Read Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-First Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anyway by Witold Rybczynski Online


In "Last Harvest," the award-winning author of "Home" and "A Clearing in the Distance" tells the compelling story of New Daleville, a brand-new residential subdivision in rural Pennsylvania. When Witold Rybczynski first heard about New Daleville, it was only a developer's idea, attached to ninety acres of cornfield an hour and a half west of Philadelphia. Over the course oIn "Last Harvest," the award-winning author of "Home" and "A Clearing in the Distance" tells the compelling story of New Daleville, a brand-new residential subdivision in rural Pennsylvania. When Witold Rybczynski first heard about New Daleville, it was only a developer's idea, attached to ninety acres of cornfield an hour and a half west of Philadelphia. Over the course of five years, Rybczynski met everyone involved in the transformation of this land -- from the developers, to the community leaders whose approvals they needed, to the home builders and sewage experts and, ultimately, the first families who moved in.Always eloquent and illuminating, Rybczynski looks at this "neotraditional" project, with its houses built close together to encourage a sense of intimacy and community, and explains the trends in American domestic architecture -- from where we place our kitchens and fences to why our bathrooms get larger every year.As "Publishers Weekly" said, "Rybczynski provides historical and cultural perspective in a style reminiscent of Malcolm Gladwell, debunking the myth of urban sprawl and explaining American homeowners' preference for single-family dwellings. But Rybczynski also excels at 'the close-up, ' John McPhee's method of reporting, where every interview reads like an intimate conversation, and a simple walk down neighborhood sidewalks can reveal a wealth of history.""Last Harvest" is a charming must-read for anyone interested in where we live today -- and why -- by one of our most acclaimed and original cultural writers....

Title : Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-First Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anyway
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ISBN : 9780743235969
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 309 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-First Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anyway Reviews

  • Andrew
    2018-10-12 10:26

    Forgive me while I geek out over the next few paragraphs...This book is a pretty decent recounting of the development process from inception to completion. For anyone who assumes that real estate developers are heartless, soulless, gutless, phallicly-challenged, money-grubbing bastards, I recommend that you spend a long weekend and read this book. (By the way, we're not many, if any, of those things listed above.)The book chronicles the full development process of a "neotraditional" development in BFE Pennsylvania. I can't specifically agree with the basic principles and business plan the developers landed on for this project, but hey - they had a vision and an idea and the willingness to fight the good fight to see it happen. The cynics in the room will look at this book and think simply that it is a long-winded explanation about how yet another real estate developer raped and destroyed prime farmland and contributed to the further slide of America into the moral morass of irrevocable carbon-belching exurban sprawl.On the surface, I'd agree with you.But the book has a warmth- an intimacy- that isn't frequently felt whilst chronicling subject of real estate development. The players in the development process are portrayed as regular people - not hellbent on dollar-dollar bills, y'all - and not specifically thinking that their single development is going to change the tide in real estate development throughout the entire mid-Atlantic seaboard. It's an honest accounting of the vision, setbacks, financial constraints, and market realities that go into real estate development. And for its stark simplicity, it's beautiful. Witold Rybczynski doesn't play favorites very often in this book- but in the few cases where his objectivity wears thin, the daylight shines through his overstretched historical prose and belies his true feelings on the impact, value, and perception of certain types of real estate development. Rybczynski seems to me to be a proponent of the "westward ho" school of development - namely, that insanely American mantra that every man, regardless of creed or color, has the right to his own plot of land. Or her plot of land. Or their plot of land. Whatever. The issue I most take offense to is his stark prose on the vast expanse of available land remaining for development in the US. As if he were simply stating his preference for charcoal grey socks over black socks, he lays out the strikingly jarring statement that there is ineed plenty of land remaining in the US for people to have what they want - namely, a house and a plot of land. (The fact that we do NOTHING productive with this land- save mow it twenty times a year with a big-ass riding tractor- is a point I'll save for another commentary- See Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for thoughts on what we SHOULD be doing with our suburban groomed lawns)His chronicling of the very inception of the housing bubble and subsequent sub-prime shenanigans is an eerie testament to the way so many people arrogantly assumed that real estate values would simply continue to climb higher and higher. The way the development was pigeonholed into lower lot prices, coupled with the fact that only a national builder could turn a profit on the parcels, makes for a tremendously interesting lesson in economies of scale and the intricacies of local real estate markets. As Rbyczynski says, home building is one of the few mass-production efforts remaining in modern manufacturing that has yet to be standardized and turned into an assembly line process...despite many attempts in the past that have been met with varying degrees of success and failure.In short, this book is a fantastic read for anyone who wants to learn about the human side of real estate development. I recommend this book equally to those who live in generic, mass-produced tract housing in the middle of a "was" cornfield as much as I recommend it to the occupant of an urban-setting rehabilitated brownstone. While the two of you may be coming from different angles on the issue of exurbia vs. urban infill, this book will provide a common ground and a wealth of historical information on why our blessed America looks the way it does today.

  • Michael
    2018-10-21 10:04

    New Urbanism is a topic dear to my heart and also one I've been professionally involved in as a longtime member of and consultant for the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and co-editor w/ my wife of the CNU charter book, Charter of the New Urbanism (McGraw-Hill, 2000). This book does not do justice to its topic. It focuses on one aspect of New Urbanism--the development of new suburbs that are more compact, diverse and walkable than typical master-planned, garage-dominated, cul-de-sac suburbia. The author walks you through every step of finance, zoning, design, planning and construction of a subdivision called New Dalesville in Chester County, Pa. One of the book's weaknesses is that the main characters--the developer and his planners--just aren't that interesting. Or maybe they are but they do not face any major travails or dramas in getting their project approved. In any case much of the book's "action" takes place in planning board hearings that are essentially transcripted. In every other chapter the author takes off on a "bigger subject"--how suburbs came to be, why we live in houses, etc. Rybcinski's weakness as an urban thinker has always been that he tries to be a realist but winds up being an apologist for business as usual--Phoenix is not really sprawl, suburban development simply responds to the marketplace, etc. He regurgitates the usual Independence Institute drivel about how the country is still 95 % empty so why worry about growth patterns? Unfortunately this type of thinking got us where we are today--facing crises in climate, housing, energy, infrastructure, education. The way we live, where we live and how we get around do matter.I recommend this book as a primer to anyone interested in how and why suburbs get built. He does walk you through this process clearly. I also recommend, "A Clearing in the Distance," a great biography by Rybcynski of Frederick Law Olmsted--abolitionist, experimental farmer, landscape architect of Central Park and many great city park systems, co-founder of the National Park system, co-creator of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. This is a remarkable book and a true life & times.

  • Emily
    2018-10-20 16:11

    I've just finished Last Harvest by Witold Rybczynski, which is the story of how a piece of land in Pennsylvania was developed according to "neotraditional" principles. I expected to like this book a lot, in part because of the familiar scenery ("The Arcadia offices are in a small but imposing granite building at the main crossroads of Wayne...") and in part because I'm interested in the design of towns. The book is well-written and the people he profiles are well-meaning, but in the end, not that much actually happens here. A development is proposed, and with many niggling changes, it is approved. Then it is built, and finds only moderate popularity among homebuyers.The book wants to be about neotraditional planning, but it has no maps or illustrations and isn't a very good explanation of the concept. But even more disappointing (though not Rybczynski's fault) is the fact that the development isn't very traditional, as photos I found attest. It's traditional in the sense that it has straight roads and houses on relatively small lots, but in its placement relative to other amenities, its driveways, and its lack of commercial space (even for a corner store), it's resolutely suburban. In this sense, it lacks the aspects that I find most intriguing and appealing about new urbanism.I can think of several other books about town planning that are much better than this one, and parts of it are even available on Slate, so the verdict is: 3 stars.

  • Robert Wechsler
    2018-10-01 14:28

    A valuable look at American suburban housing developments and the land use process they must go through. The chapters on the history of housing in the U.S. and on other general topics are excellent. The book’s biggest weakness is its following of one such development from start to finish, because the example does not appear to be very typical. Therefore, the details are of less interest than they might be. Also, it means that too much of the book consists of the sketching of individuals involved in this development, which doesn’t interest me much in this kind of book.

  • Sarah
    2018-09-27 10:15

    Not too sure if everyone would find this book as interesting as I did...looks at the development of American suburbs, focusing on a new project just outside of Philidelphia. A bit of history, a bit of architecture, a bit of property development...

  • Rene Caballero
    2018-10-20 09:04

    Its the story about how a father let his son became interested in the family business, he gave him an interesting and challenging project. Not the best financial-wise decision but the best legacy-wise one. It is great how the author explains every detail of the process of developing a neighborhood.

  • Brooks
    2018-09-26 10:30

    History of housing development by following the development of a neotraditional subdivision in the exburbs in Chester County PA between Philadelphia and Wilmington. It follows the steps over three years to get from idea to the first houses built in a new subdivision. In the process, it gives a history of land speculation and suburban development. It does spend a lot of effort on neotraditional subdivisions. The first example is Seaside, a Florida vacation division developed by a husband and wife team, Duany-Zyberk. It also covers the first “Garden” suburbs along train lines in the early 1900s including Mariemont near Cincinnati. Then the Levittowns after world war II. While these suburbs were ridiculed by urban intellectuals, they were very popular blue-collar developments. The development of suburbs after WWII had two avenues – International (lead by Frenchman Le Corbusier) which was urban based. The second was Frank Loyd Wright with Broadacre City which is more along the USA development. The process of development was very interesting. The site was rural and could have been developed as 1 acres homesites. But had to get a variance for more density, but leaving half the land open. This took a consultant to work with the township to make a new neotraditional optional zoning ordnances. Then it required a year of meetings to get the first approval for the subdivision. Only when the zoning and subdivision plan is approved, does the developer buy the land (he had two one year options on the land purchase). It was interesting how the developer assessed the country – mix of rich Horse folks; young, poor families moving further out for a house; and farmers. Sounds like Warren County. Most zoning boards in these areas are really just trying to stop all growth and try to delay and obstruct all new subdivisions. This is because new subdivisions add families and kids which require more roads and services which increase taxes. They are fine with commercial development – just not residential. The other interesting point is the West and South are typically pro-growth and have regional zoning which the east has very small municipalities which are very against growth. The cost of the same house from a national builder ranges from $200 in the south to $600 in Maryland and New England. The price of a house is really dependant on the amount of permitted land for construction. The most creative process – the actual layout and high level design of the subdivision is done by the planner, who gets the least fees (probably $20K). The developer, lawyers, engineers, and consultants can add $10-$20K to each homesite in the development of the land. Last Harvest refers to the land owner/farmer who harvests his last season before the bulldozers come in to clear the land for development.

  • Shannon
    2018-10-17 10:24

    In his book Last Harvest, Witold Rybczynski recounts how New Daleville, a new residential subdivision located on a former cornfield in Chester County, Pennsylvania, came to be. Rybczynski tells the story of New Daleville from the early planning stages through construction and the challenges associated with selling the new homes. What sets New Daleville apart from many newer subdivisions is that it is fashioned according to the tenets of traditional neighborhood development (TND). TND is a term coined by Duany and Plater-Zyberk, the planners of Seaside, Florida, to describe a village-like community with narrow streets, small lots, classically inspired architecture, and open community spaces. Not content to just record a chain of events, Rybczynski places this new development into a historical and cultural context. He discusses the history of Chester County and early Pennsylvanian attempts at real estate, drawing parallels between the past and present. He also examines why Americans are drawn to certain types of communities and home designs and looks at some contemporary developments similar to New Daleville. Rybczynski succeeds in successfully chronicling the New Daleville development. He painstakingly explains the entire process from design to construction and all of the meetings, issues, and hurdles in between. Rybczynski also provides the reader with an interesting history of suburbs in America and how the neotraditional development energized the architectural and design world. One of the shortcomings of the book, in my opinion, is that Rybczynski tends to make sweeping overgeneralizations and works too hard to try to convince his audience that the layout of a traditional neighborhood development will foster community. A lemonade stand reference seems contrived. His explanation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of a new community without a downtown or border, subsisting as part of a larger urban area, is fascinating, but to call Wright a “spiritual godfather” of New Daleville is a touch dramatic. The residents of New Daleville are mostly affluent and have enjoyed some success in their lives, permitting them to purchase a home where they like. If Rybczynski is implying that TND is the antidote to bland suburbs, the implication does not work because most people can only afford the bland suburbs and not New Daleville or its counterparts.

  • Terri
    2018-10-18 11:19

    "The modest single-family house is the glory of the suburban tradition.""It offers its inhabitants a comprehensible image of independence and privacy while also accepting the responsibility of community."- Rober A.M. SternAndres Duany is harshly critical of conventional suburban planning, "The classic suburb is less a community than an agglomeration of houses, shops, and offices connected to one another by cars, not by the fabric of life."But the developers of New Daleville have a dream: shared public spaces,walking paths, parks, all reminding people they are not only living in private homes but they are also members of a community. Instead of building ugly landscaped berms around ugly developments, people friendly communities should be well planned attractive and useful. They demonstrate how Rothenburg and other old European towns which are incredibly quaint, have the delicate relationship that exists between the large and small spaces.If you have any interest in suburban development, this is a well written, easy to understand book. Rybczynski tells of New Daleville a plan of developers in Pennsylvania who hope to turn a cornfield into a neotraditional neighborhood.The problem is that everyone hate developers; "Conservationists decry the loss of agricultural land; proponents of mass transit don't like spending more money on highway construction; environmentalists oppose continued dependence on fossil fuel, sociologist contend that low density suburbs undermine community..."Getting New Daleville built takes a lot of expertise, compromise, patience, money. ambition, and optimism about the future.Rybczynski has done a lot of research and has crunched a lot of numbers to tell the whole story with all the facts and makes it interesting.

  • Emily
    2018-10-13 10:27

    The incredible thing about Witold Rybczynski's Last Harvest:How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-First Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anyway is that it's not boring. Most of the action takes place in county planning meetings, where board members and property developers disagree on points of the proposed development plan— solutions to the items in question are submitted and will be discussed at subsequent meetings; Mr. Rybczynski deserves a medal for keeping it interesting. He follows the developers as they change a farm field into a traditional neighborhood-style real estate development with sidewalks, public spaces, parks, and alleys, which is why Mr. Rybczynski chose to follow New Daleville. He's a fan of garden suburbs. Most of the exurban homes in the county are situated on acre or half-acre lots and the developer petitions the county board for rezoning: Drama?The development project trundles along, narrated by frequent conversation with various men and women who are reticent about the proposed sewage treatment system, for example. Mr. Rybczynski goes into the history of housing development in America and the preference for single-family homes worldwide, but he can't go too far because he already wrote the definitive history of domestic architecture in 1986. I really do recommend this book, although either Home or A Clearing in the Distance, that Frederick Law Olmsted book, might be better first picks from Witold's oeuvre.

  • Katy
    2018-10-14 08:18

    This book was disapointing after the other Rybczynski book I've read, A Clearing in the Distance. That book took the unusual approach of imagining and reconstructing episodes in Frederick Law Olmstead's life, but was most interesting for how Olmstead thought about the social relevance of his work and really changed the way Americans think about and use public spaces. Last Harvest looked like it might aspire to the same levels (Why We Live in Houses Anyway) but in the end it's just a very thourough exploration of a marketing strategy. New Urbanism might have more broad social implications, but they are not evident in this book and it doesn't live up to the promise of the title. Yes, Rybczynski does mention how early American development happened, and spends a few pages on "why we live in houses" but most of the book follows the trials of a few developers as they try and get approval for their new subdivision and then get it built. The big question I had was - so what? This New Urbanist development is in the end hardly different from the typical exurban, mega-developer neighborhood, except there is a gazebo and the houses are closer together.

  • Jayme
    2018-09-27 16:19

    Rybczynski's talent is telling a story about architecture, or in this case urban planning and real estate development, and mixing with that story aspects of history and policy. This is a great book for understanding the process of building a particular planned community, from permitting to constructing and selling houses. But I found errors and oversimplifications in Rybczynski's descriptions of certain viewpoints. For example, he blurs the lines between smart growth, new urbanism, and traditional neighborhood development. The meanings of these terms are similar but not interchangeable. Moreover, he oversimplifies arguments for and against these types of developments, leading the reader to overgeneralize based on the experience of one development. I would have liked discussion about how this development fared relative to similar developments located in or near a central city, and how it could have been better with a mixture of uses. New Daleville is exclusively residential. Ultimately, this book is good for telling the story of one, particular development.

  • Erica
    2018-10-14 16:18

    A quarter way through the book, I decided to visit a local neotraditional development in Ashburn, VA. The houses were charming (albiet with a heavy dose of artificiality - the faux brick fronts, the nostalgic styles in modern, cheap materials). The neighborhood was pretty quiet: one person walking a dog, a whiff of barbeque - not quiet the thriving community atmosphere neotraditional developers make it out to be. It was certainly an improvement over the mcmansion and "contemporary" subdivisions, but the neighborhood was strangely out of context, plopped in the middle of a formerly rural area, much like the development in Rybczynski's book. Rybczynski's account of New Daleville is a fascinating window into how housing developments are conceptualized and built in the US and all the actors involved but as other reviewers have mentioned, there's a curious lack of political and ethical analysis. Neotraditionalism falls far short of ideas we'll need to live well in the future, a thought that Rybczyniski alludes to but doesn't address head on.

  • Danica
    2018-10-13 11:16

    I really enjoyed this book. It took me a very long time to read it mostly due to personal circumstances, but every time I picked it up I was able to plow through huge pieces of the book. It kept my interest and walked a neutral line between criticism and complement in the very contentious subject of subdivision development.A few caveats: 1) in order to enjoy this book you probably should have some serious interest in residential development, urban planning, subdivisions, etc. 2) You should also be relatively familiar with the process of subdividing and constructing houses. If you are not interested or familiar you will likely not enjoy the extensive coverage of the county planning commission meetings or the description of the drip-line sewage field, etc.The book ended just as the financial crisis was taking off so I'd love to know what happened to the development, the residents, the builders, etc. Also, one little criticism, this book would be helped drastically by illustrations or drawings so you could easily orient yourself to the development and how it was progressing.

  • Wayne
    2018-09-29 10:31

    This John McPhee-like (McPhee-esque?) account of a the development of a piece of farmland in Pennsylvania reads nicely -- not quite a thriller, but with plenty of good narrative energy. And it tells the reader a lot -- how developments happen, why houses look like they do, and how some communities are trying to move away from the typical subdivision, often with uninspired results. Last Harvest is an essential first read for anyone concerned about overdevelopment in their own community. My sense is that most of those leading the charge against development seem to spit out the word "developer" like a epithet, assuming developers are embodiment of all evil. But Last Harvest dispels that notion -- there are many devils in the process (society being one of them), and knowing how the process actually works from beginning to end will make anyone more effective in influencing the results.Complaints? I'd love to have seen more photos of the end result -- the few used as section openers just make me want to see more.

  • Ryan
    2018-10-17 13:03

    An insightful and easy to read book about residential land development, from entitlement to home ownership. Written by an architect with experience in the land development process, the book provides an educated perspective on American's housing preferences and how the housing market works to meet our perceived housing demands. The most interesting aspect of this book is it follows one specific residential development project in suburban Philly and the author details the role and viewpoint of most everyone who touches this project, from the developer, town planner, home builder and eventual home owner. I enjoyed this book and think it is approachable for those who may have no professional interest in the subject.

  • Matt
    2018-10-01 09:20

    I expected from the subtitle that this book would be about the driving forces behind suburban sprawl, and at least a little melancholy about the state of development in America today (well, that's the book I wanted to read, anyway). But it turned out to be more "An inside look at suburban sprawl from a developer's perspective" or something like that. Basically it just followed the process of turning a specific field in Pennsylvania ("the Wrigley tract") into a housing development ("New Daleville," which is actually the real name of a specific development, not the subdivisional equivalent of "John Doe" as I had assumed when I checked the book out from the library), pretty much rooting for the developer the whole way. Anyway, it was still pretty interesting.

  • Ryan
    2018-10-14 13:23

    Last Harvest is a fascinating look at how one New Urbanism-style real estate development in Pennsylvania progressed from the initial seedling of an idea in a developer's mind, to when the first homeowners start moving in five years later. Mixed with the compelling narrative of the development of New Daleville is a rich and interesting history of real estate development in America in general from many points of view — the developer, the builders, the architects, the homebuyers, and the towns and cities in which houses exist.For anyone even remotely interested in architecture, urban planning, or real estate, this is an excellent page-turner.

  • Sunkist and Mango
    2018-09-27 10:11

    I read this book as a requirement for a graduate art history course I took: American architectural home design. It explains what goes in to creating a residential home development. It is an easy read that combines a little history and theory to help explain a personal story about designing and developing better neighborhoods. Rybczynski describes the rigorous process of developing communities that are not just streets and houses, but rather members of a complete community.I have subscribed to his blog – his posts are always interesting and thought provoking.

  • Davidoff
    2018-10-18 13:11

    Not done with it yet. The author tends to get bogged down with the not-so-exciting tribulations of the developers as they seek approval from the township on housing architecture, street dimensions, and a zillion other things that housing developers need before they get to build. It's also written from the perspective of a obvious fan of small towns - the writer doesn't really get into infill development of city and suburban areas, which I think really is necessary when writing a book about neo-traditional developments.

  • Jeff
    2018-10-05 16:21

    Although I'm not an architect, developer, town supervisor, etc, I felt this was an interesting book. Rybczynski details how a farm in Pennsylvania becomes a suburb and goes into the history of development, housing, permits along the way. While I felt that some drawings or pictures of the historic places he talked about would help a layman like myself understand the concepts better, I did learn some and have found myself looking at houses and developments in a different way. It's fairly dry and not a quick read but I'd recommend it just because the topic seems unique.

  • Tony
    2018-10-13 11:03

    YOu have to be a pretty serious city planning/land planning geek to enjoy this one...which I confess to be...However there is a literally-watching-the-grass-grow quality to this story that is tedious. That said, this replacing of a natural landscape with housing, no matter the density, is an important story about the cities and towns we are designing and building. I put this in my post-petro age category of books - ones that are either cautionary tales, or enlightened examples, of how the lanscape is shaping us and we are shaping the landscape.

  • Peter Tillman
    2018-09-21 16:24

    An impressive piece of work, which I read at two sittings. The review you want to read is Penelope Green's, at the New York Times: writes a very nice portrait of the contemporary subdivision planning and building process, with the focus on a particular exurb near his home in Philadelphia.In the process, you'll learn a lot about the history of suburban living in America -- and perhaps unlearn some persistent misinformation from urban intellectuals who don't like the suburbs.

  • Kevin
    2018-10-10 13:09

    This book was such an interesting insight to how the suburban development has become the standard home for Americans. The story follows a Neo-traditional community from inception by the developer through the moving in of the first families. It sounds dull, but it provides a very compelling story and raises questions about why, where, and how Americans live like they do. The book also highlights reasons for exurban flight, and architectural history and theory behind the styling of suburban design.

  • Adam
    2018-10-06 08:26

    I work with developers a lot, and this book takes the interesting tactic of following the building of a new subdivision from inception to move-in, largely by following the developer, but also a whole bunch of other people involved with it getting built. There's a lot of distance between the "new urbanist" ideals of the developer and the "new suburbanism" that results, and it's interesting to see how that happens. In the meantime, he tells a lot of important side stories about how the residential development we see around us has come to be.

  • Beth Anne
    2018-10-02 16:32

    I never thought I could enjoy a book chronicling the development of a subdivision but thanks to this book, I now know it is possible. Rybczynski deftly describes a real estate development deal in Pennsylvania whose planners are trying to integrate elements of new urbanism into their design. The book is a delight to read, and managed to give me a new respect for the complications of building those neighborhoods of cookie cutter houses. Will I be moving into one any time soon? No. But I now have a better understanding of why they cost so much money.

  • John
    2018-09-22 16:10

    I generally like Rybczynski's books quite a lot. I was hoping this one would have more of a discussion of the theory behind New Urbanism. Instead, I got interviews with developers & planning commissioners, and the transformation from an idea to a very different reality. So some interesting information about how the modern business and politics of housing work, but that's not what I was looking for.

  • Eva
    2018-10-03 11:04

    Interesting book about land use planning from the viewpoint of the developer. Unfortunately it's more about architecture than the consequences of a relatively high level of adjudicative power wielded by local government in rural Pennsylvania. However it does pay more attention to this issue than other "smart growth" bandwagon books I've read, which is impressive. Hard to make local politics sound sexy.

  • Jeannen
    2018-10-16 12:08

    I went out and bought this book in hardcover as soon as I heard about it because I have loved most everything Rybczynski has written, but I didn’t love this book. This is one of those books that mixes information in with a story about something, and I liked the information, but got bored a bit with the story. I didn’t finish this, so it’s possible that it improves near the end. I’m not sure I will go back and finish it, though.

  • Liz
    2018-09-23 13:29

    Who knew a book about an exurban housing development could be so interesting? It's a case study of a new development in rural Pennsylvania called 'new Daleville.' the author has an engaging style and weaves in discussions of sprawl, neotraditional development, and the origins of U.S. suburbs and 'garden suburbs.' I would recommend it, but with a caveat: skim the parts where he includes long block quotes about the permitting process and blow by blow accounts of permitting meetings.