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Historic Resources: Jane Jacobs’s First City—Learning from Scranton, Pennsylvania

HRC Sep 2021

Image: New Village Press

  • COST

    Free and open to the public.

  • TYPE

    Knowledge Community



For our October HRC meeting, we join the BSA Urban Design Committee in welcoming acclaimed author Glenna Lang to discuss her recent book about authoritative urbanist and activist Jane Jacobs. Jacobs was one of the most iconoclastic and influential writers of the twentieth century, though few people realize she came from Scranton, Pennsylvania, or how that city nurtured her and her ideas. Pulling from previously untapped documents, heretofore unknown photographs, and interviews with Jane’s contemporaries, Jane Jacobs's First City paints a twin portrait of her early years and the flourishing, industrial Scranton that she called home. The author has uncovered Scranton as young Jane experienced it, showing us the lasting impact of Jane's formative years in this thriving and accessible environment. Ultimately, the book points to the promise of Scranton and other medium-size cities today.
Glenna Lang is the author of a previous work about Jane Jacobs -- Genius of Common Sense: The Story of Jane Jacobs and “The Death and Life of Great American Cities -- which was chosen as a 2009 Notable Book by both the New York Times and Smithsonian Magazine. Although she grew up mainly in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens in New York City, Lang has lived for many years in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (now part of Tufts University). She has loved spending time in Scranton in her quest to understand the place and period that spawned Jane Jacobs’s influential ideas.