All posts by themetropoleblog

Member of the Week: Tracy Neumann

BilbaoTracy Neumann

Associate Professor of History

Wayne State University


Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest?

My current book project looks at how urban and international development became linked after World War II through the activities of philanthropic foundations, international organizations, and universities. I came to the project through my first book, which talks in part about Pittsburgh as an international model for urban revitalization first in the 1950s and in again in the 1980s. I wanted to know more about how urban planning models are developed and circulated internationally, and why certain models become enshrined as “best practices” while others never gain traction. When I got into the archives, I realized that the same people popped up over and over again in domestic and international urban development initiatives supported by institutions such as the Ford Foundation and the UN, and I’m trying to map the network of actors who influenced urban development globally in the second half of the 20th century.

The other project I’m really excited about right now is a Global Urban History “Elements” series Michael Goebel, Joseph Ben Prestel, and I just signed on to edit for Cambridge University Press. (We also edit the Global Urban History blog.) We’ve managed to enlist some really incredible global urban historians to write the initial volumes in the series, which should begin to appear in the next year-and-a-half.

Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?

This semester, both of my classes directly relate to my scholarship: I’m teaching a general education course on the History of Detroit and a course on Modern American Cities, which is a mix of undergrads and grad students.

What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?

 To be honest, I am *most* excited about the stack of mystery novels on my nightstand (it’s spring break for us right now). Once I’m finished with those, though, I want to check out Shaped by the State: Toward a New Political History of the Twentieth Century, edited by Lily Gesimer, Brent Cebul, and Mason Williams. Clay Howard’s The Closet and the Cul-de-Sac: The Politics of Sexual Privacy in Northern California is out soon, and I can’t wait to pick that up. I’m also looking forward to two forthcoming books on Detroit as a borderland, one on immigration and policing in the first part of the twentieth century by Ashley Johnson Bavery and one by my Wayne State colleague Karen Marrero on the role of indigenous and mixed blood peoples in the development of the region in the eighteenth century. On a longer time horizon, I’m really eager to read Ayala Levin’s work on how Israeli architecture and planning models were exported to Africa, Paige Glotzer’s work on U.S. suburban housing developers and their ties to transnational financiers and real estate interests, and whatever Nancy Kwak and Lily Geismer publish next, because their first books are two of my favorites.

What advice do you have for young scholars preparing themselves for a career related to urban history or urban studies?

 I’d echo the same advice others have offered in this space: read widely outside of your field and outside of history. Take classes on topics outside of your primary geographic and temporal interests, and in other departments. Talk to geographers, sociologists, and anthropologists and learn something about their research methodologies. Ask good questions and think carefully about the scale at which they can best be answered. And even though you didn’t actually ask for it, here’s my top piece of advice for young scholars about to go to graduate school (or already there) in any discipline: join your union! Organizing with your grad union will give you an invaluable education in the politics of academic labor and the structures of higher education.

How has being at Wayne State shaped the last few years of your life, intellectually and personally, and how do you feed that back into the work you are doing in the classroom, on Twitter, and as an all-around human being?

 Wayne State has been a really good fit for me, both in terms of my research and teaching interests—we are a public research university with an urban mission, and Detroit is a fascinating place to be for an urban historian—and in terms of the kinds of activities I care about as a faculty member. For instance, I love that I’m able to partner with organizations like the Detroit Historical Society to get students in my classes involved with community-driven, hands-on history projects, like conducting oral histories in Detroit’s Mexicantown this term. Urban history aside, my primary interests as a faculty member are graduate education and academic labor issues. I got my PhD (and my current job) in 2011, which as we know from recent AHA data was the only year in which there was a small uptick in history jobs after the 2008 recession. I’m still mind-boggled by how fast the academic labor market and career horizons for PhD students have changed over the past decade, both because of the acceleration of casual labor and because of heightened expectations for peer-reviewed publications and evidence of public engagement for entry-level jobs. I’m proud of how my Department and University have responded: we recently started a public history program to better prepare our master’s students for the kinds of jobs they actually end up getting, and we have been part of the last two rounds of the AHA Career Diversity Initiative, which has led us to rethink our doctoral curriculum and become more expansive in our efforts to support our doctoral students’ career goals. And I deeply value being at an institution with a unionized faculty; I’m one of my Department’s shop stewards, and I really enjoy the work I do with the union.

Buried Legacies: Former Landfills and Philadelphia’s Future

By James Cook-Thajudeen

Garbage, rubbish, litter, and other forms of solid waste are among the most pressing policy challenges faced by Philadelphia in the early twenty-first century. Bold efforts such as Philadelphia’s Zero Waste by 2035 goal and the city’s seemingly endless battle against illegal dumping and littering have recently been front-page news and fodder for discussion among American urbanists. But in a city with a nearly 340-year history, new news is often old news. Much of the history of solid waste management in Philadelphia lies in decaying clippings, blurry microfilms, and dusty reports, but thousands of Philadelphians experience that history in a visceral way each day. Few of the city’s neighborhoods illustrate the ramifications of past actions and inaction with regard to solid waste than Eastwick in Southwest Philadelphia.

Most people experience Eastwick in passing; many of the attendees of this year’s Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting will speed through the area while riding the train from Philadelphia International Airport to Center City. However, were they to disembark they would be struck by evidence of Philadelphia’s steep environmental inequality, much of it a legacy of the dumping and landfilling that occurred along Eastwick’s western edge during most of the twentieth century. The area is home to one of Philadelphia’s four Superfund Sites and borders another in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, both of which are the remnants of former landfills. The story of how and why Eastwick residents came to live in a toxic shadow cast by the very soil and marshland that surrounds them is a microcosm of the history of how Philadelphia disposed of its solid waste, as well as a cautionary tale for the city’s present-day leaders.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Wheelhouse of an abandoned ship near the city dump used as an occupied shack, Paul Vanderbilt, c. 1938, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

For decades prior to the 1950s, Eastwick was Philadelphia’s afterthought. It was a place where trains gathered steam on their way to points west and south, and where dirty business that would not be tolerated in wealthier, more densely populated parts of the city could be carried on unimpeded. By the end of the Second World War, Eastwick had become a center for operators of privately owned dumps—expanses of land where matter and objects that were thrown away would be laid to rest. A dump operator made the most of their land by setting fire to its contents, thereby reducing their volume and making room for more refuse. Dump burning annoyed residents, pedestrians, and motorists, but little was done to mitigate it because of the role dumps played in the disposal of refuse from industrial and commercial establishments, which were not typically served by the city’s Department of Streets and its incinerators. It was so common that the abatement of dump burning became a marquee issue for Philadelphia’s famous reformist Democratic mayor, Richardson Dilworth, who served from 1956 to 1962.[1]

Under Dilworth’s direction, Philadelphia began closing open dumps within city limits. Early in Dilworth’s first term as mayor, the Philadelphia health department demanded that sixteen private dumps cease burning trash. Dump operators fought against city efforts to curtail burning, but lost. On December 31, 1957 the city shut down the offending dumps for good.

City leaders predicted that the dump burning ban would quickly have a positive impact on the city’s air quality, but shutting down the dumps did not eliminate the demand for their services on the part of the their clients. Many commercial establishments reported increases of 30 to 75 percent in the price of refuse disposal following the implementation of Philadelphia’s dump ban, but they found a way to accomplish it nevertheless. The answer lay in dumps beyond the city line, where ordinances and mayoral decrees had no impact. One such facility, owned by Edward Heller, a public official in the nearby town of Upper Darby and a long-time private waste hauler, was adjacent to Eastwick and, despite belonging to Darby Township, was only accessible by road from Philadelphia. Dump fires burned with impunity on Heller’s land.

Eastwick residents promptly complained to the city about Heller’s activities, prompting action. Mayor Dilworth ordered police to barricade the entrance to the dump with railroad ties, but to no avail. Trucks from Heller’s waste hauling company, City-Wide Services, merely bypassed them using a path that observers likened to the Burma Road, the rough, overland route that linked southwest China and Southeast Asia during the Second World War.

pick-it-up-logo.jpgEdward Heller not only subjected Eastwick residents to the smoke that Philadelphia’s leaders had tried to shield them from, he was also embroiled in a scandal in Upper Darby, where he served as sanitation chief. Upper Darby faced its own solid waste problem, which its leaders tried to resolve by agreeing to purchase the land Heller used as a dump for the purpose of erecting an incinerator. The deal appeared to wildly inflate the price of the land, prompting an investigation by a Delaware County grand jury into whether a conspiracy involving Heller and several others had attempted to defraud Upper Darby taxpayers. Despite the legal scrutiny, and despite not having a dumping permit from Darby Township, City-Wide Services continued to deposit and burn trash on the site. Facing the prospect of testifying before the grand jury, Heller asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In April 1958 the grand jury issued its report on the alleged lease conspiracy, recommending the indictment of Heller and eight others, including the township commission presidents of Darby and Upper Darby. However, the matter went no further; the Delaware County district attorney declined to bring charges against the figures singled out by the jury.

As the efforts of local authorities to halt the continued burning of rubbish on Heller’s dump faltered, the State of Pennsylvania explored intervening, but at the time possessed no agencies involved in the regulation of solid waste and pollutants. In the end, state involvement in the impasse amounted to little more than a few stern warnings; state officials had little confidence that their mandate extended any further. Philadelphia redoubled its efforts to block access to the offending dump, but a more permanent barrier on the street did not close off the “Burma Road.” Eastwick residents continued to call city officials and protest outside the facility’s entrance, but to no avail.

BigBelly overflowing with residential trash, photo sent to Philly311 in January 2017 courtesy of

Once the scandals of 1958 fell from the spotlight a process of forgetting quickly began. By September 1958 the owners of the offending dump had obtained an injunction barring Philadelphia from barricading its entrance. Broader social forces also worked to the advantage of polluters. Aided in part by the rapid transformation of Eastwick through Philadelphia’s extensive urban renewal program, City-Wide Services and its burning dump ceased to concern city officials. Eastwick, always marginal, became more deeply marginalized during the 1960s.

The re-marginalization of Eastwick enabled the rebranding of the dump as the Clearview Landfill, a name that associated the facility with the comparatively safe practice of sanitary landfilling despite little evidence of substantive change. The Clearview Landfill continued to operate openly until 1973, when it was officially closed. However, the closure of Clearview did not stop Richard Heller, Edward Heller’s son and current owner of City-Wide Services. In defiance of state law, City-Wide Services continued to dump waste on the site into the late 1990s. Finally, in 2001 the State of Pennsylvania imposed a large fine on Heller and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency placed the site on its National Priorities, or Superfund, list. Remediation efforts in areas adjacent to the Clearview Landfill continue more than six decades after the site first became a dumping ground.[2]

In the late-2010s the people of Philadelphia continue to battle the environmental hazards caused by solid waste. New challenges for city leaders have arisen in areas prone to illegal dumping, in particular where the issue often shades into the similarly thorny problem opioid addiction. The story of the Clearview Landfill reveals how difficult it can be for American cities to manage environmental problems—even when the responsible parties were easy to identify. In the case of Clearview, Philadelphia’s difficulties arose from the fact of municipal boundaries, the unwillingness of courts to interfere with a property owner’s access to his land, and the lack of a clear mandate for a higher authority, such as the State of Pennsylvania, to intervene. As a consequence, the palpable traces of Philadelphia’s past include not only such landmarks as Independence Hall, the row houses of Rittenhouse Square, and William Penn’s gridiron streets, but the soil, air, and water. In seeking to create a zero-waste future, Philadelphia’s leaders would be wise to consider not just the waste being produced in the present, but the depth and breadth of its abundantly wasteful past.

James_Cook_Thajudeen_photo.jpgJames Cook-Thajudeen is a PhD candidate in History at Temple University. He is currently writing a dissertation on solid waste and public policy in the Philadelphia metropolitan area from the nineteenth century to the present. 

[1] For more information on the place of Eastwick and the mayoralty of Richardson Dilworth, see: Guian McKee, The Problem of Jobs: Liberalism, Race, and Deindustrialization in Philadelphia (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2010). For more on the limitations of liberal reform in Philadelphia, see: Matthew Countryman, Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).

[2] For more on the technical distinction between dumps and landfills, as well as a nationwide account of solid waste issues in the postwar period, see: Martin V. Melosi, The Sanitary City: Environmental Services in Urban America from Colonial Times to the Present (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).

Featured image (at top): Reading Terminal builder Charles McCaul prepared this lithograph of Phiadelphia, Pennsylvania’s new train terminal and market for the building’s opening in 1893, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

UHA Award Season Kickoff

If you are an urban scholar who put a book, article, or dissertation out into the world in 2018, we encourage you to check out the Jackson, Hirsch, Katz, and unnamed “best non-North American book” awards and consider applying.

The selection criteria for all awards is the samee: significance, originality, quality of research, sophistication of methodology, clarity of presentation, cogency of arguments, and contribution to the field of urban history. Membership in the UHA is not required, but all works must be in English or in English translation. And all the awards have the same deadline of May 1, 2019!

Best of luck in your pursuit of these major awards!

Sanctuary and the City

Editor’s note: In anticipation of next’s month’s #OAH2019/#OAH19 in Philadelphia, the March Metro of the Month is the City of Brotherly love. To get more info about the conference click over to the organization’s website, where you can also download the OAH’s program for the event.

By Domenic Vitiello

In the age of President Donald Trump, most Americans know what a “sanctuary city” is. It goes something like this:

RESOLVED: That no agent or agency, including the Philadelphia Police Department and its members, shall request information about or otherwise investigate or assist in the investigation of the citizenship or residency status of any person unless such inquiry or investigation is required by statute, ordinance, federal regulation or court decision…[1]

 Since debates about illegal immigration blew up in 2006, as Congress has failed to pass immigration reform, and especially since Trump’s election in 2016, more and more cities have refused to cooperate in detention and deportation of people in the country illegally. But this is only one part of what it means to be a sanctuary city. And today is just the latest era in a long history of sanctuary cities in the United States, in which Philadelphia has featured prominently.

The sanctuary city declarations and policies of today read much like those of the 1980s, when the administration of President Ronald Reagan refused to grant asylum to Guatemalans and Salvadorans fleeing civil wars and murder by militaries trained and funded by the U.S. In response, activists around the country and in Mexico established the Sanctuary Movement to harbor people they called “refugees,” even as the federal government persisted in labelling them “illegal economic immigrants.” They helped people cross the border and sheltered select individuals and families in churches, synagogues, and meetinghouses from New England to the West Coast. They lobbied politicians in Washington to stop supporting wars, and the terror they wrought, in Central America, and to change asylum policy. In 1985 and ‘86, they gained national media attention as the federal government put some of the movement’s founders on trial for trafficking Central Americans across the border near Tucson, Arizona. They used this moment to push city and state governments to establish sanctuary policies.

The quote above comes from a draft resolution written for the City Council of Philadelphia in the winter of 1986 by activists in the West Philly-based Central America Organizing Project, as well as the local chapters of the national Committee in Support of the People of El Salvador (CISPES), Democratic Socialists of America, and National Lawyers’ Guild. “In response to our national government’s policy of deporting Central American refugees and harassing their supporters,” they wrote to other sanctuary activists in Philadelphia, “a number of cities, including San Francisco, Berkeley, Cambridge, Mass., Chicago, Seattle, and Ithaca have declared themselves to be Cities of Refuge or Sanctuary Cities.”[2] So did other centers of the American Left, including New York City; Burlington, Vermont (mayor: Bernard Sanders); Ann Arbor, Michigan; Takoma Park, Maryland; and the states of New Mexico and Wisconsin.[3] Los Angeles, home to the largest number of Central Americans in the country, some 300,000 people, established this era’s first sanctuary city policy in 1979, even before the Sanctuary Movement arose.


In their resolution, the Philadelphia activists recognized a deeper history of sanctuary, casting it as an original purpose of the city and nation:

WHEREAS: Both the United States and the City of Philadelphia have for centuries served as a haven for refugees of religious and political persecution from all parts of the world, and much of the historical and moral tradition of our nation is rooted in the provision of sanctuary to persecuted peoples.[4]

Founded by Quakers, this was “the city to which religious dissidents of all kinds could come during the colonial era,” and “a major link in the Underground Railroad,” the activists stressed in another outreach letter. They equated sanctuary city protections with certain antebellum cities and states’ refusal to return escaped slaves to the South in compliance with the Fugitive Slave Act.[5]

Cities have functioned as sanctuaries for people fleeing persecution since ancient times. Not just a Western tradition, state and religious authorities designated certain cities as sanctuaries in ancient South Asian Indian, Hawaiian, Hebrew, medieval European, and colonial-era Native American societies. In the Bible, Joshua (20:2) proclaims, “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge”; and in Numbers (35:15), Moses declares areas in the Promised Land “shall be a refuge, for the children of Israel, and for the stranger.” As Exodus (21:12-14) explains, ancient sanctuary cities typically sheltered people from retribution for involuntary manslaughter, to prevent blood feuds, or after defeat in battle. The Greeks, Romans, and early Christians shared this tradition, though their sanctuaries were generally temples and churches as opposed to entire cities. In the twentieth century, sanctuary towns in Europe, often organized by Catholic congregations, harbored Jewish refugees from the Spanish Civil War and the Nazis.[6]

As Sanctuary Movement activists explained in the 1980s, “At different times and places, under varied circumstances, the significance of sanctuary has been recovered and taken on new meanings.”[7] In the twenty-first century, “cities of sanctuary” in Britain promote a culture of welcoming for asylum seekers. The European “cities of refuge” project recruits city governments to protect artists and writers persecuted in other societies.

In the United States, the meanings of sanctuary and sanctuary cities transcend the contested forms of protection that local and state governments, their police and prisons, offer to immigrants whom national governments seek to deport. In almost every sanctuary city resolution of the 1980s and today, local governments affirm something to the effect: “That no agent or agency shall condition the provision of City of Philadelphia benefits, opportunities or services on matters related to citizenship or residency status.”[8] Municipal services like schools, health clinics, libraries, business licensing, and more enable immigrants, including people in the country without documentation, to incorporate, survive, and contribute to the life of cities. Indeed, some mayors and city officials, especially in the twenty-first century, justify their sanctuary policies principally in terms of immigrants’ crucial role in urban revitalization.[9]

Yet often government is not the most important provider of sanctuary. The Philadelphia activists alluded to this in their draft resolution:

RESOLVED: That the City Council supports and commends the citizens of Philadelphia who are providing humanitarian assistance to those seeking refuge in our City; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the people of Philadelphia be encouraged to work with the existing sanctuaries to provide the necessary housing, transportation, food, medical aid, legal assistance and friendship that will be needed…[10]

These forms of sanctuary, as humanitarian assistance, usually come from friends and family, neighbors, and civil society – during the Central American crisis of the 1980s, mainly sanctuary congregations and their allies, including groups like Central America Organizing Project. In this broader perspective, sanctuary cities are the places where immigrants, refugees, and their allies help one another rebuild lives and communities.

By 1987, some twenty-four city governments in the U.S. had declared sanctuary.[11] But Philadelphia did not. Activists abandoned their campaign after a few meetings—their draft resolution never arrived in City Hall. Ironically, City Council had already passed resolutions, and would pass more, celebrating the Sanctuary Movement and condemning Congress and the White House for supporting violence and oppression in Central America.[12] However, as Rev. David Funkhauser, founder of the Central America Organizing Project, wrote at the start of the short-lived campaign, “since Philadelphia has very few refugees, there is no need to rush the proposal.”[13] His colleague Anne Ewing explained, “We’ve decided to spend our energies on direct work with refugees” from Guatemala and El Salvador.[14] As in other “direct action” movements, this was more important than anything local government could do. Many sanctuary activists remained ambivalent about the limits of sanctuary city policies, which could not prevent federal detention and deportation, nor employers’ exploitation of Central American refugees.[15]

Philadelphia in the 1980s was a different sort of sanctuary city than Los Angeles with its large Central American population, or Tucson where activists helped people cross the border. Sanctuary activism in the City of Brotherly Love grew largely from a preexisting set of transnational solidarity movements supporting human rights movements in Chile, Panama, and other parts of Latin America. Some were based out of the locally-headquartered American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker institution. Their allies in Guatemala and El Salvador, mostly union and student organizers and indigenous communities, were the prime targets of disappearances, torture, and bombings during those nation’s civil wars. For Central American activists, sanctuary in the U.S. represented a protected space from which to continue working for peace and justice back home.

After the civil wars in El Salvador and then Guatemala ended in the 1990s, North and Central American sanctuary activists assisted people in returning home and rebuilding their towns, livelihoods, and institutions of government. They monitored elections, supported truth and reconciliation processes, and raised funds for community and small enterprise development. Much of this work continues through organizations like the AFSC, CISPES, SHARE Foundation, and Rights Action, and via sister city and church partnerships, including with Philadelphia congregations. In these ways, the work of sanctuary continues as a project of promoting and protecting human rights. One way to understand Philadelphia’s Sanctuary Movement is that it grew out of, and then morphed back into, a set of transnational solidarity movements.

Philadelphia became a sanctuary city in terms of municipal protection in the spring of 2001, through policy memoranda issued by African American Mayor John Street (2000-2008) and his police commissioner John Timoney, an immigrant from Ireland. Immigration to the city, like the nation at large, took off in the 1990s, especially from Mexico but also from Haiti, Central America, and other regions whose peoples faced big obstacles to immigrating legally. Mayor Street and his next police commissioner, an African American Muslim, were sympathetic to issues of racial and religious profiling, especially after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Street and his allies also valued immigrants and their children as neighbors and political supporters.



The city’s next mayor, Michael Nutter (2008-2016), an enthusiastically neoliberal African American, supported the city’s sanctuary policies largely since they promised to protect a key driver of the city’s revitalization. The unauthorized immigrants whose labor undergirded Philadelphia’s burgeoning restaurant, construction, and other service industries were also chiefly responsible for ending the city’s 55-year population decline (1952-2007). I have calculated elsewhere that without illegal immigration, Philadelphia would not have started growing as it has in the twenty-first century.[16] Nutter’s commitment to sanctuary was thin. At the end of his second term, in an attempt to curry favor with the administration of Barack Obama, he canceled the policy. About two weeks later, on his first day in office, new Mayor James Kenney (2016-), of Irish and Italian American heritage, signed it back into force. A longtime champion of immigrant communities in City Council, his support for sanctuary derived in great part from his Catholic faith.

Since 2014, excepting the momentary lapse at the end of the Nutter administration, Philadelphia has had the strongest sanctuary policy in the nation. Unlike other sanctuary cities, it has refused to turn over even people convicted of serious felonies, based on the premise that they have served their time in prison and are part of families and communities in the city.

Philadelphia’s sanctuary policy is due at least as much to its activist community, which has continually pushed the city to expand and uphold it. In 2007, a group of activists, mostly too young to have participated in the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, established the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia (NSM). Around the same time, similar groups formed in Chicago and New York. As they did during the 1980s, these groups operated autonomously, not as a single organization. NSM cultivated a network of member congregations and allied organizations, also much like the 1980s. Some of the congregations have hosted immigrant families on order of deportation, increasingly since the election of Donald Trump.

So what’s new about the New Sanctuary Movement? Unlike the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, it is not an anti-war movement, but a more general immigrant rights movement. Its engagement and leadership from new immigrant communities has been greater, which is logical given the growth of those communities. NSM has supported families from Indonesia, Pakistan, Mexico, Central America, Jamaica, and other places. Activists in the 1980s made a specific argument, repeating the mantra of Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees: “if you knew the truth,” about what the U.S. was doing in Central America, “then surely you would help us.” NSM embraces a broader mantra, “no human is illegal,” and articulates a more enduring and global vision:

We believe Sanctuary is a vision continuously created through decades of struggle, through thousands of years of struggle. We are working, organizing, reaching and yearning towards that vision – a vision of collective and personal transformation.

We strive with fierce faith to build sanctuaries in ourselves as people and in our communities.  All our work, campaigns and community building are part of a larger vision to build Sanctuaries within ourselves, our cities, and our world.[17]

NSM also pursues a more concerted urban strategy. Sanctuary city protections are more widespread and more important today, as immigrants have settled in more parts of the country. NSM has launched campaigns supporting drivers licenses for undocumented people in the U.S., and against policies that require the towing of vehicles they drive. NSM’s Sanctuary in the Streets campaign has trained native- and foreign-born Philadelphia residents to resist and disrupt deportation raids, much like the Community Resistance Zones organized by its sometimes-partner, the community organizing group JUNTOS, whose members helped establish NSM. Like the meanings and practices of sanctuary, the geography of sanctuary is fluid, extending from sanctuary congregations to neighborhoods, cities, and communities in other countries.

The sanctuary movements of Philadelphia remind us of the larger field of geopolitics in which sanctuary and sanctuary cities operate. The leaders of the 1986 sanctuary city campaign wrote, “we also need to think about what it means that this country is so attractive: that we are an island of plenty in an impoverished world, and that our government is supporting oppressive governments… in many countries (Chile, the Philippines, South Africa, and many more).”[18] Ultimately, sanctuary and sanctuary cities help us reflect and act upon the injustices our nation perpetrates on peoples around the world, working to repair them in some small but profound ways. In this broader perspective, sanctuary cities are the places where immigrants, refugees, and their allies help one another rebuild lives and communities. Philadelphia remains an important center of that work.

Domenic Vitiello is a professor of city planning and urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research and teaching focus on urban and planning history, immigrant communities, and urban agriculture. His most recent book is an edited volume with Tom Sugrue, Immigration and Metropolitan Revitalization in the United States. Domenic is currently writing a book titled The Sanctuary City that examines Central American, Southeast Asian, African, Arab, and Mexican immigration to Philadelphia since the 1970s. You can read his essays on immigration and community development in the Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia (, and find other recent work at Domenic has been a member of the Coalition of African Communities in Philadelphia (AFRICOM), served on the board of the African Cultural Alliance of North America (a Liberian organization), as board co-chair of JUNTOS/Casa de los Soles, and has worked with many other immigrant and refugee community organizations in Philadelphia and other cities. In his younger days, he played for Guatemala in the Hispanic Soccer League of Philadelphia, and more recently refereed the annual African and Caribbean Soccer Tournament.

Featured image (at top): “Liberty Forsaken” mural in North Philadelphia, photo by Domenic Vitiello, 2002. 

[1] “Resolution for City Council Action Declaring Philadelphia a City of Sanctuary,” n.d. (winter-spring 1986), Philadelphia Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) Records, Swarthmore Peace Collection.

[2] Outreach letter, April 1986, Central America Network files, Swarthmore Peace Collection.

[3] “New Mexico Is Declared Sanctuary for Refugees,” New York Times (March 30, 1986).

[4] “Resolution for City Council Action Declaring Philadelphia a City of Sanctuary.”

[5] “Why Philadelphia Should Become a Sanctuary City,” n.d. (winter-spring 1986), Central America Network files, Swarthmore Peace Collection.

[6] Linda Rabben, Sanctuary and Asylum: A Social and Political History (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016), 34ff; Ann Deslandes, “Sanctuary Cities Are as Old as the Bible,” JStor Daily (March 22, 2017), accessed September 5, 2017 at:

[7] Chicago Religious Task Force on Central America and Tucson Ecumenical Council Central America Task Force, “Sanctuary” (September 1982), reprinted in Angela Berryman, Central American Refugees: A Survey of the Current Situation, revised edition (American Friends Service Committee, May 1983), 35.

[8] “Resolution for City Council Action Declaring Philadelphia a City of Sanctuary.”

[9] Domenic Vitiello and Thomas J. Sugrue, “Introduction: Immigration and the New American Metropolis,” in Immigration and Metropolitan Revitalization in the United States, Vitiello and Sugrue, eds. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), 3-4.

[10] “Resolution for City Council Action Declaring Philadelphia a City of Sanctuary.”

[11] Christian Smith, Resisting Reagan: The U.S. Central America Peace Movement (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 185.

[12] Resolution No. 732, Journal of the City Council (Philadelphia, 1982), 331-332, 351; Resolution No. 1156, Journal of the City Council (Philadelphia, 1983), 737-738, 781; Philadelphia City Council, Resolution 707 (February 1, 1990); Philadelphia City Council Resolution (September 30, 1999), reprinted on School of the Americas Watch, visited December 11, 2015, at:

[13] David Funkhauser, “Some Thoughts on CAOP Direction, 1/13/86” (PAACA DG181 – box 9), Philadelphia Area Alliance for Central America Collection, Swarthmore Peace Collection.

[14] Ron Devlin, “Sanctuary for Refugees Spreads across U.S.,” The Morning Call (November 30, 1986).

[15] Jim Corbett, “Sanctuary, Basic Rights, and Humanity’s Fault Lines: A Personal Essay,” Weber vol. 5.1 (Spring/Summer 1988). Accessed December 11, 2015 at:

[16] Domenic Vitiello, “What does unauthorized immigration and sanctuary mean for Philly’s revival?” PlanPhilly (January 2017).

[17] New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, “2017 Statement on Sanctuary,” accessed January 31, 2019, at:

[18] “Why Philadelphia Should Become a Sanctuary City,” Central America Network files, Swarthmore Peace Collection.

Member of the Week: Ken Alyass

50211478_1237703249711565_3079804422419644416_o (1)Kenneth Alyass

Senior, Wayne State University

History Major



Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest?

I’ve been admitted to Northwestern and Harvard’s history PhD programs, and the project I proposed to both of those schools focus on Modern American urban history post-1970. More specifically, I want to study the intersection of suburbanization, the carceral state, and deregulation of finance in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. My ultimate goal is to understand the suburbanization of poverty in the post “riot” period of urban America. This history draws my interest because I live in suburb that isn’t lily white, affluent, or lined with white picket fences. Poverty and structural issues are so evident all around me, and I couldn’t help but notice that only a few miles north of my hometown, there were a couple neighborhoods where the wealthiest families in Michigan lived. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, what I was seeing was what scholars call uneven development.

What urban history-related courses are you currently taking? How are they supporting your work on your honors thesis?

Currently I am taking a seminar called “Modern American Cities,” with my professor and thesis advisor, Tracy Neumann. The class takes a look at postwar American urban history. We’re reading books like Sugrue’s The Origins of Urban Crisis, Andrew Needham’s book on the politics of energy production, Power Lines, and a few other interesting pieces. This class directly fits in with my thesis work. I’m writing a paper preliminary titled “Law and Order, with Justice” Redevelopment and the Rise of the Carceral State in Detroit, which is the second part of my honors thesis.

What books or articles have you read recently that made an impression?

Julio Capó Jr.’s book, Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami Before 1940, was particularly impactful on me. The book is a really interesting examination of Miami’s queer community, with a focus on policing the community, before 1940. It is slightly unusual for me because I mostly study postwar urban history, so it is refreshing to see a book that goes a little further back to unpack the early origins of policing, urban renewal, redevelopment, and even gentrification. One of my favorite things about it is that it approaches urban history with a more American Studies perspective, so he looks at visual media and architecture, something not all historians do.

What advice do you have for undergraduate students preparing an honors thesis related to urban history or urban studies?

Make sure you understand that urban history is really a combination of different thematic fields. We’re all doing social, political, economic, cultural, and other histories when we write about urban places. Having a grasp of the basics of those fields comes to be really helpful when you’re trying to understand them in unison. Another piece of advise I wish I took early on is read some spatial theory. People like Henri Lefebvre and David Harvey have been super influential in how I understand “space” – even if theory is a little hard to read.

You are graduating soon and leaving Wayne State! What will you take with you from your experience there, and how do you think what you learned (and who you met) will shape the next few years of your life?

I’ll argue this until I’m blue in the face: there is no better place to study labor and urban history than at Wayne State University. We have the largest labor and urban affairs archive in the nation right on campus, and from my first course here to my last, I have utilized the collections there. Tracy Neumann, David Goldberg, and Paul Kershaw, have been great influences on me. As I continue down the road into academia, their advice on how to be a good scholar and person will stick with me for a long time.

The Complexities of Brotherly Love: Frank Rizzo, Blue Collar Conservatism and LGBTQ Rights in 1970’s Philadelphia

Editor’s note: In anticipation of next’s month’s #OAH2019/#OAH19 in Philadelphia, the March Metro of the Month is the City of Brotherly love. To get more info about the conference click over to the organization’s website, where you can also download the OAH’s program for the event.

“You know how it works in South Philly. Our strength has always been in our numbers.” local barkeep Max tells Philadelphia Eagles hopeful Vincent Papale in 2006’s Invincible. The underemployed Papale, a part-time bartender and substitute teacher, epitomized the downward economic trajectory of his fellow blue-collar white ethnics in 1976. The union was on strike, manufacturing was fleeing the city, and the Eagles were terrible. As the elder Frank Papale exhaustingly proclaims earlier in the film, “A man can only take so much failure.”

Despite the 1976 bicentennial, the city and nation had seen better days; a “crisis of confidence” had struck the nation, President Jimmy Carter would tell Americans in 1979. Though the Papales might not have articulated it in such terms, Philadelphia and the United States were both mired in “collective ‘existential despair.’”[1]

Broing down with Mark Wahlberg

A brogasm of Wahlbergian spectacle, Invincible depicts Philadelphia in all its white working-class patina-tinged glory; Mark Wahlberg’s everyman struggles to earn his place on a dismal Eagles team that resents his amateur presence, yet his plight captures his fellow citizens’ imaginations and attention as the newly appointed head coach, Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear), attempts to right a ship that had gone far off course.

As with their team, white, blue-collar Philadelphians similarly found themselves drifting listlessly into economic uncertainty; Wahlberg’s quest for a roster spot at least gave his fellow struggling white ethnics some measure of validation. “You’re one of us,” Max assures Papale. Papale securing a roster spot in the NFL pushed back against the erosion of national and local confidence, or as Carter put it, “the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives.”[2]

Unsurprisingly, the 1970s offered no shortage of similar takes on the city, the most obvious example being Rocky, a film released the same year as the real-life Papale’s ascent onto the Eagles roster. Its most iconic scene, Rocky Balboa “atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” was “made possible by the Bicentennial.” Historian Christopher Capozzola writes that “the museum’s renovation” was financed as “part of the city’s Bicentennial cleanup campaign.”[3]

More recently, “Breaking Bad”—and to a far greater extent, “Better Call Saul”—featured the travails of the former Philadelphia cop Mike “No Half Measures” Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). Ehrmantraut’s character is particularly resonant since the city’s police force helped to define the white blue-collar identity depicted so faithfully in contemporaneous films (such as the aforementioned Rocky and later, nostalgically, in Invincible). “Police work was a blue collar job and tradition, often passed down generation to generation,” notes Timothy Lombardo in his most recent work. “White police officers also shared the blue collar identity that developed in the city’s white working and middle class neighborhood.” Police embodied the identity and at the time, their work literally defended white interests. When White ethnic Philadelphians’ defended of local law enforcement, it only underscored this deeper connection.[4] Officers helped to defend their communities from crime and upheld long-standing values such as tradition, honor, hard work, and law and order.

4th of July, 1976 : demonstrate! : Philadelphia“, July 4th Coalition, Artworks Organization, 1976, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

While the end of the ‘70s remains defined by malaise, during the late 1960s and early 1970s white blue collar Philadelphians enjoyed cultural, and to some extent political ascendency behind the populist and controversial Mayor Frank Rizzo who himself had risen from the ranks of the PPD—first to Chief of Police during the mid-1960s, and later to the city’s highest office in 1972.


Long the junior party to Philadelphia’s WASP elite, the white working class residents envisioned a city remade in their image. Rizzo, described as “a cop’s cop,” embodied the hopes, resentments, and fears of his fellow white ethnics. He decried elites, personified working class masculinity, and criticized civil rights activists through a studied colorblind discourse that understood open displays of racism were no longer politically and socially viable. “If there is one thing I’m not,” he told a local journalist, “it’s against somebody because they are Negro or an Irishman, or anything else.”[5]

The former police chief crafted campaign slogans that effectively conveyed double meanings but steered clear of overt racial appeals. One, “Rizzo Means Business,” promoted his no nonsense blue collar approach and juxtaposed his masculinity against both the effete, pinheaded intellectual class and the burgeoning threat of Black Power activists. It also evoked the kind of “law and order” policies that defended the very neighborhoods inhabited by his supporters.[6] Rizzo understood the value of symbolism, be it appearing at an urban disturbance in a tuxedo with a billy club protruding from his cummerbund or endorsing Richard Nixon and handing the President a lighter emblazoned with Snoopy and the words “Fuck McGovern.”[7]

Yet Frank Rizzo’s ascendency has as much to do with the arc of twentieth century urban history and municipal policies as his combative style. Postwar reformers embraced New Deal municipal programs that promised (and sometimes delivered) benefits to its white residents, but that also reified structural inequalities, particularly in regard to race. “The gulf between the promises and limitations of urban liberalism established the urban crisis that shaped Philadelphia’s long postwar period,” Lombardo points out.[8] Public housing further carved the city’s neighborhoods into racial fiefdoms. Critically, it naturalized white privilege—or, to paraphrase William Upski Wimsatt from his underground 1994 memoir on tagging, Bomb the Suburbs, whites believed that having the proverbial wind at their back was the natural order of things.

GENERAL VIEW – Falls Bridge, Spanning Schuylkill River, connecting East & West River Drives, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA, Jack E. Boucher, 1972, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

When urban decline and deindustrialization began to chip away at metropolitan economies, racial conflicts blossomed into urban tensions and uprisings. When civil rights activists demanded a piece of the share from which they had been denied, white ethnics revolted, embracing their cultural identity and retreating to neighborhoods like Bridesburg, Whitman, and Morrell Park in Greater Northeast Philadelphia.

“‘Defense of the neighborhood’ was at the root of nearly every conflict that contributed to the transformation in white working and middle class politics of the 1960s and 1970s,” writes Lombardo.[9] School integration and busing enabled Philadelphia’s Italian, Irish, and German American residents to organize around the collective identity they had come to define and the communities in which they resided. The Northeast became its own territory. “This isn’t Philly,” one civic leader noted. “This is Bridesburg.”[10]

If police officers represented one distillation of the blue-collar identity, construction work embodied another and also helps to explain how liberal urban policies contributed to the sort of expectations and disappointments that fueled white, blue-collar politics. By the mid-1960s, federal, state, and municipal expenditures on economic development poured over 17 billion into construction coffers; even as the city shed manufacturing employment during the 1950s and 1960s, federal urban renewal programs maintained a steady stream of work.

Attempts to broaden the workforce’s diversity met with resistance. Building and trade unions pushed back against attempts to integrate. “I never said no to a negro,” Joseph Burke of the Sheet Metal Workers told journalists, admitting in the same breath that “We didn’t go out looking for them either.”[11]

Leaders like Burke insisted the union hall promised black construction laborers their best hopes for work, yet refused to acknowledge the ways in which their control over apprentice programs and rules privileging seniority prevented black workers from gaining a real foothold in the industry.[12]

VIEW OF BROAD STREET FACADE – Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Broad & Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA, Jack E. Boucher, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In spite or maybe because of this, the affirmative action plan the city enacted in 1967 became the nation’s first; it would develop into a national model. However, the Nixon administration’s institutionalization of the program had less to do with a sense of concern for the plight of non-white workers but rather, as Jefferson Cowie writes, as a means to outflank “the liberals and … flood the inflation-minded labor market.” Secretary of Labor George Schultz warned that the integration of the building trades would probably “help foment conflict between the two core constituents of the New Deal – labor and blacks.” A conflict that, as historians such as Rick Perlstein and Bruce Schulman contend, the president (and by extension Rizzo) had few qualms about fanning.[13]


Then again, white ethnic blue-collar Philadelphians did not hold a monopoly on identity formation during this period. The city’s gay community also asserted itself, amidst the same forces that produced its full-throated white, working class howl. As historian Kevin J. Mumford notes, the LGBTQ community’s quest for equal protection led to clashes with “religious and racial conservatives who challenged not only their rights but also their legitimacy as a minority.” The process necessitated a reconstruction of identities while “negotiating race relations and extending liberal impulses of the 1960s into the 1980s.”[14] In contrast to the blue-collar revolt that rejected racial compromise and built an identity in opposition to the liberal policies that helped buoy them, the push for LGBT equality worked, with admittedly varying degrees of success, to navigate racial tensions and harness social liberalism rather than repudiate each.

Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings circa 1965 in the nation’s capital. The two LGBTQ leaders helped to organize the 1965 Annual Reminder demonstration in Philadelphia the same year, c. 1965, Frank Kameny Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

In 1965, the Janus Society conducted sit-ins at a Philadelphia restaurant following an incident in which the manager refused to serve customers on the suspicion of their homosexuality. The protest resulted in several arrests, but more importantly drew publicity for the cause. On July 4th of the same year, Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings, and Lilli Vincenz, among others, organized the first Annual Reminder demonstration outside Independence Hall emphasizing their rights as citizens.[15] These protests pre-dated the Stonewall Rebellion by several years and helped to lay the groundwork for a more militant Gay Liberation Movement, perhaps best represented by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), that blossomed during the early 1970s.

In Philadelphia, the GLF established a branch in 1971. Influenced by the Black Power movement, activists began declaring “gay is good” much as Stokely Carmichael coined the slogan “black is beautiful.” Even the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA), which had been critical of BPP’s homophobia and had formed after objecting to the GLF’s attempts to court the local Black Panther Party (BPP), was clearly influenced by Black Power rhetoric. Though perceived as whiter, more academic, and less street oriented, the GAA adopted BPP language in its fliers and memos declaring “gay is angry!” and “gay is proud!”[16]

Despite this apparent convergence in the effort for equal rights, Philadelphia’s black community did not warm to the LGBT movement initially. Homophobia pervaded many of the “rights movements” of the time. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), feminism, and the New Left all struggled with such bigotry, and the Black Power movement was no exception. Many leading black religious figures criticized efforts by the gay community to establish a city council bill protecting the rights of the homosexual community, both due to their Christianity and worries about “the politics of respectability.” Reverend Melvin Floyd, a former Philadelphia cop who had established Neighborhood Crusade, Inc. and dedicated his life to social uplift, particularly in regard to the black community, questioned the effort. “The one thing about everything else that can destroy that kind of manhood is to come up with a generation or generations of homosexual black males,” he told the council during hearings. He also pointed to one of the LGBT movement’s largest weaknesses, its lack of diversity. “100 percent [of the people] of any organizations of gay rights are white.”[17]

President Gerald Ford at a farmers’ market in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marion Trikosko, September 1976, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

However, there existed a wide diversity of viewpoints on the matter within the larger black community. According to a 1977 Gallup opinion poll, non-whites expressed “slightly more tolerance for homosexuals” than white respondents. Brother Grant Michael Fitzgerald, member of the Catholic religious order Society of the Divine Savior and a black gay activist, defended the bill during the same hearings. Gay men and women should be able to publicly hold hands just as “black people … and interracial couples can do … today,” he told council members. The black newspaper, The Philadelphia Tribune, which admittedly sometimes trafficked in sensationalism when it came to the city’s LGBT community and was not always a reliable ally in this regard, decried Floyd’s remarks as “absurd.”

Rizzo’s hypermasculinity and penchant for saying things such as “I’m going to make Attila the Hun look like a faggot” failed to endear him to the city’s gay residents.[18] The rise of the New Right, Anita Bryant’s homophobic crusades of the 1970s, and Rizzo’s own rhetoric sparked fresh activism in the city such as the formation of Gays at Penn in 1975, which consisted of staff and students at the University of Pennsylvania.

Three years later, behind Reverend James H. Littrell and organized by Penn staff and students, Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force (PLGTF) was established and it soon aligned itself with the Philadelphia Coalition of Black Gays. During the 1980s lesbian feminist activist Rita Addessa took the helm and the PLGTF launched a new effort to get a major rights bill passed in Philadelphia. The end of Rizzo’s administration, new elections, and a new mayor who publically supported gay rights marked a new day and in 1982 hearings on a new bill went very differently. Granted, the new law, Bill 1358, failed to pass, but the council agreed to amend the Fair Practices Ordinance by adding sexual orientation. Unlike Rizzo and his followers, gay rights advocates, though “slow to grapple with intersections of identity” such that its political base had become too white and too male, still “drew on the long civil rights movement and sought protection from discrimination in what were essentially civil rights statutes,” writes Mumford.[19]

Post-Rizzo Philadelphia, like its football team, struggled as the 1970s ended and the 1980s commenced. The MOVE bombing of 1985 arguably represented its nadir. Though his administration deployed rhetoric and policies favored by the city’s white, blue-collar community, the addition of sexual orientation as a protected class to city statues represented only one aspect of “Rizzocrat” frailty. Throughout the 1970s, deindustrialization was afoot and no amount of rhetoric could change that fact. “Blue collar ascendency did not change the reality of blue collar decline,” writes Lombardo. Even as Rizzo burnished Philly’s white working class bonafides, the ground underneath it had already shifted. “Ironically, Philadelphia’s blue collar reputation emerged just as it was in the midst of a transition to a more white collar and service sector economy.”[20]

Twin towers of Liberty Place, photographed here at dusk, rose in 1987 and 1990 respectively in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

As the city stumbled out of the twentieth and into the twenty first century, Philly was, as the kids like to say, very seen. The 1993 movie Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer named Andrew Beckett who was fired by his firm for both his contraction of HIV and his sexuality, neatly captures the limits of the LGBT community’s success in the city. The only attorney willing to take his case, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), cannot hide his own homophobia, though much like black leaders in the early 1980s, he too comes around on the issue of sexuality by the film’s conclusion.

Later the nihilistic but often very funny sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” followed the exploits of “The Gang,” their South Philly Irish bar and their various morally dubious adventures. Silver Linings Playbook came after (2012), continuing the theme of tortured Eagles fans—though no one would describe Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as distinctly blue collar or particularly ethnic.

Today, Philly is known as much for its ascendant professional sports teams and burgeoning hipster art and music scene as for its white, working class. The War on Drugs epitomizes the latter—hardly a testament to Rizzo’s legacy, though one could argue that the Flyers mascot, Gritty exists as nod to this past. Yet one barely need mention, if you look at our political debates nationally, the late mayor seems to have represented more than just an undercurrent in American politics.

As always, you’ll find our bibliography below, with special thanks to James Wolfinger and Abigail Perkiss for their recommendations. We know it’s incomplete so any book recommendations exploring eighteenth and nineteenth century Philly are very welcome, as are any others we might have missed that examine city during the last and current century. All suggestions welcome in the comments!


Adams, Carolyn. Philadelphia: Neighborhoods, Division, and Conflict in a Postindustrial City. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.
Arnold, Stanley. Building the Beloved Community: Philadelphia’s Interracial Civil Rights Organizations and Race Relations, 1930-1970. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014.
Banner-Haley, Charles. To Do Good and To Do Well: Middle-Class Blacks and the Depression, Philadelphia, 1929-1941. New York: Taylor & Francis, 1993.
Bauman, John. Public Housing, Race, and Renewal: Urban Planning in Philadelphia, 1920-1974. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1987.

Binzen, Peter, and Joseph R. Daughen. The Cop Who Would Be King: The Honorable Frank Rizzo. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1977.

Birger, Jon S. “Race, Reaction, and Reform: The Three Rs of Philadelphia School Politics, 1965– 1971.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 120, no. 3 (July 2006).

Clark, Dennis. The Irish in Philadelphia: Ten Generations of Urban Experience. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973.
Cole, Peter. Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism in Progressive-Era Philadelphia. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
Countryman, Matthew. Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.
Curry, Leonard. “Philadelphia’s Free Blacks: Two Views.” Journal of Urban History 16, no. 3 (1990): 319-325,

Davis, Allen F. and Mark H. Haller, eds. The Peoples of Philadelphia: A History of Ethnic Groups and Lower-Class Life, 1790-1940. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1973.
Delmont, Matthew. The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.

——-. “Making Philadelphia Safe for ‘WFIL-adelphia’: Television, Housing and Defensive Localism in Postwar Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 38, no. 1 (2012): 193-213,

Davidow, Julia. “The Crusade is Now Begun in Philadelphia: Municipal Reformers, Southern Moderates and African American Politics.” Journal of Urban History 44, no. 2 (2018): 153-168,

DuBois, W.E.B. The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1899. Reprint, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

Feffer, Andrew. “Show Down in City Center: Staging Redevelopment and Citizenship in Bicentennial Philadelphia, 1974-1977.” Journal of Urban History 30, no. 6 (2004): 791-825, DOI: 10.1177/0096144204263814

Ferman, Barbara, Theresa Singleton, and Don DeMarco. “West Mount Airy, Philadelphia.” Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research 4, no. 2 (1998).

Grant, Elizabeth. “Race and Tourism in America’s First City.” Journal of Urban History 31, no. 6: 850-871.

Heller, Gregory L. Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics and the Building of Modern Philadelphia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Hempell, C. Dallett. “Review Essay: Whose City? Whose History?: Three Class Histories of Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 33, no. 1 (2006):108-119,

Hepp IV, John. The Middle-Class City: Transforming Space and Time in Philadelphia, 1876-1926. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Hershberg, Theodore, ed. Philadelphia: Work, Space, Family, and Group Experience in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Hillier, Amy. “Who Received Loans? Home Owners’ Loan Corporation Lending and Discrimination in Philadelphia in the 1930s.” Journal of Planning History 2, no. 1 (2003).

——-. “Redlining the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation.” Journal of Urban History 29, no. 4 (2003): 394-420,

Katz, Michael B., and Thomas J. Sugrue. W. E. B. DuBois, Race, and the City: “The Philadelphia Negro” and Its Legacy. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.

Kilbride, Daniel. “The Cosmopolitan South: Privileged Southerners, Philadelphia, and the Fashionable Tour in the Antebellum Era.” Journal of Urban History 26, no. 5 (2000): 563-590,

Knowles, Scott Gabriel, ed. Imagining Philadelphia: Edmund Bacon and the Future of the City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

Lane, Roger. Roots of Violence in Black Philadelphia, 1860-1900. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.

Levenstein, Lisa. A Movement Without Marches: African American Women and the Politics of Poverty in Postwar Philadelphia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Licht, Walter. Getting Work: Philadelphia, 1840-1950. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Lombardo, Timothy J. Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018.
Lyons, Paul. Philadelphia Communists, 1936-1956. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982.
McKee, Guian. The Problem of Jobs: Liberalism, Race, and Deindustrialization in Philadelphia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

——-. “Are Urban Histories Bowling Alone?: Social Capital Theory and Urban History.” Journal of Urban History 36, no. 5 (2010): 709-717,

Metraux, Stephen. “Waiting for the Wrecking Ball: Skidrow in Postindustrial Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 25, no. 5 (1999): 690-715,

Mumford, Kevin J. “The Trouble with Gay Rights: Race and the Politics of Sexual Orientation in Philadelphia, 1969-1982.” Journal of American History 98, no. 1 (June 2011): 48-72.

Paolantonio, S. A. Frank Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America. Philadelphia: Camino Books, 1993.

Perkiss, Abigail. Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014.

——-. “Managed Diversity: Contested Meanings of Integration in Post-WWII Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 38, no. 3: 410-429,

Resnik, Henry S. Turning on the System: War in the Philadelphia Public Schools. New York: Pantheon Books, 1970.

Rosswurm, Steve. “Emancipation in New York and Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 21, no. 4 (1995): 505-510,

Royles, Dan. “Don’t We Die Too?”: The Politics of Race and AIDS in Philadelphia,” in Rethinking Sexual Politics: Gay Rights and the Challenge of Urban Diversity in the Post-Civil Rights Era, ed. Jonathan Bell. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming.

Ryan, Francis. AFSCME’s Philadelphia Story: Municipal Workers and Urban Power in the Twentieth Century. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.

Ryberg, Stephanie R. “Historic Preservation’s Urban Renewal Roots: Preservation and Planning in Midcentury Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 39, no. 2 (2013): 193-213,

Salinger, Sharon V. “The Phoenix of the ‘New Urban History’: Old Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 18, no. 3 (1992): 330-337,

Savage, Michael. “Beyond Boundaries: Envisioning Metropolitan School Desegregation in Boston, Detroit and Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History, (online, 2018)

Schneider, Eric C., Christopher Agee, and Themis Chronopolous. “Dirty Work: Police and Community Relations and the Limits of Liberalism in Postwar Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History, (online, 2017),

Stein, Marc. City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves: Lesbian and Gay Philadelphia, 1945-1972. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Stranger-Ross, Jordan. “Neither Fight Nor Flight: Urban Synagogues in Postwar Philadelphia.” Journal of Urban History 32, no. 6 (2006): 791-812.

Toloudis, Nicholas. “How Local 192 Fought for Academic Freedom and Civil Rights in Philadelphia, 1934-1941.” Journal of Urban History, (Online, 2018).

Vietillo, Dominic. “Machine Building and City Building: Urban Planning and Restructuring in Philadelphia, 1894-1928.” Journal of Urban History 34, no. 3 (2008): 399-434,

Warner, Sam Bass Jr. The Private City: Philadelphia in Three Periods of Its Growth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968.

Weigley, Russell, ed. Philadelphia: A 300 Year History. New York: Norton, 1982.

Willis, Arthur C. Cecil’s City: A History of Blacks in Philadelphia, 1638–1979. New York: Carlton Press, 1990.

Wolfinger, James. Philadelphia Divided: Race and Politics in the City of Brotherly Love. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

——-. Running the Rails: Capital and Labor in the Philadelphia Transit Industry. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2016.

Young, David W. “The Battles of Germantown: Public History and Preservation in America’s Most Historic Neighborhood during the Twentieth Century.” PhD diss., Ohio State University Press, 2009.

Featured image (at top): Philadelphia Museum of Art, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs, Library of Congress 

[1] William Graebner, “America’s Poseidon Adventure: A Nation in Existential Despair,” in America in the 70s, eds. Beth Bailey and David Farber (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2004), 157-158.

[2] Graebner, “America’s Poseidon Adventure,” 158.

[3] Christopher Capozzola, “It Makes You Want to Believe in the Country,” in America in the 70s, eds. Beth Bailey and David Farber (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 2004), 29.

[4] Timothy Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia and Populist Politics (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 52.

[5] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 136.

[6] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 138,148.

[7] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 133, 157.

[8] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 24.

[9] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 25.

[10] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 41.

[11] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 118.

[12] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 119.

[13] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 117; Jefferson Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (New York: The New Press, 2010), 150; Rick Perlstein, Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (New York: Scribner, 2008); Bruce Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (New York: Da Capo Press, 2002).

[14] Kevin J. Mumford, “The Trouble with Gay Rights: Race and the Politics of Sexual Orientation in Philadelphia, 1969-1982,” Journal of American History (June 2011): 49-50.

[15] John D’Emilio, Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983), 174.

[16] “The Trouble with Gay Rights,” 54-55.

[17] Mumford, “The Trouble with Gay Rights,” 52, 54-5, 60.

[18] Capozzola, “It Makes You Want to Believe in the Country,” 41.

[19] Mumford, “The Trouble with Gay Rights,” 68-72.

[20] Lombardo, Blue Collar Conservatism, 158.

Write a Book Review for The Metropole!

Dear Metropolers,

What recent or forthcoming books would you be interested in reviewing for The Metropole? Reviews generally run 500 to 750 words, and they should be completed for posting during the spring or summer. Here are some examples of past reviews.

This spring we will be posting:

Llana Barber on City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion and the Rise of Human Caging in LA, 1771- 1965 by Kelly Lytle Hernandez

Alan Lesoff on Escaping The Dark, Gray City: Fear and Hope in Progressive Era Conservation by Benjamin Heber Johnson

Thai Jones on Greater Gotham: A History of NYC from 1898 to 1919 by Mike Wallace

John  W. Steinberg on The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine

Michael Glass on Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics by Kim Phillips-Fein

Sam Wetherwell on Practicing Utopia: An Intellectual History of the New Town Movement by Rosemary Wakeman

Walter Stern on Making The Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits by Ansley T. Erickson

David Yee on A City on a Lake: Urban Political Ecology and the Growth of Mexico City by Matthew Vitz

Taoyu Yang on Shaping Modern Shanghai: Colonialism in China’s Global City by Isabella Jackson.

Sun-Young Park on Paris and The Cliche of History by Catherine Clark

E-mail the editors (by clicking on their names below) detailing your interest and when you would be able to complete the review.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Jim Wunsch

Jacob Bruggeman

Book Review Editors

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Two Airports: A David vs. Goliath Story

Editor’s note: Remember that SACRPH 2019, the organization’s 18th conference, is in Northern Virginia (NOVA or NoVa)  this October/November from October 31 – November 3, the deadline for the CFP, which you can view here, is March 15. With this in mind, we begin our focus on NoVa as our Metro of the Month.  Submit your panels everyone! 

By Ray Clark

Before June 7, 1987, when the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) took control of Ronald Reagan Washington Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operated these facilities. They were the only two major commercial airports built and operated by the federal government. Since the FAA also regulated the airlines, it took an indirect approach when it came to managing the usage of these airports by the airlines. The result was that for decades Dulles remained underutilized, while National remained overcrowded. While MWAA has increased the usage of Dulles, it has been unable to relieve air traffic congestion at National. The reason for this is simple; travelers will opt for the more convenient airport even if that airport is crowded.

National Airport. Exterior of National Airport on airport side from center, Theodore Horydczak, ca. 1920 -ca. 1950, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In 1947, a Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) analysis group reported that Washington National Airport would exceed its capacity to handle both aircraft and passengers by 1955. The group recommended building a new airport to relieve this overcrowding since DCA’s location made expansion of the existing airfield impractical. Acting on this recommendation, Administrator D. W. Rentzel requested Congressional authorization to build a second commercial airport for the National Capital Region. Congress agreed to this request, passing the Airport Act of 1950. Almost from the start, the CAA understood that if the new airport were too far from the nation’s capital travelers would choose the convenience of a congested National over an uncrowded but remote airport. During the Congressional hearing over funding for the new airport, the CAA specifically rejected the notion that Baltimore’s newly constructed airport could function as the region’s second airport because it was too far away.[1]

Control tower at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Arlington, Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 – 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The CAA initially chose Burke, Virginia as the location for the new airport, but community opposition forced it to look elsewhere. The CAA chose Burke because it had enough undeveloped land to build what in 1950 would be a modern, efficient airport; it was also only 30 minutes further from Capitol Hill than National. As work on the new airport stalled the 1947 forecasts for National Airport proved correct with both aircraft and passenger usage exceed the facility’s limits resulting in a congested terminal, insufficient passenger parking, a crowded airfield, and more aircraft arriving than the facility could safely accommodate. Eventually, Congress demanded the CAA do something about all this congestion but do it someplace other than Burke, the CAA selected a site near Chantilly, Virginia for the region’s second airport. In 1958 construction began on Washington Dulles International Airport. The Chantilly location had been among the handful of sites under consideration since 1948 but was deemed too far a commute. Between Dulles’ opening in November 1962 and its transfer to MWAA, the airport was under utilized while passenger and aircraft traffic at National continued to grow. Only since the mid-1990s has Dulles’ numbers equaled those of the older, much smaller airport.

The Air Transport Association first identified a public preference for a convenient airport over an uncongested one in a study conducted in 1953. This study showed that in New York and Los Angeles where there was a choice of airports, travelers preferred the one with the least amount of driving even if that airport was more congested or offered fewer flight options to their destination. Passengers demonstrated this same preference in the Washington Metropolitan Region preferring crowded over underutilized National over distant Dulles.[2]

Aerial view of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Aerial view of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington, D.C., Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

National’s convenience stems from the fact it is one of the few airports in this country located adjacent to a city center. Travel time from Capitol Hill to this airport is about 30 minutes. It can take just over an hour for members of Congress to get to Dulles. Being closer makes National the preferred airport. In 2017, about the same number of passengers used National (11,506,310) as used Dulles (11,024,306). This parity is recent since usage at Dulles did not come close to National’s numbers until the early 1990s. The significant event that brought this about was the completion of the Dulles International Airport Access Highway (DIAAH) section between the Capital Beltway and Interstate Highway 66.[3]

Terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Alexandria, Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Dulles’ designers understood from the start that the success of the airport depended on swift and easy access. During the original construction, sufficient right of way was acquired to allow the building of not just a four-lane limited access road to the airport but a double track rapid transit rail line and a four-lane local access highway as well. The access highway would not run all the way to the District of Columbia but connect with Interstate Highway 66 (I-66) near Falls Church, Virginia (with that road completing the connection into Washington). When Dulles open in November 1962, I-66 only extended as far east as Gainsville, Virginia. Unfortunately, before Virginia began construction on I-66 inside the Beltway local opposition to the road delayed the work until 1980. During this delay passenger growth at Dulles was sluggish while National Airport reached almost double its designed capacity.[4]

Once the completed DIAAH/I-66 access route opened in November 1983, Dulles saw an increase in its rate of growth. Easier access from the District was not the only factor contributing to this trend. During the ensuing twenty years, the Northern Virginia suburbs had grown out toward the airport along the access road corridor. As a result of this, a significant number of potential travelers now lived or worked closer to Dulles than National.

The planned rapid transit line to Dulles never began because the construction of any mass transit system in the Washington Metropolitan Region fell under the purview of the National Capital Transportation Agency (NCTA). This federal agency created by the National Capital Transportation Act of 1960 was responsible for all mass transportation planning in the region. Over the next several years, the FAA assisted the NCTA by providing passenger data at both Dulles and National Airports to assist it in the planning of what would become the Washington Metro. Several plans developed by the NCTA showed a rail line out to Dulles International, but the construction of this connection was always considered a future project, and not included any current budget. Finally, in 2004 the airport took matters into its own hands when MWAA announced it would fund construction of a Washington Metro line to the airport with the projected completion sometime in 2020.[5]

Aerial view of Dulles airport, Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The FAA adopted several policies during the first decade of Dulles’s operation to encourage the airlines to move the majority of their operations from National to Dulles without actually ordering them to make such moves. This indirect approach was necessary because of the regulatory authority the agency exercised over the airlines. Baltimore and the State of Maryland were continually accusing the FAA of exerting undue influence over the airlines to use either National or Dulles over Baltimore’s Friendship Airport, now known as Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Friendship was constantly struggling to attract enough flights to stay out of the red financially. Beginning with Congressional hearings in 1950, Baltimore accused first the CAA and then its successor the FAA of taking air traffic that rightfully belonged to them.

Mobile lounges that locals call “people movers,” ferrying passengers to their planes from the terminal at Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The FAA’s first indirect policy was a ban on turbojet aircraft at National. Initially, this ban was easy to enforce since the first jetliners were too big to operate from National’s short runways. However, the next generation of smaller jets like the Boeing 737 and the Douglas DC-9 could operate from those shorter runways. With the nation’s midsized airports opened to jet aircraft by these models, there was no longer a reason for the airlines to retain their older and more expensive prop airliners. By 1965 the removal of these older aircraft from service forced the FAA to choose between closing National or allowing jets to use the facility. The popularity of convenient National over distant Dulles with members of Congress made closing National politically impossible, so jets were allowed to use the field.[6]

Dulles Airport, Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Just before its opening, the FAA designated Dulles the region’s long-range airport and relegated National to short-haul flights. When the FAA lifted the jet ban at National, it sought to reinforce this designation by imposing a 600-mile perimeter on nonstop flights. However, at the urging of Congress, this perimeter was extended to 1,000 miles, where it remained until 1996. In that year Congress passed legislation that extended the perimeter to 1,250 miles and allowed for twelve round trip flights daily, one to each of twelve cities beyond the perimeter: Austin, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.[7]

One further attempt by the FAA to influence airlines to move operations from National to Dulles was a limit on the number of take-offs or landings that could occur each hour at National. The agency imposed the first of these slot limitations in 1969. The airport was limited to 37 slots per hour. This policy worked, with passenger volume remaining static until the year 2000. During this time passenger volume at Dulles grew, eventually surpassing that at National. After 2000 the advances in air traffic control technology allowed the FAA to increase the number of slots per hour without adversely impacting congestion in the air around the airport, which was the official reason for the limitation. National is currently limited to 62 slots per hour. With more flights allowed, many airlines that had moved operations to Dulles during the boom following airline deregulation in 1980 have since moved back to National.

airport comparison

Despite its small size, National was the 24th busiest airport in the country in 2017 based on passenger boardings, while Dulles was 25th. With a land area of 861 acres, National falls well below the 5,698 acre average for a commercial airport in the United States. Dulles is 15 times larger with an area of 13,000 acres. The same restrictions on growth that existed in 1947 when the CAA determined a second airport was needed exist today, so the airport can not expand—yet passenger throughput continues to grow. This trend will only continue in the coming years. One reason is that National’s biggest fan, Congress, is not going anywhere. Another is that in 2018 Amazon announced the location of its new headquarters a 10-minute drive away from National in Crystal City, Virginia. This development represents tens of thousands of new customers for National Airport especially given the location of Amazon’s current headquarters. That facility is in Seattle, one of the twelve cities outside the 1,250-mile perimeter with direct flights.

For any number of reasons, Dulles should be the busier of the National Capital Region’s two airports. The one unknown in the future is the opening of the Washington Metro station at Dulles in 2020. Will that opening finally gives Dulles the advantage in the convenience struggle or will Amazon’s HQ2 offset any passenger gains from the rail line?

Featured image (at top): Panorama of Dulles Airport, Virginia, Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

MeRay W. Clark graduated from Lincoln High School, Portland, Oregon, in 1966. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Reed College in 1970. He was a commissioned officer in the United States Navy from 1970 to 1991 then worked as a project manager for PRC, Litton Industries, Northrop Grumman, and TASC from 1992 to 2013. He is currently retired. He received a Master of Arts Degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University in 1986, a Master of Arts in History from George Mason University in 2006, and a Ph. D. in history from George Mason in 2017. He is currently finishing a history of Washington Dulles International Airport.

[1] “Need of More Air Facilities Seen in D.C.,” Washington Post, August 3, 1947; John G. Norris, “More Airports for D.C. Area Recommended by CAA Chief,” Washington Post, October 21, 1947; Jean Reiff, “Fairfax Field for Airport’s Excess Traffic Given Study,” Washington Post, January 18, 1948.

[2] Emory S. Land, President, Air Transport Association to Dwight D. Eisenhower, July 8, 1953, Official File 105 Aeronautics and Aviation Box 422, White House Central Files, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

[3] “Commercial Service Airports (Rank Order) based on Calendar Year 2017 Enplanements,” capacity/passenger_allcargo_stats/passenger/media/cy17-commercial-service-enplanements.pdf accessed 2/19/2019

[4] FAA Metropolitan Washington Airports, “Final Environmental Impact Statement: Dulles Access Highway Extension to I-66 and Outer Parallel Roadways from Route 7 to I-495,” November 14, 1980, p18, p51, Box 27/ Folder 2, Virginians for Dulles records, Collection #C0025, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

[5] Zachary M Schrag, The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro, Creating the North American Landscape (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 41; C. Darwin Stolzenbach, Administrator, National Capital transportation Agency to Najeeb E, Halaby, Administrator, Federal Aviation Agency; June 11, 1962; June 1962; Records of the Office of the Administrator, Box 82; Headquarters Records of the Federal Aviation Administration, 1926-81; Records of the FAA, RG 237, NACP; “Silver Line: About”;

[6] Statement of Policy on the Use of Washington National Airport by Scheduled Turbo-Jet Transport Aircraft, November 13, 1959; November 1959; Records of the Office of the Administrator Box 2; Headquarters Records of the FAA, 1926-81; Records of the FAA, Record Group 237, NACP; Albon B. Harley, “Jet Tests Begin at National; Friendship Fears Traffic Loss: Halaby at Controls,” The Washington Post, July 16, 1961; “Legislator Wants D.C. Jet Service,” The Sun, January 13, 1965; “Lift Jet Ban, FAA Is Urged,” The Washington Post, Times Herald, January 13, 1965; Hob W. Anderson, “Long Denounces Jets at National: Friedel, Brewster, Crane Join Friendship Protest,” The Sun, January 12, 1966.

[7] “Airport Overview,”

African American Life in Arlington, Virginia, during Segregation: A Geographer’s Point of View

Editor’s note: Remember that SACRPH 2019, the organization’s 18th conference, is in Northern Virginia (NOVA or NoVa)  this October/November from October 31 – November 3, the deadline for the CFP, which you can view here, is March 15. With this in mind, we begin our focus on NoVa as our Metro of the Month.  Submit your panels everyone! 

By Nancy Perry

Arlington County, Virginia, home of the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, is a prosperous, racially and culturally diverse urban county located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. (the District). The county’s 26 square miles of land is bordered by the Potomac River on the eastern edge and by the state of Virginia. Census data show us that in 2010, 64 percent of the population was white, 10 percent was Asian, 16 percent was Hispanic, and nine percent was black.

Arlington County, Virginia’s black neighborhoods and enclaves. All the black enclaves were gone by 1950. Map by Nancy Perry, projection NAD 1983 UTM Zone 18N.

Arlington has been home to African Americans since the 1600s, when slaves labored on tobacco farms in the county [1]. Some black Arlingtonians are descendants of those slaves, living on land their ancestors purchased from their masters at the end of the Civil War [1; 2]. Others are descendants of contraband slaves who fled to the District during the war seeking safety. Still others descend from former slaves who migrated northward from Georgia and the Carolinas during Reconstruction, and some descend from sharecroppers who moved north during the Jim Crow period [3].

Arlington is on the margin between North and South. It is in a culturally ‘Southern’ state, yet it shares a border with Washington D.C., the capital of the Union during the Civil War. As a culturally Southern state, Virginia embraced Jim Crow. With the passage of the 1902 Virginia constitution, de facto segregation became de jure in all of Virginia. African Americans and whites could not attend the same schools. They could not sit together on steamboats, motorcars, or trains. They could not be quartered together in penitentiaries. They could not sit together in any public hall, theatre, motion picture, show, or place of public entertainment or assemblage. If African Americans and whites were to intermarry, they would be guilty of a felony and be confined in the penitentiary from one to five years. Perhaps most crucial, poll taxes and literacy tests prevented most black Virginians from voting [4].

In 1900 Arlington consisted mostly of farmland, with populated settlements scattered evenly throughout the county, including a few larger neighborhoods and many small enclaves. The settlements had no water or sewer systems. Wells were the source of water and outhouses or septic tanks took care of sanitation. Gas was used for illumination in the District, but kerosene lamps were still the rule in Arlington. Thirty-eight percent of the inhabitants were black. The African Americans lived in clusters, segregated from whites more by income than by race. As is suggested from their names, the three larger black neighborhoods (Halls Hill, Johnson’s Hill, and Green Valley) were built on hills with a view of the District [5].

Rural life would not last forever. By 1900 Arlington’s close proximity to the District made it attractive to government workers anxious to leave the congestion of the city for a home in the suburbs. In a few short years, bridges carrying roads and electric railroads connected the District with Arlington and outlying regions. On the heels of the new transportation infrastructure came developers putting up residential subdivisions. The county equipped those subdivisions with paved streets, water and sewer pipes, and electric and gas lines to serve the new residents. Residential segregation ensured that those new subdivisions were populated only by whites [6].

Amenities and improvements were much slower to appear in the black enclaves and neighborhoods. Until legislation during the Civil Rights Era required it, official Arlington County neglected the black neighborhoods, failing to pave streets or run water, gas, and sewer pipes in black neighborhoods. Unable to vote, black Arlingtonians had little influence over the disparity in their treatment. [7]

East Arlington street scene in 1910. The street is unpaved, with no gutters and no sidewalks. By 1941 when it was leveled to make way for the Pentagon, Arlington County still had not run paved streets, sidewalks, curbing, gutters, electric lines, water or sewer to the enclave of East Arlington. Reproduced with permission of the Virginia Room, Arlington Public Library.

The migration of whites to Arlington began with the slow buildup of the government during World War I. White federal workers began moving across the Potomac River, out of the District but still within an easy commute to work. That migration intensified during the New Deal and World War II, lightening the complexion of the once rural county [8].

Population, Arlington County, Virginia, 1900-1970. The population increased dramatically during the first seventy years of the twentieth century. By 1970 Arlington was a bustling suburb of almost 243,000 residents, 92 percent of them white. Data source: Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.

The black enclaves frequently got in the way as developers built new homes for the in-migrants. Money was used to entice black families out of their enclaves (but not out of the neighborhoods) rather than violence being used to force them out in order to make room for new construction. African Americans had lived in Arlington as long as the original whites and much longer than in-migrating whites. Coming from an agricultural background, black Arlingtonians appreciated the efficacy of owning the land they lived on. Even farm laborers, servants, and railroad porters owned their own homes. In 1900, 59 percent of Arlington’s black families were homeowners and by 1920, that number rose to 64 percent. A high level of home ownership put the black community at an advantage when developers scooped up their land to build developments for the whites [9].

By the mid-20th century all the black enclaves were swallowed up by new white developments, their former residents clustered in the three black neighborhoods. East Arlington, the largest of the enclaves with 900 residents, was one of the last to disappear, leveled in 1942 to make way for the new Pentagon building [10]. After integration most African Americans did not choose to move into the white neighborhoods, but remained where they were. Their neighborhoods have since gradually become integrated as both whites and people of other races have moved in.

During segregation, black Arlingtonians were unwelcome in white-owned businesses other than grocery stores. They could not get a bank account, buy shoes or clothing from a department store, hire a white contractor to build their home, get a haircut from a white barber or hair dresser, or frequent a white diner or lunch counter. Some residents started their own small businesses providing their neighbors with the goods and services they could not buy from the white community; they became survivalist entrepreneurs, “persons who become self-employed in response to a desperate need to find an independent means of livelihood” [11].

Mamie Brown, a Green Valley beautician, opened Friendly Beauty School. She graduated more than 300 students who went on to own and operate beauty shops of their own. Photo courtesy of Aaronita Brown.

Few business owners had the resources to open a retail business. Instead, they opened tiny restaurants, convenience stores, and shops providing services. Eighty percent of the businesses were in the owner’s home, with the restaurants located in the family’s dining room and enterprises like beauty shops, repair shops, and convenience stores located in the basement or a spare bedroom. Particularly successful were the building contractors found in all the neighborhoods. During segregation, white contractors refused to build for black families lest it appear they were working for African Americans, so the black contractors had no lack of work. Some owners ran several businesses at one time, including the Green Valley family that juggled a taxi service, a restaurant, a beauty shop, and heating oil, coal, and ice distributorships. The few businesses that were not home-based included two funeral homes, a pharmacy, a gas station, and a TV repair shop [12].


This commerce made the neighborhoods cohesive and self-reliant. Because public transportation did not connect the neighborhoods until the early 1940s, a business’s customer base comprised only those families living nearby. No white customers ever came into the black neighborhoods to shop. All three of the neighborhoods, however, were connected to the District by public transportation. In 1950 the District had a much larger black population than Arlington. Of the 802,178 residents of the District, 280,803 (35%) were black. The black-owned businesses in the District welcomed Arlington’s 6500 African Americans. Because there were so many attractive shopping and entertainment options in the District, and because traveling from the neighborhoods to the District was easier than traveling between the neighborhoods, there was little incentive for African Americans to build an extensive business infrastructure of their own. Only those things that were not worth a bus trip to the District were obtained in one of the small businesses in the neighborhoods. Everything else was purchased in the District [13].

Mr. Walker’s shop, run out of the basement of his home. If you were African American and your shoes needed to be repaired you took them to Mr. Walker. His store was the only shoe repair shop in Arlington that served African Americans. © Lloyd Wolf/Arlington Photographic Documentary Project. Reproduced with permission.

Once Arlington integrated and African Americans were allowed to trade white-owned businesses, the small neighborhood businesses gradually disappeared. By 1970 only a few larger businesses such as the taxi services, the TV repair shop, and the funeral parlors clung to existence. The home-based economy disappeared [14].

The number of African Americans in Arlington who supported themselves by opening a business was dwarfed by the number working for a salary. The occupations they chose were a function of segregation and proximity to the federal government in the District. Using the original manuscript census data, it is possible to identify the occupations of individual black workers. In 1900 a total of 40 job types were listed. Most black men labored on a farm, in the several brickyards along the Potomac River, or as general laborers. Most black women performed domestic work for white families. By 1940, the last year for which manuscript census data is available, 127 job types were listed. The variety of jobs increased, the compensation and status did not. The 1940 census mentions the car washer but not the car dealer, the shoe shiner but not the shoe store owner, nurse’s aides but not nurses. Women continued to cook, clean, and rear children of white families [15].

Chinn Funeral Home. Black-owned mortuaries were guaranteed to have customers because African Americans were unwelcome in white-owned mortuaries. The Chinn Funeral Home opened in 1946. It is still in operation. © Lloyd Wolf/Arlington Photographic Documentary Project. Reproduced with permission.

The loss of labor jobs can be explained by the huge in-migration of white government workers to Arlington during 1900-1970. Farms were subdivided to make way for new housing developments, removing the demand for farm laborers. Land that supplied clay for Arlington’s many brickyards, and land occupied by those brickyards, was lost during construction of the Pentagon, built in 1941-1942. The last brickyard to go was West Bros Brickyard. When West Bros was torn down, 100 black men lost employment [16].

Correlation between the size of Arlington’s population and number of black occupational choices per census for the 1900-1940 censuses. Data source: Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.

Career training was limited for young African Americans. Arlington’s segregated schools were inferior. The county spent very little on black schools, giving the students castoffs from the white schools. If a white school got new books, the old books were sent down to the black school. The only career training the black high school offered was typing classes, and the only students taking those classes were girls whose families could afford to buy them a typewriter. Many girls took advantage of those classes, carrying their heavy typewriters to school daily [17].

West Bros Brickyard. Reproduced with permission of the Virginia Room, Arlington Public Library.

Another schooling option for some of Arlington’s black children was District schools. While the District’s schools were segregated, the black schools were excellent. Funded by Congress, they were required to pay black teachers the same as white teachers, making them attractive to black teachers from all over the country. District schools were open to the children of all federal employees, including black employees from Arlington [18].

Arlington Civil Service employee. Photo courtesy of Florence Ross.

Whether they were educated in Arlington or the District, the students’ labors paid off when the Pentagon opened in 1942. Many residents of the black community took Civil Service jobs at the Pentagon. Clerical positions existed for anyone who could type and file. Former farm and brickyard laborers found work as custodians and messengers. Compared to labor and domestic work done for private individuals, Civil Service jobs paid a modest but reliable salary and offered the security of a pension. A large percent of black Arlingtonians worked for the Civil Service for at least a portion of their careers, ninety percent of them in custodial jobs and the rest performing clerical work [19].

Black employment in Arlington, 1900 – 1940. Data source: Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.


The history of Arlington County is a function of the county’s unique geography. This geography was crucial to the story line of the black community during segregation. The ancestors of this community had lived in Arlington since the early 1600s, working as slaves on farms and plantations in Arlington. On obtaining their freedom, many of them bought land in the county, and farmed it for their own families. By 1900, more than half the black households owned their own land and homes.

The county is sandwiched between the District and the state of Virginia. Virginia’s southern roots, manifest in a plethora of Jim Crow laws, weighed heavily on Arlington’s black community. The places in Arlington where African Americans were unwelcome far outnumbered the places where they were welcome. Any other black community in Virginia had to either cobble together a collection of shops and services, travel long distances to get what they needed, or go without. Shopping was much more convenient for Arlington’s African Americans. Only the Potomac River stood between them and the shopping and entertainment options provided by the District’s large, successful black community.

The District is also home of the federal government. Proximity to the District and the government was a mixed blessing. For the black children of federal employees, the city offered schools that were far superior to the black schools in Arlington. Proximity to the capital gave easy access to Civil Service employment with the federal government, providing many black Arlingtonians a steady income and a pension. But the District was also the source of thousands of white federal workers who wanted to work there and live in nearby Arlington. Developers bought up farms and enclaves belonging to African Americans and replaced them with white-only developments. The black families who had lived there were pushed into three black neighborhoods. Fortunately, the neighborhoods had room to absorb them and black builders to build them new homes.

For the residents of the enclave of East Arlington, geographic proximity to the federal government meant loss and gain. They lost their entire community during World War II when the federal government needed land on which to build the new Pentagon building. The 900 residents of East Arlington lost their homes and some lost their employment. However, the Pentagon generated an abundance of Civil Service jobs that had not been available before.

Since the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, Arlington has become a much more integrated city. The three formerly all black neighborhoods are home to all races, although they are still at least fifty percent black. While most of the African Americans who lived through segregation have since passed on, those who have survived still live in their homes in the three neighborhoods, near family, friends, and their church. Because of its proximity to the District and the federal government, Arlington is an expensive place to live. The county assessment and real estate taxes have risen exponentially since the years of segregation. Eventually the three neighborhoods could become so expensive that the very families who were forced to live there during segregation will no longer be able to afford it. Thus ends this chapter in the history of the community.

NancyPerry.jpgNancy Perry currently teaches geography at Helena College, a branch of the University of Montana. She received her PhD in Earth Systems and Geoinformation Sciences at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Her dissertation focused on the geographical aspects of segregation for the African American community in Arlington, VA.




  1. Rose, Cornelia B. Jr. Arlington County Virginia, A History. Baltimore, MD: Port City Press, Inc., 2009.
  2. Netherton, Nan and Ross Netherton. Arlington County in Virginia: A Pictorial History. Norfolk, VA: The Donning Company, 1987.
  3. Perry, Nancy, Spencer Crew, and Nigel M. Waters. “’We didn’t have any other place to live’: Residential Patterns in Segregated Arlington County, Virginia.” Southeastern Geographer 53, no. 4 (2013): 403-427.
  4. Guild, June P. Black Laws of Virginia: A Summary of the Legislative Acts of Virginia Concerning Negroes from the Earliest Times to the Present. New York, NY: Negro Universities Press, 1969.
  5. Perry, Nancy. “Eminent domain destroys a community: Leveling East Arlington to make way for the Pentagon.” Urban Geography 37, no. 1 (2015): 141-161.
  6. Perry et al.  “’We didn’t have any other place to live’, 403-427.
  7. Rose, Arlington County Virginia, A History; Perry, “Eminent domain destroys a community”; Morris, James M. “A Chink in the Armor: The Black-Led Struggle for School Desegregation in Arlington, Virginia and the End of Massive Resistance.” Journal of Policy History 13, (2013): 329-36.
  8. Perry et al.  “’We didn’t have any other place to live’, 403-427.
  9., accessed 1/29/2019,; Perry et al. “We didn’t have ny other place to live'”, 403-427.
  10. Perry, Nancy. “Eminent domain destroys a community: Leveling East Arlington to make way for the Pentagon.” Urban Geography 37, no. 1 (2015): 141-161.
  11. Perry, Nancy and Nigel M. Waters. “Southern suburb/northern city: Black entrepreneurship in segregated Arlington County, Virginia.” Urban Geography 33, no. 5 (2012): 655-674; Boyd, Robert L. “Race, Labor Market Disadvantage, and Survivalist Entrepreneurship: Black Women in the Urban North during the Great Depression.” Sociological Forum, 15, (2000): 647-670.
  12. Perry, Nancy and Nigel M. Waters. “Southern suburb/northern city: Black entrepreneurship in segregated Arlington County, Virginia.” Urban Geography 33, no. 5 (2012): 655-674.
  13. Birmingham, Stephen. Certain People: America’s Black Elite. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1977.; Ruble, Blair A. Washington U Street: A Biography. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.; Perry and Waters, “Southern suburb/northern city”, 655-674.
  14. Perry and Waters, “Southern suburb/northern city”, 655-674
  15., accessed 1/29/2019,
  16. Perry, Nancy, Lucy E. Reybold, and Nigel M. Waters. “’Everybody Was Looking for a Good Government Job’ Occupational Choice during Segregation in Arlington, Virginia.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 4 (2014): 719-741; Perry, Nancy. “Eminent domain destroys a community”.
  17. Perry et al. “Everybody was Looking for a Good Government Job”: 719-741.
  18. Green, Constance M. 1967, The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation’s Capital. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967; Birmingham, Stephen. Certain People: America’s Black Elite. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1977.
  19. Birmingham, Stephen. Certain People.





Western Loudoun and the Metropolitan Fringe

Editor’s note: Remember that SACRPH 2019, the organization’s 18th conference, is in Northern Virginia (NOVA or NoVa)  this October/November from October 31 – November 3, the deadline for the CFP, which you can view here, is March 15. With this in mind, we begin our focus on NoVa as our Metro of the Month.  Submit your panels everyone! 

By Andrew Baker 

Each weekday afternoon Northern Virginia commuters leave their offices in the District and drive across the Roosevelt Bridge, up interstate 66, and onto Harry Byrd Highway (state route 7) west through Tysons Corner and into Loudoun County. After the first few turns they pass their commute traveling along well-worn lines—experiencing the metropolitan region as a succession of images from a car window. Succession suggests series; series suggests transitions from one place to another. As they journey daily from the city the mind assumes gradation even as it experiences a succession of plot by plot land uses and zoning decisions. This experience quietly answers questions few articulate.

When do the suburbs begin?

When you see the first car dealership in Tysons Corner.

When does the countryside begin?


When you see the first open fields without for-sale signs mentioning “development potential.”


Where does rural America begin?

When you see the first gas station advertising “clean bathrooms.”

This commuters’ catechism mediates between the urban planner’s categories and the messy particulars of the built environment as drivers experience it. These daily journeys from the city press concentric circles of metropolitan development deep into the mind. As a native and later historian of Loudoun County, Virginia, the experience of driving west on route 7 has likewise formed my understanding of this particular metropolitan landscape—Western Loudoun County—in ways that are often difficult to articulate.

Western Loudoun, like the Catskills and the San Fernando Valley, is both a part of the metropolis and a frequently prescribed antidote to it. It is economically dependent on metropolitan dollars even as its partisans use those dollars to defend it from metropolitan encroachment. Western Loudoun is an example of that wonderfully flexible category—the metropolitan fringe. Such a label is more concession than explanation. It identifies but does not define.

The best way to make sense of Western Loudoun is to join the commuter in experiencing images of place. Here, then, I offer a series of historical glimpses of its twentieth-century history. Each seed grew into a part of the complex ecology of this metropolitan fringe region—Washington’s backyard.


What is Western Loudoun County?

An anti-urban, metropolitan region defined by health, horses, hamlets, and homesteads.



As a traveler drives west from Washington into Loudoun they leave the tidewater, move through the piedmont (literally “foot of the mountains”), and enter the Blue Ridge within a space of sixty miles. Here a sleepy village lined with stone walls lies down a hair-pin turn just off route 7, right before crossing the Appalachian Trail.

From the 1880s to the 1920s, summer trains brought Washingtonians out of the heat and humidity of the lower Potomac River into Western Loudoun’s Blue Ridge foothills. With the extension of the Washington and Ohio Railroad line (later the Washington and Old Dominion) to Round Hill in May 1875, the travel time from the city dropped to only two hours. Families rented summer homes or took out rooms in newly opened boarding houses while husbands commuted to the city for the week’s business. By the 1890s Western Loudoun hamlets enjoyed a thriving summer tourist trade.

113 - BlueRidgeInnpm1910 - 1084
Friends of Bluemont, (accessed March 25, 2014)

The unfortunately named village of Snickersville was the most popular of these summer retreats. Visitors came to ramble over the mountain ridges and gaze down at the Shenandoah Valley to the west and distant Washington to the east. The price of these beautiful vistas was a four-mile carriage ride up poorly maintained country roads that jostled and rattled guests before depositing them in the sleepy mountain town. Enough people made the trip to keep three small hotels in operation by 1885. It was Jules De Monet, a prominent chef from D.C., who put Snickersville on the map when he opened the Blue Ridge Inn in 1893. His new hotel added a level of sophistication the small resort town had lacked. Sophistication was good for business. In 1900, when the railroad extended the line to Snickersville, the company took the liberty of dumping its ill-fitting label for the more bankable Bluemont.

During the height of summer six trains pulled into this station from Washington and Alexandria each day with up to twelve coaches full of summer residents and tourists. Sunday trains brought up to thirty people for afternoon dinner. Here urban professionals sipped tea, played croquet, and socialized with other members of their class. The more daring dabbled in the “strenuous life,” hiking to Bear’s Den or hunting quail and turkeys in the surrounding woodlands. Some vacationers purchased land and had private mountain cottages and second homes built along the hillside overlooking the town. For those who preferred a more modest home in town, Charles B. Turner, a local physician, offered lots for $100 each. There Washingtonians could turn a summer vacation into a year-round lifestyle by commuting to city jobs and living in the health and beauty of the mountainside.

205 - BearsDen2 - 1102
Friends of Bluemont, (accessed March 25, 2014)

This summer resort town was a regional affair. The beauty of Bluemont’s scenic vistas paled in comparison with what could be found further into the Blue Ridge. As the automobile redefined the American vacation in the 1920s, sublime mountains and lofty vistas lured tourists further west. The Great Depression forced most of western Loudoun’s struggling boarding houses and hotels to close down. The limited scale and short lifespan of this tourist industry, however, protected Loudoun from becoming another Luray Caverns or Gatlingburg, Tennessee. This left Bluemont to quietly transition into a village for Washingtonian commuters. Quaintness, historical charm, and seclusion, not bustling commercialism, would define these places as the county entered the postwar years. Such were the qualities that a new generation of Washingtonians would see from their cars as they drove around the countryside looking for an alternative to suburban sprawl. Those who chose such a life joined with locals to form the Bluemont Citizens Association (1955) and the Bluemont Fair (1969), a popular yearly celebration of the area’s rural heritage and history. Tourism made Western Loudoun.[1]

Middleburg Flower Show, Middleburg, Loudoun County, Virginia, Frances Benjamin Johnston, April 1931, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress


Traveling the same distance southwest from Washington along current day route 50 (Lee Jackson Memorial Highway), drivers enter the heart of the Virginia Piedmont that stretches from Middleburg down through Charlottesville. Lichen-encrusted stone walls replace wooden fences and red brick creeps from historic buildings, taking over sidewalks and and even daring the traffic as crosswalks. Motoring past the Red Fox Inn and Tavern, a sign for the Foxcroft school, and the Red Horse Tavern, it becomes clear that while Middleburg is not a themed town, it is certainly one with a peculiar identity. The imposing National Sporting Library and Museum anchoring the west end of town removes any doubt on this point.

Over the course of the twentieth century the American sporting set transformed these rolling hills into Hunt Country, an internationally known center of equestrian sports. Their social and economic ties bound the region to urban centers of the Northeast and, ultimately, to England. From November 1-15, 1905, Loudoun County and neighboring Fauquier County hosted the Great Hound Match. During the winter of 1904 and into 1905, Harry Worcester Smith and A. Henry Higginson, two Massachusetts sporting gentlemen, had bandied over the relative merits of English and American (largely southern-bred) foxhounds within the pages of Rider and Driver. Higginson challenged Smith to choose a time and place to settle the matter. Each man put up $1000 and selected a judge. The two judges selected a third. The first pack of hounds to kill a fox in the Loudoun countryside would be the winner. Journalists from the Boston Herald, the New York Herald, and London Daily News arrived to see the issue settled for good.[2]


W.P. Hulbert of Middleburg arriving with his guests for the annual cross country race for the Middleburg Hunt Cup. The 6th annual race held at Middleburg, Va., April 3, 1926, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The day before the match, gawking crowds greeted Higginson and his entourage of hounds, horses, and servants as they pulled up to the rail station at The Plains, five miles South of Middleburg. For the next two weeks anywhere from three dozen to over a hundred riders galloped off at dawn, following the hounds. They spent the day bounding across stone walls and pastures in pursuit of the fox. The riders included members of twenty-six registered hunts, a gathering the likes of which had never before been assembled this side of the Atlantic. Neither pack made a kill, leaving the judges to unanimously declare Smith’s American hounds the winners.

Horse show enthusiasts. Warrenton, Va. Perry Heath, Grand Rapids, Iowa, industrialists and assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Hoover, left, and Mrs. George Sloane and George Sloane of Middleburg, Va., and their daughter Miss Anne, photographed in the Sloane box of the Warrenton Horse Show, Harris and Ewing, October 12, 1935, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Such is the creation story of Northern Virginia hunt country. From the moment they stepped off the train northern journalists launched into romantic accounts of the countryside. In one of the more florid descriptions of the region to come out of the event, a journalist intoned

It is a beautiful hunting country. Twelve miles to the west, the Blue Ridge heaves up its rounded breast, mottled with woodland and cultivated fields. . . . Between the Blue Ridge and Bull Run mountains stretches away, twenty-five miles broad, a rolling country, free from stone and checkered with green fields of winter wheat, now in its tenderest hues, corn fields stacked with heavy harvest, and grass land taking on the sober garb of late autumn. Here and there the bronze of oak woods lends a splash of color, but there is little woodland and the fox, once routed from cover must run for his life.[3]

Soon after Smith announced in The Sportsmen’s Review that his desire was “to make Middleburg the fox-hunting center of America.” The quiet southern town was, Smith boasted, quickly becoming a place where gentlemen sportsmen would enjoy the finest of southern hospitality, fellowship with their social equals, and the thrill of the hunt. Virginia landowners opened their hunt country to the nation’s sporting class. The response was overwhelming. In the decades following the Great Hound Match, wealthy northerners bought up large tracts of land, turning the region into one of the wealthier rural areas in the South.[4]

Loudoun’s pastureland, stone walls, and farm cottages matched Anglo-American conceptions of the picturesque and the pastoral. Here, on this most British of American landscapes, Virginians pursued the fox. Hunt Country, buoyed through northern money and embracing the mystique of “Old Virginia,” became a staple of sporting magazines and society pages across the East Coast. Much of this hunt country mystique and culture survives in Middleburg to this day through the preservation efforts and cultural labors of area landowners and institutions like the National Sporting Library and Museum. Equestrian sports made Western Loudoun.


Catoctin Creek, 1974, Photo by John Lewis, from Loudoun Watershed Watch



Heading north from route 7 a few miles west of Leesburg, travelers enter the National Historic Landmark of Waterford, Virginia. Most tourists make it no farther than this restored Quaker village. Those willing to continue north for another five miles, roughly following the path of Catoctin Creek, past pastures and dirt roads, reach Taylorstown. Here the historic preservation is less forthright, but no less serious. An old stone mill and general store anchor a few dozen homes.

Its location along Catoctin Creek a few miles South of the Potomac River placed Taylorstown on the top of the Army Corps of Engineers’ list of potential reservoir development sites in 1974. Having failed for three decades to dam the Potomac River, the Corps looked to the creek as a consolation prize—a way to build in a few days of urban water supply into the river. If built, it would have inundated 8,500 acres and submerged the entire town, which, at that point, was 240 years old and had 70 residents.[5]

The battle to save Taylorstown followed many of the classic NIMBY (Not In My BackYard) tropes. These residents were both highly educated and well-connected. Within the group of 140 people that met to organize the Catoctin Valley Defense Alliance, there were lawyers, engineers, retired army and navy brass, a dean of the International School of Law, and a board member of the Interstate Commission of the Potomac River Basin. Residents had the financial resources to hire a top environmental law firm to represent them. A group of white, upper-middle-class professionals organized to defend their adopted landscapes from destruction. Yet the members of the Alliance expanded their arguments beyond these limits. They believed that the damming of Catoctin Creek was not just about the destruction of their property; it was an act of vandalism and a shameful violation. Damming Catoctin Creek would destroy what was, in their estimation, “one of the most historic villages in Loudoun County.”[6]

The alliance worked with local architectural historian John G. Lewis to document and publicize the architecture and genealogical record of each house that would be inundated.[7] Members held a “Don’t Dam Loudoun House Tour” to invite the public to bear witness to what might be lost. These efforts sought to stir their readers to feel the romance of historical renovation. These houses were, in the words of one article, the result of “ample portions of labor, research, and love.”[8] The meticulous process of reconstruction was almost as important as the genealogy and local history in convincing people that these homes were not the product of mass, industrialized construction. Each dwelling had its own conversion narrative. The benefactors found them mired in squalor and despair. They redeemed these homes from decay and, through their efforts, restored them to their former beauty. These were storied places whose history gave them dignity. Their loss would be the loss of that story.[9]

The Alliance buttressed these efforts with the variety of new preservation tools at their disposal. They secured passage of the Catoctin Creek Scenic Rivers Designation Bill in Richmond in March 1977.[10] They worked with county supervisors, Virginia Commission of Outdoor Recreation, and Virginia Historic Landmark Commission to secure historic district status from the state (the county had nine such districts by 1984).[11] Their local efforts, combined with the release of a May 1977 report by the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments that challenged the need for the additional water storage, forced the Corps to abandon their plans in August 1979.[12] These preservationists protected their rural enclave from a piece of metropolitan infrastructure. Taylorstown endures as home to a mix of commuters and retirees, restored homes and horse farms, all surrounding an old stone flour mill. Historical Preservation made Western Loudoun.

Broad Run Farms

Before reaching any of these Western Loudoun destinations, commuters struggle through what is Eastern Loudoun—strip malls, housing developments, traffic lights (although not as many as there once were), and divided highways. For those willing to risk pulling off on the south shoulder of route 7 as it crosses Broad Run, a small tollhouse is visible twenty feet below along the old bridge. Just north of this local landmark Robert and Barbara Young launched what would become the first housing development in Eastern Loudoun.

BR toll house 1953.jpg
Broad Run Toll House at Rt. 7, 1953, Loudoun Planning Commission,

The Broad Run Farms subdivision was not the Young’s original plan when they purchased the 706-acre Miskel Farm in 1950. Robert had worked as a lawyer for the U.S. Senate and wanted to try his hand at dairy farming. Within a year they had abandoned the enterprise. It is hard to dabble in dairy farming. Instead the Youngs partnered with a Leesburg real estate man to subdivide their farm. The couple dug a lake along route 7 and began waving down any car that drove by and offering to show them around. Washingtonians had spent the day motoring along the county’s back roads, gazing out at the horses and cattle, soaking in the scenery, and admiring the hard-working country life of Loudoun farmers. Weekend excursions primed them to desire what the Youngs offered—low taxes, good schools, natural beauty, and recreation in the countryside.[13]

Broad Run Toll House at Rt. 7, 2019, Photo by Ronald F. Baker

By 1953 the Youngs had sold one hundred lots and had eighty houses under construction. The typical mixture of government workers, politicians, and retired military men took up residence in the moderately expensive neighborhood where lots ranged from a half an acre to ten acres.[14] Broad Run Farm’s success inspired imitators. By 1953 the county had approved more than dozen plans for small subdivisions in Eastern Loudoun.[15] By the 1990s, Broad Run Farms would be lost among a series of development projects: Algonkian, Countryside, Cascades, and Dulles Town Center. While it reflected many of the ideals of Western Loudoun, Broad Run Farms became the advance guard of the Eastern Loudoun that would threaten Western Loudoun over the next half a century.

Subdivisions made Eastern Loudoun. . . and therefore defined what Western Loudoun was not but was always in danger of becoming.


Commuters underwrote, consumed, restored, purchased, celebrated, farmed, developed, hunted, defended, and subdivided rural Loudoun County. As I have argued elsewhere, rural people were central actors in this process as well. Yet it was these newcomers who cultivated these fringe landscapes and then defended them. As the postwar period dawned, each group defined these landscapes, whether explicitly or implicitly, in opposition to the supposedly crass, mass-produced imitation lifestyle that was D.C.’s ever-encroaching suburbia. These gentrifiers squared off against development in their efforts to protect Loudoun’s countryside. The project of defending Western Loudoun from sprawl has been inseparable from landscape aesthetics. Preserving these largely private lands for the public good only makes sense to the extent that any resident can access and enjoy their beauty from the public rights of way. The Western Loudoun of health, horses, hamlets, and homesteads is a Loudoun the public sees and enjoys from a car window. It is a commuter’s paradise—a reminder that anyone with a car can drive out past the city and the suburbs and witness the countryside.

What is Western Loudoun?

Western Loudoun is a metropolitan landscape preserved, protected, and promoted as the countryside for anyone willing to look.


Baker 2018.jpgAndrew C. Baker is assistant professor of history at Texas A&M University-Commerce in Northeast Texas. His recent book Bulldozer Revolutions: A Rural History of the Metropolitan South examines the development of the metropolitan fringe outside Washington, D.C., and Houston, Texas.

[1] Scheel, Loudoun Discovered, vol. 4 (Leesburg, VA: The Friends of Thomas Balch Library, 2002) and Jean Herron Smith, From Snickersville to Bluemont: the Biography and History of a Virginia Village, Evelyn Porterfield Johnson and Robert Hoffman, eds. (Bluemont, Va.: Bluemont Citizens’ Association, 2003), especially 144-53; Writers’ Program of the WPA, Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1940, 1941), 527.

[2] Martha Wolfe, The Great Hound Match of 1905: Alexander Henry Higginson, Harry Worcester Smith, and the Rise of Virginia Hunt Country (Lyons Press, 2015); Higginson’s scrapbooks from the event are housed at the National Sporting Library and Museum (NSLM). Grafton-Middlesex Match, Piedmont Valley, Va., November 1905, Box 7, Alexander Henry Higginson Scrapbooks, 1899-1926.

[3] “Big Hound Match is On,” newspaper clipping, Match Scrapbook.

[4] The Sportsmen’s Review, 1906, 177-178, Folder 21, Box 1, Alexander Mackay-Smith Papers, NSLM.

[5] Piedmont Virginian, June 5, 1974, June 19, 1974, and October 2, 1974 and Washington Star-News Jun 9, 1974, each in Catoctin Valley Defense Alliance (CVDA), Manuscript Collection SC0011, Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, Virginia

[6] In addition to this, the statement rehashed standard anti-dam arguments. They complained of the loss of county tax base, ecological destruction, and the ruining of open space and farm land. Catoctin Valley Defense Alliance, Official Statement, September 15, 1974, CVDA.

[7] John G. Lewis, “A General History of Taylorstown and the Catoctin Creek Valley from the Potomac to Waterford, Virginia,” August 26, 1974, CVDA.

[8] “Catoctin Valley Threatened by Dam,” Echoes of History, 4 (September 1974), 69-71.

[9] Ray Cheronis, “Foxton Cottage, Taylorstown, VA: A Miracle of Restoration and Reconstruction,” Folder 1, CVDA.

[10] John G. Lewis to Members of the Loudoun County Scenic Rivers Committee and the Goose Creek-Catoctin Creek Task Force, March 4, 1977, Lewis collection.

[11] Calder Loth, ed., The Virginia Landmarks Register, 3rd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1987), 238-247.

[12] Washington Post, August 28, 1979.

[13] Scheel, Loudoun Discovered, vol. 1, Goin’ Down the Country, 123-127.

[14] For a example of Broad Run Farms settlers, see Jack Eisen, “New Airport and Suburbia Perk up Loudoun County,” March 21, 1960 and Berta Mikesell, “Formula for a Rich Life,” Folder 2, Box 5, Keep Loudoun Beautiful Collection, TBL.

[15] James Birchfield, “Rural-Urban Broad Run,” Virginia and the Virginia County (January, 1953), 23.