The Model Company Town

Urban Design through Private Enterprise in Nineteenth-Century New England


In this study of the development of single industry towns in nineteenth-century New England, John S. Garner takes issue with the commonly held view of company towns as grim, oppressive bastions of capitalist power. While admitting that these towns were hardly the "industrial paradises" described by some viewers, Garner insists that some of them, at least--what he terms "model company towns"--presented a favorable alternative to slums and other types of industrial settlements and embodied positive advances in urban planning and architecture. Further, he believes that the long-range planning goals adopted by these towns for controlling population growth, stemming building obsolescence, and providing an attractive, healthy atmosphere for resident workers made them the forerunners of the "garden cities" and "new towns."

Garner first describes a group of New England company towns to arrive at a composite view of their design features and development strategies. He then focuses on one particular town, Hopedale, Massachusetts, using maps, photographs, and drawings to create an image of this model company town and to assess its place in urban history. In addition to drawing acclaim from international housing congresses, some of the design innovations used in Hopedale--which included attractive landscaping, a variety of handsome buildings, and a park--had a stabilizing influence on labor and management.

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