A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans (Google eBook)
This engaging environmental history explores the rise, fall, and rebirth of one of the nation's most important urban public landscapes, and more significantly, the role public spaces play in shaping people's relationships with the natural world. Ari Kelman focuses on the battles fought over New Orleans's waterfront, examining the link between a river and its city and tracking the conflict between public and private control of the river. He describes the impact of floods, disease, and changing technologies on New Orleans's interactions with the Mississippi. Considering how the city grew distant culturally and spatially from the river, this book argues that urban areas provide a rich source for understanding people's connections with nature, and in turn, nature's impact on human history.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
The following review originally appeared in The Southeastern Librarian, Vol. 52, No. 1 (Spring 2004), p. 45. This is the story of a relationship. Like many relationships, it is complex, multi-faceted, and continually changing and evolving. It functions smoothly for years, then becomes troubled before settling down again. Conflicts may be resolved in favor of one party or the other, but each has unique needs and compromise may be difficult. The relationship chronicled here is that of the Mississippi River and the city of New Orleans, emphasizing the waterfront, a public space where the two are in constant juxtaposition and "where people interact with urban nature" (p. 10). In A River and Its City, Ari Kelman, assistant professor of history at the University of Denver, explains the reciprocal nature of this relationship and describes how competing interests have vied to control the waterfront where river and city meet. After an introduction covering the evolution of the Mississippi and the founding of New Orleans, Kelman focuses on six critical events in the relationship: the batture controversy, a land-use dispute that changed the public character of the riverfront by opening it to commercial development; the advent of "artifice" (now called technology), especially steamboats and the wharves necessary to accommodate therm; the arrival of an unwelcome immigrant--yellow fever--and its impact on the riverfront, where the 1853 epidemic centered; the roles postbellum railroads and of man-made barriers that distanced the city from its river; the devastating flood of 1927 and measures taken to ensure that never again would the Mississippi fill New Orleans with water; and, finally, the aborted efforts to construct an elevated riverfront expressway that would separate the river from its city. Examining these episodes leads to the conclusion that "nature and public space are more complicated and resilient than we typically assume." Represented by the Mississippi River and the city of New Orleans, "the two are often intertwined, often inextricably so" (p. 221). "To understand the ties between river and city, [Kelman] turned to where New Orleans and the Mississippi collide, where the urban meets what has been called the natural--the riverfront" (p. 7 on the author's Ph.D. dissertation, A River and Its City illuminates how, and by whom, the riverfront has been shaped physically and culturally. The result is a perceptive, instructive, and engaging environmental history of what has happened at the water's edge and the impact of those events. It is a cautionary tale, offering insights as to how a city should treat its river.
Review: A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New OrleansUser Review - Goodreads
Excellent academic account of how New Orleans was shaped by its geographic site on the Mississippi River - politically, environmentally, and literally. Plenty of well-told stories likely to amaze local history fans.
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