Monday, November 30, 2009

Stabilizing Businesses in the Alley (Part I)

In a lovely 1978 monograph simply titled “Alleys as Hidden Resources”, Grady Clay expresses his vision of the modern day beauty of alleys. Clay’s book was reviewed in the Louisville Courier-Journal by his friend and architecture critic William Morgan. 

In his review Morgan writes … “Despite the fact that alleys are often seen merely as traffic shortcuts, places in which to dump trash, or as places where you wouldn’t want to meet people in the dark.” Clay points out that the alley is “an institution as American as apple pie.”

Morgan expressed the hope that Clay’s monograph “will not be forgotten or placed on a shelf as is so often the fate of such studies.” He then quotes Lewis Mumford whom he considered to be the dean of American planning historians – “I would prefer to walk in the rear alley … precisely for all those little hints of life, activity, transition which the placid visual arts of suburbia did their best to suppress or politely disguise.”

This book has indeed found new life in this author’s library shelf and on the shelf of this blog for many to appreciate - something that was unimaginable in 1978. In fact the book came into the author’s hands through the internet and the graces of William Morgan himself! It will be a valuable tool in the quest to nurture and protect the more picturesque and historic stable alleys in the city.

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