American Capitals: A Historical Geography by Christian Montès

By Christian Montès

State capitals are an indelible a part of the yankee psyche, spatial representations of country strength and nationwide identification. studying them by way of center is a ceremony of passage in grade tuition, a pedagogical workout that emphasizes the significance of committing place-names to reminiscence. yet geographers have not begun to research nation capitals in any intensity. In American Capitals, Christian Montès takes us on a well-researched trip throughout America—from Augusta to Sacramento, Albany to Baton Rouge—shedding mild alongside the best way at the old conditions that resulted in their appointment, their good fortune or failure, and their evolution over time.

While all nation capitals have a couple of features in common—as symbols of the nation, as embodiments of political energy and determination making, as public areas with inner most interests—Montès doesn't interpret them via a unmarried lens, largely as a result of the changes of their spatial and historic evolutionary styles. a few have remained small, whereas others have advanced into bustling metropolises, and Montès explores the dynamics of swap and progress. All yet 11 nation capitals have been confirmed within the 19th century, thirty-five earlier than 1861, yet, quite astonishingly, simply 8 of the fifty states have maintained their unique capitals. regardless of their respected prestige because the such a lot enormous and historic towns in the US, capitals come from strangely humble beginnings, frequently laid low with instability, clash, hostility, and corruption. Montès reminds us of the interval during which they took place, “an period of pioneer and idealized territorial vision,” coupled with a still-evolving American citizenry and democracy.

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Capitals have thus set the pace for urban planning.  In the late 1630s, New Haven’s plat—nine squares of equal dimensions—strictly followed the Old Testament’s urban descriptions (Fries 1977, 66–67), as Boston was to embody the Puritan ideal of “the citty upon a hill” described by its first governor, John Winthrop. A city was a religious utopia with a covenant, as was the case between mankind and God (Lingeman 1980, 26). Another early example of careful planning is Philadelphia, the plat of which was later copied by other new capitals like Lancaster and Tallahassee.

Three of them followed for the first time an “American style”: Baton Rouge, Louisiana (the first capitol, built in 1882, was a mock-Gothic castle); Lincoln, Nebraska, and Bismarck, North Dakota. They all exhibit a 1920s–1930s skyscraper style that unites both of Hitchcock and Seale’s “American contributions to world architecture,” skyscrapers and capitols, in another example of the dual scale (nation and state) of condensation present in state capitals. Although they do not have a dome, they continue the tradition of the capitol as the tallest building in town.

That name was therefore used until a new meeting, on December 12, 1881, changed it to Juneau City (by forty-seven votes against twenty-one for Harrisburgh and four for Rockwell). The Post Office Department dropped City, making the official name of the town Juneau. Such changes were quite common in early mining camps, stressing the changing tides of popularity among the town fathers, and the modesty of fame. The founder’s name was sometimes even dropped, as in Montana. In 1864 a group known as the “Four Georgians” struck gold in what is now Helena’s main street and called it Last Chance Gulch.

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