Barnum’s Bridgeport and Steinway’s Queens
This chapter examines the accomplishments of the famous showman P.T. Barnum and the piano maker William Steinway, two private citizens who invested in urban growth and city planning in greater New York’s coastal environs. Arriving in Bridgeport, Connecticut, at midcentury, Barnum proclaimed himself the city’s greatest benefactor and initiated a personal planning agenda to balance residential, park, and industrial land use. Under Barnum’s attention, Bridgeport became an important satellite city of New York City. Steinway established a company town on the upper East River in the 1870s to expand production and isolate workers from labor unrest, and in turn, initiated urbanization in northwestern Queens. Steinway represented the powerful interests of real estate and industry of the city center, but he also looked beyond Manhattan to embrace a metropolitan-level point of view. Blurring public service and private interest, Steinway built a reputation as an industrialist, benefactor, and proponent for a regional New York. In both Bridgeport and the Steinway Settlement, political boundaries mattered less than the networks of manufacturing, transit, shipping, and finance that knit Manhattan, its peripheral ring of industrial sites, and satellite cities into a regional entity.
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