A Brief History of Urbanism in North America: 1910-1919

The second decade of the twentieth contrite saw urban planning become increasingly codified and professionalized. Here are some key events:

Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago 1912

Cover of Wacker's Manual of the Plan of ChicagoCharles Henry Wacker was a second generation German American who was a businessman and philanthropist. In 1909 was appointed Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission by Mayor Busse. He held the position until 1926. As chairman, he championed the Burnham Plan for improving Chicago. He also believed that Chicago would fulfill its destiny as “the center of the modern world,” only if its youth were well-educated in the far-reaching goals of the city’s plan.*

As such, in 1912, Wacker published Wacker’s Manual of the Plan of Chicago (by Walter D. Moody) for use in public schools. The text was adopted as an eighth-grade textbook by the Chicago Board of Education and was required reading for all eighth-grade public school students until 1924. This is the first known formal instruction in city planning below the college level. It offered students a basic understanding of the history and function of cities and taught the importance of planning as a civic responsibility.


Hadacheck v. Sebastian 1915

Seal of the Supreme Court of the United StatesIn Hadacheck v. Sebastian, 239 U.S. 394 (1915), the Supreme Court of the United States held that an ordinance of Los Angeles prohibiting the manufacturing of bricks within specified limits of the city did not unconstitutionally deprive the petitioner of his property without due process of law, or deny him equal protection of the laws.

The case is significant because it is the first time the Supreme Court approved the regulation of the location of land uses. The brickyard was prohibited because it was causing adverse health effects in LA. In its decision the Court noted that: “There must be progress, and if in its march private interests are in the way they must yield to the good of the community.”


Cities in Evolution 1915

Cover of Cities in EvolutionSir Patrick Geddes was a Scottish biologist, sociologist, philanthropist and pioneering town planner. He is known for his innovative thinking in the fields of urban planning and education. Geddes is also considered by some to be the father of regional planning for introducing the concept of ‘region’ to architecture and planning. He is also known to have coined the term conurbation.

In 1915 he wrote Cities in Evolution : An Introduction to the Town Planning Movement and to the Study of Civics. The book was an essay on the growth of cities emphasizing preservation of historical traditions, involvement of the people in their own betterment and the rediscovery of past traditions of city building.

Eutopia, then, lies in the city around us; and it must be planned and realised, here or nowhere, by us as its citizens—each a citizen of both the actual and the ideal city seen increasingly as one.

Cities in Evolution


First Full-Time City Planner 1916

 Harland Bartholomew, National Capitol Planning Commission. Photographed April, 1959, in Washington, D.C.Harland Bartholomew was the first full-time planner employed by an American city: St. Louis. Although a civil engineer by training and disposition, Harland’s career started just as automobile production was taking off, industrial development was booming and urban population was rapidly growing. The challenges and opportunities brought about by these factors inspired the invention of new community concepts and required the development of new approaches to planning transportation in cities. These challenges called for a hybrid of engineering and sociological skills. Bartholomew possessed both.

Bartholomew created new methodologies and new designs and concepts known as comprehensive planning which made contributions that remain relevant to urban planning in North America today—for good and for bad. Due to his groundbreaking work he is often described as the father of North American city planning. His legacy in urbanist circles is mixed, however, as he pushed for widened streets and strict Euclidean zoning.

Bartholomew passed away in 1989, a few months after his 100th birthday.


First Zoning Ordinance 1916

American City Planning Institute 1917

Logo of the  American Planning Association The American City Planning Institute (ACPI) was the first organization for professional city planners in the United States. ACPI was founded during the Ninth National City Conference on City Planning held in Kansas City, May 7-9, 1917 to advance the science of city planning (although its roots can be traced to 1909 and the first National Conference on City Planning in Washington, D.C.) Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. was named first president

The institute under went a major reorganization and changed its name to the American Institute of Planners (AIP) in 1939 It joined with the American Society of Planning Officials (ASPO) in 1978 to form the American Planning Association (APA).

This American Institute of Planners was primarily concerned with public policy and legislation in city planning, and its influential opinion was sought regarding planning legislation at local, state and national levels. It also sough to define the nature of the profession of city planning through enforcing strict criteria for membership and developing guidelines for regarding various professional issues.

Today, the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), The American Planning Association’s professional and educational component, continues this role by certifying planners, providing continuing education, and promulgating a code of ethics. This is now the group that provides national certification for city planners through the combined qualifications of work experience, training and passing of a written exam.


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Yuri Artibise

Yuri Artibise is an experienced policy analyst, community engagement practitioner and social media specialist. I have a Master of Public Administration degree with over 10 years of public policy research, analysis, and advocacy experience.

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