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 …