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Asked a question 5 months ago

I'd like more examples of rural towns with walkable urban form in USA. Are they old "railroad" towns, mostly pre-industrial/pre-auto towns; mostly mining, fishing and agrarian communities? Are some left that are not upscale tourist resorts.

Where am I?

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Hey Tracy!  Check out Jefferson, PA on Google Street View to see a town that never really grew beyond its initial subdivision, then check out New Oxford, PA; East Berlin, PA; or Biglersville, PA to see some towns that developed one or two industrial employers, but no more than that. They are all originally farming communities.

Jefferson isn't even particularly central to many larger farms and there were other 'natural' market towns nearby.  New Oxford was on the Lincoln Highway (the first transcontinental paved road), so it benefitted from that trade and had a...foundry? Something like that. My dad dated the industrialist's daughter back in the day. East Berlin has a industrial animal-feed company. Biglersville is the heart of industrial apple sauce production (it's in the center of apple orchard country, then the orchards grew even more on the industrial apple sauce production).

I'm looking for similar places. We've put together a spreadsheet of different cities with stats from another thread that might be helpful. Here's the google doc126.

h/t @Patrick Wheatley49 

I live in a rural town with a walkable area - Belfast, ME (pop 6,700). It's the county seat and largest town in Waldo County (pop 40,000), which is about 2/3rds the geographic size of Rhode Island. Outside of the downtown, this county is very rural - lots of farmland and trees. This was first an old shipbuilding, and then later an industrial town. It's now becoming more and more touristy (and expensive, although not quite as expensive as its tony neighbor to the south, Camden). In the case of this town, it's just dumb luck that it retained its charm, having been down on its luck when urban renewal swept through the Northeast.

I'd like more examples of rural towns with walkable urban form in USA. Are they old "railroad" towns, mostly pre-industrial/pre-auto towns; mostly mining, fishing and agrarian communities? Are some left that are not upscale tourist resorts.
I'd like more examples of rural towns with walkable urban form in USA. Are they old "railroad" towns, mostly pre-industrial/pre-auto towns; mostly mining, fishing and agrarian communities? Are some left that are not upscale tourist resorts.

 

 

I live in Greenfield, Mass. There's a walkable downtown center here. I live about a 15 minute walk from the center of town in a 1920s era bungalow. Greenfield has an industrial history, but has a similar population now (18,000 or so) as it did 100 years ago. It benefits from its relative proximity to UMass-Amherst, but it is not itself a college town, nor is it upscale. It is the county seat for the poorest county in Mass. Like your question, I often wonder if there other towns around America that are "like" Greenfield.

Andrew Clum
Assoc. AIA, Urban3 Analyst

I would try this book:

https://www.amazon.com/American-Plans-Princeton-Architectural-Press/dp/187827169552
 

or this one:

 

https://www.amazon.com/Paradise-Planned-Garden-Suburb-Modern/dp/1580933262/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=paradise+planned&qid=1582581251&s=books&sr=1-140

 

I have "American Town Plans" (first link) digitized in arcgis (as in I have shapefiles for all of the cities that it mentions.) If that would be useful to you, let me know and I can send it on. Unfortunately it's a software that not everyone is familiar with. Comes in very useful in this instance, with about 30 disparate small towns spread over the entire country.

LaGrange, GA seems to be an echo of the other responses. It is a small town that had around 11 mills surrounding the downtown. The in town neighborhoods are full of 100 year old homes and a bustling downtown. We have lots of trains that run through town still and are a neat part of the atmosphere here. We have the oldest private college in the state of Georgia, and a lake that was created decades ago. 

13 S Park St, Dahlonega, GA 30533
this is a small city north of Atlanta. It has a small town center that is walkable. If you plug in the above address you will find yourself in the center  of the walkable area 
  
hopefully it’s what Your are looking for.  

I think you would find most of the "historical" mill and farm towns are of this type, where they still exist, although the "walking" amenities may not be what we desire today. Many of these were created in the horse and buggy days, or at least everyone not having a car, so you went to town and walked around or lived in town and walked around.  Quite a bit different than how things are built today.  Quite a few references to this in Strong Towns Bottom Up Revolution book. 

 

There are a plethora of waterfront village/rural scale communities along the Columbia river and the Great Lakes.
Bayfield, WI; Astoria, OR; Arlington, OR; Put-In-Bay, OH; Cathlamet, WA; and tons of others all have a pre-auto town center, all in various stages of revitalization, and I don't know which if any are upscale tourist resorts.