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