The Perfect Square
A History of Rittenhouse Square
Publication: Oct 09
Publication: Oct 09
8 x 8
48 halftones, 3 maps
A history of America’s best-used public spaceRead the Prologue (pdf).
Great cities and neighborhoods rise and fall, yet for two centuries Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia has seized the imagination and envy of social climbers, urban planners, and novelists alike. In The Perfect Square, Nancy Heinzen—a resident of Rittenhouse Square for over 40 years and an activist committed to its preservation—provides the first full-length social history of this public urban space.
One of the five squares that William Penn established when he founded the city, the southwest-situated Rittenhouse Square has transformed from a marshy plot surrounded by brickyards and workers' shanties into the epicenter of Philadelphia high society. A post–Civil War keystone of Center City Philadelphia, it was once home to great dynasties, elegant mansions, and grand dames of the Victorian era. Today it is lined with sleek, modern, high-rise condominiums and graceful buildings of another era, where entrepreneurs and descendants of immigrants live side by side.
Heinzen lovingly chronicles the development and growth of this urban space, illustrating that not only is Rittenhouse Square unique but so too is the combination of human events and relationships that have created and sustained it.
Painstakingly researched and generously illustrated with black-and-white photos from public archives, The Perfect Square will appeal to lay readers interested in history, to professional historians and urban planners, and to the thousands of residents who have settled on or near Rittenhouse Square.
"Heinzen has created a lively, social history of Rittenhouse Square that will attract readers who want to know what makes this space so special."
—Tom Keels, author of Forgotten Philadelphia
"All of (the square's) fascinating and varied history is now clearly laid out in The Perfect Square: A History of Rittenhouse Square by Nancy Heinzen, published by Temple University Press. Any born-and-bred Philadelphian who still harbors and abiding love for this very livable city will find more than just a nostalgic ride in this compact, lovingly rendered work."
—The Jewish Exponent
"Heinzen tells this story in nine chronologically arranged chapters, well researched and beautifully illustrated. As she tells it, she also manages to balance a fine-grained look at the history of Rittenhouse Square, filled with all sorts of terrific details, with references and connections to the city as a whole and the trajectory of its development."
Table of Contents
Prologue: Urban Oasis (2000)
1. Governor’s Woods (1681–1825)
2. The Early Years (1825–1844)
3. Bricks and Mortar (1844–1863)
4. The Family Years (1863–1884)
5. The Encroaching City (1884–1913)
6. Turning Point (1913–1915)
7. Skyline (1915–1945)
8.Things We Should Fight For (1945–1968)
9. The Millennium (1968–2009)