The American elm tree was a quintessential feature of New England towns and cities during the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. How it rose to such prominence, how it satisfied the urban craving for the pastoral, and how it was devastated so completely by a fungus are described in this illuminating history. After discussing the cultural significance of several revered New England elms, Campanella (city and regional planning, Univ. of North Carolina) traces the trends toward civic improvement and environmental awareness that led to the large-scale planting of elm trees along many city streets. The elms thrived until modern improvements, like impervious pavements, weakened them. Planting them closely together in great numbers also forced them into an artificial, vulnerable position. When the Great Hurricane of 1938 toppled thousands of elms, the dead trees became a perfect breeding ground for the bark beetle, the carrier of the fungus that caused Dutch elm disease. Within a short time, once lovely, parklike cities turned into treeless, barren landscapes. This fascinating account, which is drawn from a wide range of sources and includes many local histories and photographs, is suitable for both lay readers and researchers. Recommended for public and academic libraries and especially for regional and landscape history collections.-Ilse Heidmann, Washington State Lib., Olympia Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The American elm, elegant and highly adaptable, was an essential feature of America’s cultural landscape for more than a century, forming great verdant parasols above—and giving its name to—streets all across the nation. The elm became a defining element in the spatial design of America’s villages, towns, and cities, first in New England, and—with the westward transit of Yankee culture—eventually throughout the United States. This fascinating and generously illustrated book traces the elm’s transformation from a fast-growing weed into a regional and national icon, and shows how Elm Street satisfied America’s quest for a pastoral urbanism imagined since the time of Jefferson.