Cities vs. Capitals

If the founder of Philadelphia could have imagined the city as it exists now he would certainly have been shocked. Faceless confusion, loss of individuality, imprisoning miles of urban and suburban growth with their throughways are the exact denial of all the social ethics of the pietists of the seventeenth or the philosophers of the eighteenth century. What they contemplated was not a conurbation but a capital, a center for the cultural and commercial life of a region, for the coming together of cosmopolitan people and ideas and interests. Philadelphia – or New York or Chicago – are no longer centers for the surrounding countryside. It takes hours of frustration to reach them. The proper functions of a capital can be performed only if it be easily accessible and built on a proper human scale; only recently did people begin to suppose that any place of fewer than a million inhabitants must by definition be a provincial backwater.

—Laurence Lafore, American Classic (1975)

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