Friday, December 27, 2013

Locations of Towns

A fair bit of my professional work is associated with geologic hazards, but I (we) also do a fair bit of historic research as well associated with projects both as a consultant and on the public side.

This article(http://www.voxeu.org/article/are-towns-stuck-wrong-places) about town and city location changes in France and England is a great read and though the analyses is not directly applicable to Washington State demonstrates there is a lot to where our towns and cities are located and the factors that controlled the location of the town or city when it started may change significantly.

Interesting concepts about transport and economics and one also could consider geology. By way of example I am working on a project where a town built in the 1870s developed as a local agricultural center and transportation center for logging, mining and fishing operations in the local region. The community became a local center for getting food and supplies and mail. Its advantages were an adjacent tract of good farm land, clean water supply for drinking and power and boat transport. In the 1910s a railroad constructed only a couple of miles south brought the town to an end as the rail provided more reliable and faster transit and brought food and supplies that were more easily accessible to the logging camps and the rail line became the focus for community centers. By the 1940s and 1950s road construction and the coming of cars and trucks led to the railroad closing. Towns along the old rail line are now served by a road, but with improved cars and roads driving to the bigger town to the east, the former small villages mostly are in decline.

But the description above from the Olympic Peninsula and in the article about English and French towns have the advantage of looking back. An interesting question is what will future towns be like. In our case in Washington, some towns may have been stuck in the wrong place, but some simply went away as economics and transport changed.
  

1 comment:

Geoffrey Middaugh said...

Europe is known for defining the first movements from rural to urban populations in the middle ages. North America didn't follow the same patterns as we were "new" lands. William Cronon' Natures Metropolis explains the locational fundamentals of settlement in the "new lands" for Chicago. It was commerce driven, facilitated by technology (railroads): white pine lumber, meat packing and wheat.