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America's Original GI Town: Park Forest, Illinois (Creating the North American Landscape) Paperback – October 3, 2003
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"Randall's account of Park Forest effectively challenges the conventional distinction between 1930s idealism and the postwar materialism that shapes so many accounts of post-1945 America."(Robert Fishman Journal of American History)
"The book's strength is Randall's discussion of Park Forest within the history of new community-planning initiatives."(Choice)
"This book provides a readable narrative of Park Forest's development, with photos and anecdotes that capture the enthusiasm of its early residents."(D. Andrew Austin Urban Affairs Review)
"Gregory C. Randall makes a valuable contribution with his book, the first full-length history of the [Park Forest] community... [it] will be a boon to scholars interested in exploring some of the many interesting questions surrounding Park Forest and the postwar suburban phenomenon."(Robert W. Blythe Vernacular Architecture Newsletter)
"This is a sound history, an engaging, crisp narrative."(Arthur W. Turner Journal of Illinois History)
"Greg Randall has written an engaging and instructive book. What I especially like about Randall's work is that it provides the reader with a holistic appreciation of a distinctive community. That he does so as an insider makes his narration all the more compelling."(Michael H. Ebner, author of Creating Chicago's North Shore, a Suburban History)
"Greg Randall has written an engaging and instructive book. What I especially like about Randall's work is that it provides the reader with a holistic appreciation of a distinctive community. That he does so as an insider makes his narration all the more compelling." -- Michael H. Ebner, author of Creating Chicago's North Shore, a Suburban History--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I'd like more insight from sociologists regarding the effects of growing up in such an idealized environment. Houses were all apparently well-built and showed no signs of decay. They were equally spaced. All infrastructure (electricity, gas/sewer/and water lines, streets, light posts, telephone poles, bridges) was well placed before house construction. For those of us who grew up there, it was easy to assume that all of America was just like this. It was quite easy to concentrate on school. And the schools were well-built and staffed by well-chosen faculty, fully capable. H.S. classes were "tracked", and a surprising number of the upper-track instructors were Ph.Ds. It is hard to fault this environment, back in the 60s and early 70s, anyway. But I'd like to know what sociologists conclude. My "take" is that this was an urban oasis, an ideal environment, well-planned.
Randall places Park Forest in the contex of planned communities in England and the United States. His discussion of Riverside, Illinois, is good; but he ignores Pullman, Illinois, and Marktown, Indiana, as earlier planned communities in the Chicago area. His treatment of Harvey, Illinois, includes the minor error of listing the Chicago lumberman, Turlington W. Harvey, as an evangelist, although he was associated with the evangelist, Dwight Moody.
He also does not deal with the demogragrahic changes that been pronounced on the South Side of Chicago and the South Suburbs. This racial and ethic movement has affected the developments that the planners did not anticipate. Perhaps, this is beyond the scope Randall's book, and deserves a monograph of its own.
As a resident of Park Forest for twenty-six years I learned much about the origins and development of my town. I was especially interested in the how the lack of cooperation from the Illinois Central Railroad, forced the planners to drop their first chice for the location of the Park Forest Plaza. Thus, many of Park Forest's problems with a declining downtown area can be understood. I recommend this book to all who have an interest in the post-World War II period, and especially to all those who live Chicago area.