Designing the American City: From Revolution to Republic

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Duration 01:02:01

Suffolk University

Dr. Kathryn Lasdow is Director of the Public History Concentration and Assistant Professor of History at Suffolk University in Boston. Her research focuses on architecture, city building, and material culture in the early American republic. She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Wharfed Out: Improvement and Inequity in Early American Cities. Professor Lasdow has written articles on public health in American cities and on the architecture of Lafayette Square in Washington. She previously worked as a Historian and Curator for the Brooklyn Historical Society and as an Educator and Researcher for the White House Historical Association.



For much of the eighteenth century, Americans living in the British colonies sought to display their “Britishness” through architecture. Neoclassicism and an adherence to the “Georgian” style served as physical and visual proof of their British heritage. With the American Revolution, however, the ties between England and the colonies severed. Cities once designed to exalt and honor the monarchy became stages for protest and backlash. Soon, a new architectural style called “Federal” sought to distinguish American cities from their European predecessors…. Or did it? Join Professor Kathryn Lasdow to learn about the evolution of American city design and architecture from the American Revolution to the early Republic. You’ll explore the characteristics of neoclassical architectural traditions, the urban design ties between America and Europe, and the social and political forces that transformed America’s built landscapes.



Recommended Reading:

Cities in Revolt: Urban Life in America, 1743-1776, by Carl Bridenbaugh

When London Was Capital of America, by Julie Flavell

Town House: Architecture and Material Life in the Early American City, 1780 – 1830, by Bernard L. Herman

The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor, by Marguerite Holloway



Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the similarities and differences between the Georgian and Federal/Adamesque styles of architecture?
  2. How did architecture become a symbol of republican political identity in the early American republic?
  3. Is there such a thing as “American architecture” in the 1700s and 1800s?





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