson Range, which separates Reno from Lake Tahoe and is the first Great Basin range heading...

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3. Shorelands: Life at the Edge

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pp. 67-100

At latitude 41 degrees north, the Great Basin crashes into the Wasatch Mountains at a ten-foot rise in the earth known locally as “the Bluff.” It’s where Gentile Street pushes out from Davis County’s Main Street spine north of Salt Lake City, brushing past old downtown Layton and plodding past lines of Lombardy poplars and beige stucco-walled castles in...

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4. Urban Realities of Rural Places: The Illusion of Space

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pp. 101-130

It’s almost like going back in time: Take Interstate 80 west from Salt Lake City, squeeze through the thin strip of land where the Oquirrh Mountains meet the south shore of Great Salt Lake and then watch the landscape open back up into another expanse. This is Tooele Valley, the next in the...

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5. Public Land, Private Politics: Finding a New Urban Realm in the Great Basin

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pp. 131-176

In South Jordan, Utah, in the southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley, up at the end of 11400 South Street and at the crest of a bluff overlooking the great big bowl of this basin, is an apron of spent land marked by decades of mining activity. The mining company that owns the land...

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6. The Depot: To Zion, To Aztl

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pp. 177-194

You could identify Temple Square as the center of Salt Lake City, Utah, and not be wrong. But you might not be 100 percent right. Four blocks to the west, two buildings at the edge of downtown make a strong claim to the historic gravity of the city: the railroad depots. These buildings, separated by a few blocks along the north–south trajectory of the rail ...

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pp. 195-197

The recession that began in 2007 enveloped the Great Basin as it did the rest of the United States and the world, tamping the buoyancy and exuberance and slowing the pace of growth that had been helping to shape the region’s cities. The economic downturn exposed once again the differences between the metropolitan areas on opposite sides of the ...


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pp. 199-210


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pp. 211-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780816501168
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816528950

Publication Year: 2010