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Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue, New Haven and Beyond

Logue's House, Photo by Lizabeth Cohen

New Haven, Conn. (April 9, 2021)—May is Historic Preservation Month, and what better time to analyze the urban renewal of New Haven during the 1950s and 1960s? Lizabeth Cohen, the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies at Harvard University and author of the award-winning “Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age,” will deconstruct this complex topic during a virtual lecture, “Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue, New Haven and Beyond,” on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, at 6 p.m. Hosted by the New Haven Museum, the event will be cosponsored by The New Haven Preservation Trust. Register here.

The media sponsor for “Saving America’s Cities: Ed Logue, New Haven and Beyond” is Connecticut Explored, which will feature an article written by Cohen on the same topic in the Summer, 2021 issue.

Today, with our appreciation for charming old buildings and historic preservation, one might well ask, “What were these urban renewers thinking?” Cohen explains that while in hindsight we now understand that the urban renewal of the 1950s to 1970s was deeply flawed, the ideals and aspirations by New Haven leaders of the era need to be understood in the context of their times. Did they get anything right?

Cohen will discuss the life work of Edward J. Logue, who began his career in urban redevelopment with the election of New Haven Mayor Richard Lee in 1953. Logue moved on to Boston in the 1960s and then led innovative organizations in New York at the state level and in the South Bronx during the 1970s and 1980s. Cohen will analyze the evolution in Logue’s thinking and actions and in how he handled resistance and accommodation from communities, as he and many others struggled with the challenge of revitalizing cities during the suburban boom following World War Two.

The newly elected Mayor Lee promised to renew a deteriorating New Haven. Factories were closing, downtown retail was stagnating, and middle-class residents and retailers were heading to the burgeoning suburbs. These departures, and the continued loss of property-tax revenue due to Yale’s ever-expanding footprint, were fueling growing discontent among those remaining behind, who resented how the city’s property tax rates kept climbing simply to sustain existing services.

Cohen will discuss Logue and Lee’s efforts to beat the suburbs at their own game in the two decades prior to federal legislation protecting historic structures. She will parse New Haven’s massive Church Street and Long Wharf projects, the hits and misses of the city’s integration of modern design, and Logue’s later years, during which he learned to preserve more of a city’s historic fabric and to negotiate more successfully with neighborhood groups.

Taking stock of the redevelopment of New Haven is crucial, Cohen says. “Amid the challenges facing cities today in the realms of racial justice, public health, economic viability, and urban reliance, it is more important than ever that we understand the history of efforts—successful and failed—to keep American cities vital.”


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