Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Review: Heinzen, Nancy M.. The Perfect Square: a History of Rittenhouse Square.

Temple University Press. 2009. 203p. illus. index. bibliog. ISBN 9781592139880. $29.50. ISBN 9781592139903 (e-book). $29.50.

For two centuries, Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has captured the hearts and minds of Philadelphians, visitors to the City of Brotherly Love, social climbers, urban planners, novelists, and others. One of the five squares that William Penn (1644-1718) established when he founded Philadelphia in 1681, the southwest-situated Rittenhouse Square developed from a marshy plot surrounded by brickyards and workers’ homes into an urban oasis that evidences its unique and varied history. In this generously- illustrated (more than 50 black-and-white reproductions) and painstakingly- researched publication, with endnotes and a bibliography, Heinzen (formerly a counselor in the Philadelphia School District), a longtime resident of Rittenhouse Square, who enthusiastically is committed to preserving it, provides the first, full-length social history of one of America’s greatest, public, urban spaces. In nine chapters, covering the Square from its beginnings until the present, the author showcases the residents, groups, organizations, and businesses that made the Square a vital place over its continuing lifetime. She sets forth the social, cultural, and political developments that influenced the landmark’s development from a neighborhood on the margins of the city of Philadelphia into a thriving residential, business, and cultural district. Replete with many reproductions, historic photographs, and drawings, this thoughtfully-conceived, coffee table-like publication also is artfully- designed, being sized as a perfect square (8 X 8 in.). It will interest general readers, students, scholars, and others. Highly recommended for many large public and academic library book collections, particularly for those located in Philadelphia and its surrounding regions. Review copy. Availability:, Barnes &