Publication Date

April 2015


Patricia Hill


American Studies (AMST), History (HIST)


English (United States)


Mid-twentieth century urban renewal in the United States had a profound impact on both the physical and social landscape of urban America. The process of urban renewal literally reshaped American cities through the redevelopment and rehabilitation of entire neighborhoods, in some cases resulting in the destruction of entire city blocks in order to rebuild them as highways, parking lots, or retail centers. While less apparent than these physical changes, however, the social impacts of urban renewal were even more consequential. In implementing urban renewal policies in their cities, the ways in which civic leaders engaged with their communities was fundamentally altered. Depending on how community engagement was undertaken in different cities, the response of citizens to urban renewal projects could be drastically different. This thesis explores urban renewal in two Connecticut cities, Middletown and New Haven. While the cities have many parallels -- in the postwar period, both were post-industrial university cities led by a young, ambitious mayor -- the process of community engagement was ultimately carried out differently by civic leadership in the two cities. Consequently, the responses of the two communities to their respective city’s urban renewal policy could be drastically different, depending on the methods of community engagement employed. By exploring the reasons for these differences, as well as the varying community responses to them, this thesis draws conclusions about the ways civic leadership and community engagement shapes the actions of citizens, the outcome of urban planning projects, and the historical memory of cities, neighborhoods, and their residents.



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