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The American College Town

Blake Gumprecht

Publication Year: 2008

The college town is a unique type of urban place, shaped by the sometimes conflicting forces of youth, intellect, and idealism. The hundreds of college towns in the United States are, in essence, an academic archipelago. Similar to one another, they differ in fundamental ways from other cities and the regions in which they are located. In this highly readable book—the first work published on the subject—Blake Gumprecht identifies the distinguishing features of college towns, explains why they have developed as they have in the United States, and examines in depth various characteristics that make them unusual. In eight thematic chapters, he explores some of the most interesting aspects of college towns—their distinctive residential and commercial districts, their unconventional political cultures, their status as bohemian islands, their emergence as high-tech centers, and more. Each of these chapters focuses on a single college town as an example, while providing additional evidence from other towns. Lively, richly detailed, and profusely illustrated with original maps and photographs, as well as historical images, this is an important book that firmly establishes the college town as an integral component of the American experience.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Title Page

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pp. iii-

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-

Dedication

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pp. v-

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

In 1986, jobless and my meager savings nearly gone, I drifted back to the college town where I had earned a bachelor’s degree three years before, Lawrence, Kansas. I had abruptly quit my job at a small newspaper in Arkansas when I clashed with an editor who had learned his management techniques in the Army. Taking that job was the latest in a series of stupid moves that sent my life into a downward spiral. ...

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Chapter 1: Defining the College Town

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pp. 1-39

The American college town is a unique type of urban place, shaped by the sometimes conflicting forces of youth, intellect, and idealism, that has been an important but overlooked element of American life. The hundreds of college towns in the United States are, in essence, an academic archipelago.1 Similar to one another, they differ in fundamental ways from other cities and the regions in which they are located. ...

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Chapter 2: The Campus as a Public Space

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pp. 40-70

One of the most distinctive attributes of the American college town is the college campus, an island of green punctuated by monumental buildings, site of a diverse range of educational and social activities. In many ways, the campus is the focus of life in the college town, much as the central business district was in the pre-

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Chapter 3: Fraternity Row, the Student Ghetto, and the Faculty Enclave

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pp. 71-107

One college town. Three neighborhoods. Three very different images. South of the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, New York, dilapidated old frame houses split into student apartments hug the street. Couches sit on porches, which are permanently affixed with “Now Renting” signs. Empty beer bottles line railings. A few newer high-­rise apartments, equipped with game rooms, high-­speed Internet access, and other amenities desired by today’s college students, tower above sidewalks...

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Chapter 4: Campus Corners and Aggievilles

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pp. 108-144

Walk through downtown Burlington, Vermont, around the square in Oxford, Mississippi, or along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California, and you begin to notice an idiosyncratic similarity to these places that reflects the distinctive demographics of college towns. College town business districts, like residential areas in college communities...

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Chapter 5: All Things Right and Relevant

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pp. 145-188

The lands along America’s interstate highways are normally the most placeless of spaces, anonymous corridors that look the same from Florida to Washington state. Chain restaurants. Motels. Truck stops. Driving along Interstate 80 in California’s Central Valley en route to the college town of Davis, however, I encountered a series of billboards...

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Chapter 6: Paradise for Misfits

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pp. 189-226

College towns, like the schools located in them, are transient places. Young people come to them to pursue an education and leave once they earn their degrees. For most of the history of American higher education, this model held true for nearly all young people who attended college at residential universities. ...

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Chapter 7: Stadium Culture

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pp. 227-255

One of the most conspicuous differences between higher education in the United States and that in other countries is the greater importance of intercollegiate athletics at U.S. colleges and universities. Stadiums and arenas dominate campuses. Athletic departments have annual budgets that dwarf those of academic units. Games draw spectators from great distances and are televised coast to coast. Coaches...

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Chapter 8: High-Tech Valhalla

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pp. 256-295

To the outsider, Ann Arbor, Michigan (fig. 8.1), appears to be two different cities. On and around the University of Michigan campus, it seems like any other college town. “The Diag” is the focal point of campus, where activists distribute leaflets and students gather between classes. Shaded walks lead to buildings that are quintessentially collegiate. Across from campus, bookstores, coffee houses...

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Chapter 9: Town vs. Gown

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pp. 296-334

When David Athey bought his Colonial Revival house in the Kells Avenue neighborhood of Newark, Delaware, the seller told him that the best attribute about the house was the same as the worst—its proximity to the University of Delaware.1 The house is one block from campus, so when they decided to pursue a graduate degree at night, he was able to walk to class. A major research library is five minutes...

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Chapter 10: The Future of the College Town

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pp. 335-348

What does the future hold for college towns? Some say that the growth of online education will mean the extinction of the bricks-­and-mortar university, which would mean the end of the college town as I’ve described it. Others believe that college towns are representative of a new kind of geography that is the result of a changing U.S. economy and may become magnets for growth in an information age. ...

Notes

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pp. 349-411

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 413-416

Writing books would not be considered worth the effort if calculated by most standard measures. It is the loneliest of endeavors. For most authors, the monetary rewards are small. The work required is often overwhelming. The delay in gratification can seem interminable. The personal sacrifices are great. Why do it? ...

Index

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pp. 417-438

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781613761007
E-ISBN-10: 1613761007
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558496712
Print-ISBN-10: 1558496718

Page Count: 448
Illustrations: 82 illus.
Publication Year: 2008

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Subject Headings

  • Community and college -- United States.
  • University towns -- United States.
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