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Working Papers

Godfathers Of Sprawl

Working paper #360
Witold Rybczynski

Three pioneers of real estate development have changed the way modern Americans live. Francis C. Turner was appointed executive secretary of the President’s Advisory Committee for the National Highway Program in 1954 and, by his retirement from the Federal Highway Administration in 1972, more than 40,000 miles of interstate highway had been built. Turner’s interstates went to, through, and around the cities, creating physical barriers to urban development and turning thousands of square miles of countryside into suburbs and edge cities. Stanley H. Durwood’s suburban multi-screen movie theaters have also changed the metropolitan landscape, offering entertainment once possible only in the largest cities. Jay Pritzker’s airport and downtown hotels have been a part of urban renewal in many major cities. The careers of these three innovators demonstrate how the shape of the American city is both the result of grand political visions, and the expression of millions of individuals’ choices.

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