Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Nothing New Under the Sun

Sunday's Washington Post ran an interesting article/editorial by Joel Garreau entitled A Sad Truth: Cities Aren't Forever. Well worth reading, in large part because of the parallel Garreau draws between what could happen next in New Orleans, and what happened in Chicago after 1871, San Francisco after 1906, and--most tellingly--Galveston in 1900.

"This is not the first time that harsh realities have reshaped cities along the Gulf of Mexico.

The historic analogy for New Orleans is Galveston. For 60 years in the 1800s, that coastal city was the most advanced in Texas. It had the state's first post office, first naval base, first bakery, first gaslights, first opera house, first telephones, first electric lights and first medical school.

Then came the hurricane of Sept. 8, 1900. As yet unsurpassed as the deadliest natural disaster in American history, it washed away at least 6,000 souls. Civic leaders responded with heroic determination, building a seawall seven miles long and 17 feet high. Homes were jacked up. Dredges poured four to six feet of sand under them.

Galveston today is a charming tourist and entertainment destination, but it never returned to its old commercial glory."

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