A Short History of the Idea of ‘Main Street’ in America

From Nathaniel Hawthorne to Disneyland, the Concept Has Represented Both the Experimental and the Conventional

In the United States, Main Street has always been two things—a place and an idea. As both, Main Street has embodied the contradictions of the country itself.

It is the self-consciousness of the idea of Main Street—from its origins in a Nathaniel Hawthorne sketch of New England, to Walt Disney’s construction of a Main Street USA, to the establishment of ersatz Main Streets in today’s urban malls—that makes it so essentially American. Main Street has been used in myriad ways to describe very many different things—from the crushing power …

More In: public space

Democracy Strikes out at Dodger Stadium

The L.A. Ballpark Was a Diverse and Inclusive Public Space. Then Prices Took a Bad Hop.

When Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley opened Dodger Stadium on April 10, 1962, his ticket price structure was simple, straightforward, and inexpensive: $3.50 for box seats, $2.50 for reserved …

How Playing in the Park After Dark Unifies South L.A.

Summer Night Lights Reclaimed Public Space From Gangs and Started a Beloved Community Tradition

This summer, 32 parks around Los Angeles—many located in South L.A.—will stay open until 11 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

This is Summer Night Lights, one of L.A.’s most popular …

California’s High Speed Rail Should Look Like Germany’s

Stations Can Be Vital Public Spaces That Provide Space for People to Gather, Shop, and Be Entertained

Will California’s high-speed rail system be German enough?

That question is not a joke, as I learned last month while riding Germany’s popular high-speed rail. In fact, it’s a more important …

Will the Laptop Destroy the Coffee Shop?

Yes, We’re Using Our Beach Umbrellas to Charge Our Smartphones. No, It Doesn’t Mean the End of Public Space.

In an age when you can purchase a beach umbrella with solar panels to charge your smartphone, defining a public space—and differentiating it from the digital realm—is complicated. A Zócalo/Getty …