Thursday, November 24, 2011

Minardi, Joseph. Historic Architecture in West Philadelphia, 1789-1930s.

Schiffer Publishing. 2011. c192p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0-7643-3771-0. $50.00.

For many residents of Philadelphia, PA, West Philadelphia, the area situated west of the Schuylkill River that once was Blockley and Kingsessing Townships, is comprised of a cluster of at least seven neighborhoods, including the Woodlands, University City, Spruce Hill, Cedar Park, Squirrel Hill, Garden Court, Walnut Hill, and Powelton Village. Originally a collection of farms and hamlets along the Schuylkill River, West Philadelphia grew into a streetcar suburb of Philadelphia during the mid-19th century, when it was incorporated into the City of Philadelphia. Today West Philadelphia is a thriving locality, made up of residents, businesses, and esteemed institutions of higher education, not limited to Drexel University and The University of Pennsylvania. In this architectural history of West Philadelphia and the architects who made it happen, one of the first, nearly comprehensive, largely pictorial examinations since the comparable West Philadelphia Illustrated by Vieira M. Laffitte was published in 1903 (p. 5), Minardi, a graphic designer (p. 5), award-winning photographer (recipient of the 2007 Preservation Initiative Award, University City Historical Society), and resident of Philadelphia (inside back book cover), takes readers on a historical, visual tour of West Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and its buildings, constructed between the late eighteenth and early twentieth-centuries. In nine chapters, the author presents brief historical overviews of West Philadelphia’ s neighborhoods as well as more than 500 images illustrating the various architectural structures comprising them. Minardi showcases apartment buildings, churches, charitable institutions, clubs, colleges, housing developments, homes, inns, libraries, monuments, universities, row houses, schools, stadiums, train stations, and more. In chapter nine, the author features alphabetically-arranged biographies of selected architects and their firms. Thoughtfully-presented and very generously-illustrated, with archival images, maps, and many color photographs taken by Minardi, this well-written, easy-to-read, accessible, engaging publication provides an excellent introduction to the historical architecture of West Philadelphia. Sufficiently well-documented, with image captions, including building names, addresses, and styles, back-of-the-book endnotes, a bibliography, and an index, it only lacks a chronology, maps keying the various architectural landmarks on them, an index of buildings by street addresses, and appendices containing suggested, brief, walking or driving tours of the featured neighborhoods, all of which further would have enhanced the subject and the its presentation. Constituting a visual feast of exterior and interior views of many historic edifices in West Philadelphia, this book is sure to delight, inform, and educate Philadelphians, general readers, students, scholars, architects, urban planners, historians, professionals, and others. It is very highly recommended for local and large public libraries as well as for academic and special libraries. Review copy. Availability:, Barnes &

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Graham, Wade. American Eden: From Monticello to Central Park: What Our Gardens Tell Us About Who We Are.

HarperCollins. April 2011. c480p. bibliog.. illus. ISBN 978-0-06-158342-1. $35.00. Google eBook. $16.99. Kindle eBook. B004IWR37Y. $16.99.

In this publication, Graham (Bachelor of Arts, Comparative Literature, Columbia University; Master of Arts and Ph.D., U.S. History, University of California, Los Angeles; teacher of urban and environmental policy, School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University), a renown, Los Angeles- based garden designer, landscape architect, historian, writer, journalist, and environmental activist, presents a fascinating yet erudite history of American gardens. According to the author, for more than two hundred years, Americans have revealed themselves in their gardens, which have been rooted in time and place and have reflected our national spirit and concerns. To prove his thesis, Graham melds various methodological approaches, including biography, history, cultural commentary, literature, and horticultural studies, into a lengthy, discursive narrative, thereby resulting in a multivalent examination of American gardens and the people who have created them from the eighteenth century to the present. In seven chapters, Graham discusses what he considers to be the various types of American gardens in terms of broad historical categories: the Founding Gardens (1600-1826), parks and suburban gardens (1820-1890), Golden Age gardens (1880-1914), Arts and Crafts gardens (1850-1925), Californian gardens (1920-1960), post-modern gardens (1940s-2000), and contemporary gardens (2000- ). Within each era, he shows how the geometric and naturalistic aesthetic paradigms from the Renaissance and 18th century continued and were modified to suit the tastes of mostly wealthy and middle-class, American-born individuals, who sought to express themselves and their ideals through their gardens. Overall, Graham successfully distinguishes American gardens from their counterparts in other countries. While the author’s thesis that American gardens are unique yet reflective of various aesthetic, cultural, ethical, political, psychological, and social influences may not be entirely new, the original value of Graham’s text rests in its comprehensive, scholarly analysis of the subject and its vast, encyclopedic overview. Well-documented, with endnotes, a bibliography, and an index, this publication may need more reproductions (75 black-and-white reproductions and a 16- page color insert are included), to the extent that they further may illustrate and clarify the author’s main points for readers, who may get sidetracked by his approach. Enlightening, interesting, engaging, and accessibly-written, but not necessarily easy-to-follow, this foundational book, which serves as an intelligent guide to American gardens, will be of considerable interest to some garden lovers, students, scholars, professionals, and others. It is highly recommended for large public, academic, and special library collections. Uncorrected Proof. Availability:, Amazon Kindle eBook, Barnes &,Google eBook

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Foulkes, Julia L.. To the City: Urban Photographs of the New Deal.

Temple University Press. 2011. c142p. bibliog.. illus. index. ISBN 978-1-59213-998-9 (paper). $24.95. ISBN 978-1-59213-997-2 (cloth). $74.50. ISBN 978-1-592213-999-6 (Adobe Digital Edition PDF e-book). $24.95. Google eBook. $14.72.

As the United States was transformed from a rural to an urban nation during the 1930s and 1940s, many individuals were lured to cities, which became destinations of hope, opportunity, and renewal. (pp. 3-4) Photographers participated in this urban migration that was as much a movement of peoples as a shift in the locus of the American imagination. (p. 5) In this generously- illustrated publication, showcasing more than 100 halftone photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA)/Office of War Information (OWI) project along with extracts from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) guidebooks and oral histories, Foulkes, an Associate Professor of History at The New School (PhD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst) and the author of Modern Bodies, corrects the commonly held view that the FSA/OWI photographers only were concerned with documenting rural life in the 1930s and 1940s. She shows that the “propulsion to the city” was an equally important theme in their works, many of which captured views of cities, their inhabitants, and happenings. Featuring images by notable photographers such and Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Gordon Parks as well as those by lesser- known ones, Foulkes illuminates the changes in landscapes, habits, and aspirations that the march to American cities encompassed. Dividing her publication into five chapters, organized around the broad themes of intersection, traffic, high life/low life, the city in the country, and citizens, she includes images of intersections, roads, street corners, cars, traffic signs, lights, people, trains, buses, buildings, houses, public places, parks, theaters, stores, newsstands, nightclubs, dance halls, entertainment venues, bus stations, highways, motels, restaurants, summer camps, homes, suburbs, meetings, campaigns, picket lines, demonstrations, support for the war effort, parades, flags, and more. The cities represented span the geographical area of the United States from New York in the North, to New Orleans in the South, San Francisco in the West, and Washington, D.C. in the East. Photographs taken in more than thirty places are compiled by the author in a collection that captures the increasing urbanization of the United States, its cultures, and peoples, who lived in cities, suburbs, and towns throughout the country. Nicely-presented, thoughtfully-written, well-argued, and sufficiently-documented, this easy-to-read, engaging book, consisting mostly of photographs and comprising the series Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy (ed. Zane L. Miller, David Stradling, and Larry Bennett), will be of significant interest to general readers, students, scholars, and others. It is highly recommended for many public, academic, and special library collections. Review copy. Availability:, Barnes &, Temple University Press (distrib. by University of Chicago), Google Books.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Parvaiz, Kashif. Russia’s Prestige: Historical Architecture.

Outskirts Press. 2010. c412p. bibliog.. illus. ISBN 978-1-4327-6611-5. $34.95. B004DERHDW (Kindle Edition e-Book). $12.99. Outskirts Press e-Book. $5.00.

In this generously- illustrated publication (more than 200 black-and-white reproductions), which is intended to serve as the “starting place” for the “study of Russian architecture” (Foreword, ii), Parvaiz, who owns a construction firm located in Brooklyn, NY (Riyaan Developers), takes readers on a historical tour of Russian architecture from medieval times (988 C.E.) to the present. In eight chapters, organized chronologically, the author describes structures built during various time periods and shows how they reflected the nation’s state of affairs. He presents a wide variety of buildings, including Russian Orthodox churches, gates, kremlins, monasteries, convents, palaces, squares, monuments, prisons, dormitories, hotels, government edifices, and apartment buildings. At each chapter’s end, Parvaiz provides brief biographies of prominent architects of the era and a glossary of seemingly unfamiliar terms used in the chapter. After chapter eight, the author sets forth three additional sections showcasing the synagogues and the religious buildings of Buddhist and Islamic denominations in Russia as well as the stylistic periods of Russian architecture. While Parvaiz’s text may be characterized as easy-to-read, “rich, compelling” (Publisher’s press release), and “evocative” (Foreword, ii), it may need to be better presented. Firstly, the last three sections of this book may be incorporated into the first eight chapters. Secondly, the architects’ biographies and glossaries may be consolidated as appendices. Architects’ names and glossary terms may be boldfaced in the text when they first appear, thereby alerting readers to their entries. Thirdly, this publication’s reproductions should be enlarged and presented in color, whenever possible. Fourthly, this book’s illustrations ideally should reference their sources in their captions or a list of illustrations with photographic credits should be included. Fifthly, a back-of-the book index and a selected bibliography that separates textual sources from photographic ones are crucial. Sixthly, footnotes or endnotes may be necessary, due to the relatively “enigmatic” (Foreword, i), unpublished (Author’s courtesy interview sheets) aspects of Russian architecture and its history. A detailed chronology would be welcome. Seventhly, chapters may need to be distinguished better in terms of their layouts and by means of numbered, clearly-delineated chapter headings. Finally, all grammatical, spelling, and/or typographical mistakes should be corrected. This book will be of interest to students, travelers, art lovers, general readers, history aficionados, and others. In light of the aforementioned, some libraries may want to carefully consider this publication. Review copy. Availability:, (Kindle edition), Barnes &, Outskirts Press Bookstore

Monday, January 17, 2011

Toole, Robert M.. Landscape Gardens on the Hudson: a History.

Black Dome Press. 2010. c.192p. illus. bibliog.. index. ISBN 978-1-883789-68-8. $24.95.

In this generously- illustrated (over 140 reproductions) publication, Toole, a practicing landscape architect (1975- , private practice, Saratoga Springs, New York), who specializes in historic landscape study and restoration while also providing landscape design services on a variety of projects, retells for the first time the story of landscape gardening and architecture along the Hudson River during the “Romantic Age.” In fifteen chapters, each averaging eleven pages, Toole covers landscape gardening and architecture along the Hudson River from the end of the colonial era in the late eighteenth century until the last decades of the nineteenth century, a period during which American landscape gardening and architecture were born amidst the Nation’s quest to discover and sometimes assert its unique, cultural, political, and social identities amidst the natural resources and wonders of the American continent. In introductory chapters, the author sets forth the cultural, historical, and literary backgrounds as well as describes some early colonial gardens along the Hudson River, in order to distinguish them from later aesthetic and design components, influenced by but not limited to the Beautiful, Picturesque, and Gardenesque modes. Extensively referencing the writings and works of the landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing (1815- 1852) and the architect Alexander Jackson Davis (1803- 1892), both of whom figured prominently in the history of nineteenth- century landscape gardening, architecture, and design along the Hudson River and were notable for helping to establish the Picturesque mode of landscape gardening and architecture in the United States, he then examines specific Hudson River landscape gardens of the Romantic age, mainly focusing on those of Hyde Park, Montgomery Place, Blithewood, Sunnyside, Knoll (Lyndhurst), Millbrook, Kenwood, Locust Grove, Highland Gardens, Springside, Wilderstein, Idlewild, The Point, Wilderstein, and Olana. Not only does the author showcase the significant aspects of each garden’s design, layout, historic buildings, ornamentation, indigenous features, and plantings, but he also distinguishes each in terms of the various aesthetic ideals and influences that shaped its development. Including a list of illustrations, two appendices pertaining to visiting landscape gardens along the Hudson River and in England, endnotes, and a bibliographical essay, this publication is well-documented and thoughtfully- illustrated, with many historic images, not limited to ground plans, photographs, bird’s eye views, paintings, engravings, and other reproductions. Toole uses his own sketches and ground plans to further clarify and enhance the text, which is well- organized and fairly effectively written. Students, scholars, professionals, and some general readers interested in “touring” (Foreword by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, p. vi) the showcased, historic gardens with Toole will be interested in reading this book. As the first comprehensive study of the Hudson River gardens of the Romantic age and their legacies, it constitutes an important, scholarly contribution to the study of garden history in the United States as well as a “feat of garden archaeology” (Foreword, p. vii), since many of the gardens do not exist any longer or are experienced in ways “at variance with the historic situation.” (p. 168). This publication is very highly recommended for large public, academic, and special library collections. Review copy. Availability:, Barnes &