Coastal Atlantic Towns Offer Insight For Today's Town Planners
Dec. 8, 1999 -- Design that sustains community
life is the thread that runs through more than 150 coastal towns
from Canada to Southern Florida. That is one of the discoveries
that a University of Virginia architecture
professor made in research for a new book, "Historic American
Towns Along the Atlantic Coast."
Boeschenstein, a town planner and architect based at U.Va. examined
nine of these small communities in depth: Castine and Kennebunkport
in Maine; Edgartown, Mass.; Stonington, Conn.; Ocean Grove, N.J.;
New Castle, Del.; Edenton, N.C.; Beaufort, S.C.; and Saint Augustine,
Fla. These towns were restricted from growth by being bypassed by
the transportation and industrial revolutions of the 19th
century and today provide lessons in livable community design. Boeschenstein
found that although each town has a different past, they all retain
a human scale and pedestrian environment, and the natural landscape
is incorporated in the town plan and is part of the town's
more than 200 maps, drawings and photos in addition to interviews
with community leaders, Boeschenstein chronicles the diversity of
the physical and social characteristics of each town, looking at
the changes in town planning and architecture over the past four
the towns' economics have changed, their physical patterns
and relationships are still convenient and comprehensible,"
Boeschenstein said. "Their town plans connect home, work, public
gathering places and natural environments, thereby offering a range
of experiences and allow residents, often of different status, to
encounter each other informally. These patterns, not as evident
in many contemporary environments, contribute to the quality of
community in these towns."
people are attracted to these towns as places to vacation and to
live. The communities are not frozen in time but continue to be
challenged by the threat of commercialization and the rising sea
level. Traffic flow, parking, growth and development are constant
issues. The competing economic and social forces foster different
solutions in each town.
S.C. is one example of a successful solution. The town incorporated
a waterfront park with diverse activities that reflect changing
needs, including places to promenade, an outdoor theater and a marina.
believes that town planners and architects have much to learn in
the planning and design of new communities from the physical and
cultural development of these towns.
American towns offer not a nostalgic and obsolete past, but time-honored
traditions and perspectives from which to evaluate how we live,"
Boeschenstein said. "As new generations influence future development,
they should continue to honor the wise concept of individuals living
in human scaled communities in sympathy with the natural world.
review copies of "Historic American Towns Along the Atlantic
Coast" contact Mahinder Kingra at Johns Hopkins University
Press at (410) 516-6939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For interviews Boeschenstein may be reached at (804) 924-8921 or
Jane Ford, (804) 924-4298