The Misunderstood History of Gentrification

People, Planning, Preservation, and Urban Renewal, 1915-2020

Dennis E. Gale
Book Cover

PB: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2043-5
Publication: Feb 21

HC: $104.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2042-8
Publication: Feb 21

Ebook: $32.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2044-2
Publication: Feb 21

254 pages
6 x 9
4 tables, 16 halftones, 3 maps

Reframing our understanding of the roles of gentrification and urban renewal in the revitalization of American cities

Read the Introduction (pdf).

Description

The origins of gentrification date back to World War I—only it was sometimes known as “remodeling” then. Dennis Gale’s insightful book, The Misunderstood History of Gentrification, provides a recontextualization of American gentrification, planning, and policymaking. He argues that gentrification must be understood as an urban phenomenon with historical roots in the very early twentieth century.

Gale uses solid empirical evidence to trace the embryonic revitalization of Georgetown, Greenwich Village, Beacon Hill, and elsewhere back to 1915. He shows how reinvestment and restoration reversed urban decline and revitalized neighborhoods. The Misunderstood History of Gentrification also explains how federal policies such as the Urban Redevelopment Program (later named Urban Renewal), which first emerged in 1949, razed urban slums and created an “urban crisis” that persisted in the 1960s and ‘70s. This situation soon prompted city gentrifiers and historic preservationists to reuse and rehabilitate existing structures.

Within a more expansive historical framework, Gale offers a fresh perspective on and debunks misperceptions about gentrification in America.

Reviews

Scholarly literature on gentrification has exploded, but very little attention has been devoted to the phenomenon’s origin. Using archival records, Gale shows that gentrification’s origins date back to the 1910s and 1920s, not the 1960s and 1970s as is usually thought. He shows that the rise of the historic preservation movement contributed to the demise of Urban Renewal, thereby stimulating today’s advanced gentrification affecting cities across America. Gale’s critique of current discourse on gentrification is right on target. The term ‘gentrification’ has been so broadly defined that it is virtually useless. The debate has focused on displacement while ignoring the benefits of a strengthened tax base and the preservation of older historic housing. Gentrifiers—many of whom want to promote social justice—have been unfairly demonized. This book should be read by policymakers, scholars, students, and laypeople. Working together, they can shape an inner city characterized by stable and income- and racially-mixed communities that benefit all residents.
David P. Varady, Emeritus Professor in the School of Planning at the University of Cincinnati

In The Misunderstood History of Gentrification, Dennis Gale shows that gentrification has a much longer history in the United States than is commonly realized and that this history raises critical questions about the causes, consequences, and meaning of gentrification. The book provides case studies of some of the earliest examples of gentrification and offers an incisive discussion of how the concept of gentrification has expanded and morphed over time to encompass nearly all forms of urban development. Gale’s book is essential reading for students of urban history, neighborhood change, and of course, gentrification.
Alex Schwartz, Professor of Public and Urban Policy at The New School

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction

I Embryonic Gentrification: Case Studies and Examples
1. The Georgetown Neighborhood of Washington, D.C., 1915–1945
2. The Greenwich Village Neighborhood of New York City, 1915–1945
3. The Beacon Hill Neighborhood of Boston, 1915–1945
4. Early Embryonic Gentrification: An Atlantic and Gulf Coast Phenomenon

II Urban Redevelopment/Renewal Contends with the Gentrification Paradigm, 1945–1980
5. Federal Policies to Reverse Urban Decline, 1949–1974
6. The Decade of the Neighborhood and the “Discovery” of Gentrification

III Dilemmas in Definition and Dialectics
7. Embryonic Gentrification and Advanced Gentrification, 1980–2018
Conclusion

References
Index

About the Author(s)

Dennis E. Gale is Emeritus Professor of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers University and has taught in the Urban Studies and Public Policy programs at Stanford University since 2010. He is the author of several books, including Greater New Jersey: Living in the Shadow of Gotham and Understanding Urban Unrest: From Reverend King to Rodney King.


Subjects

In the Series

  • Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin

    The Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy Series, edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin, was founded by the late Zane L. Miller to publish books that examine past and contemporary cities. While preserving the series’ foundational focus on the policy, planning, and environmental issues so central to metropolitan life, we also join scholarly efforts to push the boundaries of urban studies. We are committed to publishing work at the shifting intersections of cultural production, community formation, and political economy that shape cities at all scales, from the neighborhood to the transnational.