Sunday, June 8, 2008

Patrick Condon's "Streetcar City"

Source: City of Vancouver Archives
Stephen Rees has done an incredible favor by posting Patrick Condon's summary for his book on the "streetcar city"...quite possibly the best succinct treatment of the topic I've ever read. I wish I had read this when I edited the Trade Street Vision Plan for the Center City Streetcar where I did a similar (though not as beautifully written or informed) historical introduction to the streetcar in the development of Charlotte's detached single-family streetcar neighborhoods. That fabric is still in Charlotte, and similar to Vancouver, Charlotte will be able to capitalize on it to build up to its original vision once the streetcar is reintroduced (the new light rail is already doing the same for the South Corridor).
Incidentally, the streetcar system in Charlotte began to be electrified in of the earliest among North American cities. This was when Dilworth and Myers Park were built out to the vision of John Nolen and the Olmstead brothers. In 1911 an upstart power company, the Southern Power Co., took control of the streetcar system in order to capitalize on the use of electricity to maximize its profits from its hydroelectric projects. That company, which undertook similar cooperative ventures in other services, was able to last where other power companies had failed. Southern Power introduced into Charlotte a business culture that was adept at conglomerating ventures - making it attuned to the importance of retooling and improving the service side of its industries (Bank of America didn't come from nowhere people!). Southern Power became the company we know today as Duke Energy. In short, the streetcar not only shaped Charlotte physically, it helped pave the way to our successful business culture!

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