Tag Archives: Urban design
I really wish effect to the hints in my letter to you for so laying off the additions to the city of N.O. as to shield it from Yellow fever. my confidence in the idea is founded in the acknoleged experience that we have never seen the genuine Yellow fever extend itself into the country, nor even to the outskirts or open parts of a close built city. in the plan I propose every square would be surrounded, on every side, by open & pure air, & would in fact be a separate town with fields, or open suburbs around it.
Thomas Jefferson to William C. C. Claiborne, May 3, 1810
In the face of coronavirus, I’m excerpting correspondence about diseases that ravaged the nation in Thomas Jefferson’s time.
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retired leaders continue to cheerlead from the sidelines.
Claiborne (c. 1773/75 – 1817), a Virginia born lawyer transplanted to Tennessee, served in Congress from 1797 to 1801. In 1803, he was appointed by Jefferson to be governor of the Territory of Orleans, a position he held until 1812.
Jefferson, now finally (and gratefully!) retired from public office, continued to lobby for more green space in New Orlean’s development, to combat the diseases which afflicted densely populated areas. Multiple earlier letters in this series detailed his “checkerboard” plan for urban design.
Claiborne succeeded Andrew Jackson as Tennessee’s Congressman. He was the youngest person ever elected to that body, and most sources indicate he was not yet 25 years of age, as required by the Constitution.
Mr. Jefferson will continue to promote his causes to your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
NOTE: The link to Thomas Jefferson’s letter is subject to change by Founders’ Archive. It was accurate when this post was written. If the link is now wrong, search FoundersArchives.gov or call me. I’ll help you find it.
…the yellow fever …is generated only in low close, and ill-cleansed parts of a town, I have supposed it practicable to prevent it’s generation by building our cities on a more open plan. take for instance the chequer board for a plan. let the black squares only be building squares, and the white ones be left open, in turf & trees. every square of houses will be surrounded by four open squares, & every house will front an open square. the atmosphere of such a town would be like that of the country, insusceptible of the miasmata which produce yellow fever. I have accordingly proposed that the enlargements of the city of New Orleans … shall be on this plan.
To Constantin François Chasseboeuf Volney, February 8, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Compassionate leaders promote public health.
Thomas Jefferson met the French philosopher Volney (1757-1820) during his service in France. More than half of this lengthy, wide-ranging letter dealt with the ravages of yellow fever in coastal America. Jefferson fled swampy Washington for Monticello every August and September, when the disease was prominent.
Jefferson presumed the disease flourished because of crowded, unhealthy living conditions in large cities, all in the Atlantic tidewater region. To combat this, he proposed a plan for future urban expansion that would leave half of every development in green space. Using the example of a checkerboard, he suggested all squares of one color for homes, all squares of the other color to be left natural. Every house on the block would front on open space.
It would be long after Jefferson’s death before the cause of yellow fever was discovered. It wasn’t the crowded swampy atmosphere along the coast, but the mosquitoes that thrived in that environment.