The City Beautiful Movement

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The City Beautiful Movement was a Progressive-era reform effort by various architects and landscape architects to address the issues that had developed in many of America’s industrial centers by the turn of the 20th Century. This Movement came and went fairly quickly in the City of Charlottesville in a span of roughly 5 years – from 1919 to 1924.

Local Influence

Paul Goodloe McIntire is acknowledged as one of the great benefactors of the City of Charlottesville, the County of Albemarle during the late City Beautiful movement from 19191924. During the 1920's he used his wealth to beautify his native city with parks and fine sculpture, to expand cultural experiences for his fellow citizens, and to broaden educational offerings for students in public schools and at the University. [1] The motivations for his gifts and what they represent are topics of debate today.[2]

In May of 1921, the Chamber of Commerce printed and offered a free copy of their folder “HOW TO BEAUTIFY THE HOME GROUNDS…for the information of those who may desire detailed, practical suggestions as to how to beautify the grounds about their homes…tells how to plant seeds and shrubs, and contains a list of flowers and plants best suited to the climate of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.” [3]

National Influence

The City Beautiful Movement was the result of decades of prior work that was done by the previous generation of architects and landscape architects in both the United States and in Europe. [4] The American urban-planning movement led by architects, landscape architects, and reformers, flourished between the 1890s and the 1920s. The idea of organized comprehensive urban planning arose in the United States from the City Beautiful movement, which claimed that design could not be separated from social issues and should encourage civic pride and engagement. Its influence was most prominent in cities such as Cleveland, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. The movement first gained ground in 1893 with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. [5] While expressions of City Beautiful appeared nationwide in large cities, smaller cities such as Charlottesville were also shaped by the movement. In the late nineteenth century through the 1920's the region’s urban areas were graced with new civic spaces and associated monumental buildings designed to improve in public consciousness the very idea of the city.

Subsidiary Consequences

Proponents of the movement advocated for sizable public investments in monumental public spaces, street beautification, and classical architecture, with an emphasis on aesthetic and recreational values.

The city beautiful movement, which in the early 20th Century advocated city beautification as a way to improve the living conditions and civic virtues of the urban dweller, had languished by the Great Depression. Local government investments in new public recreational areas were associated with increased city attractiveness. In contrast to the generally declining trends in the American central city, neighborhoods that were close to “central recreational districts” have experienced economic growth. Researchers in the fields of labor economics have offered discussions concluding that the “Beautiful cities” disproportionally attracted highly educated individuals and experienced faster housing price appreciation, especially in supply-inelastic housing markets. Rents, incomes, and educational attainment increased faster in such “beautiful neighborhoods,” but at the cost of minority displacement. [6]

The National Sculpture Society and the City Beautiful Movement

The City Beautiful Movement led to the creation of numerous art societies seeking to obtain legislative means for aesthetic regulation in Virginia. "It is self evident that our public monuments should give some adequate idea of history, both local and national", wrote National Sculpture Society (NSS) member Henry Kirke Bush-Brown in 1899. Brown and others believed that figurative sculptures of great men and events would serve to "supplement the study of books in our schools and form a part of our educational methods." But with little or no government funds available for the purpose of erecting such expensive inspirational works, the production of most public sculpture depended on private initiatives.[7] For the city of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia, the initiative came from Paul Goodloe Mclntire, a Charlottesville native who became a highly successful financier and used a large portion of his wealth to benefit the greater Charlottesville community. [8] McIntire was one of the first philanthropists to attempt to embellish his city by commissioning the construction of statues.[9]


  1. Web. Paul Goodloe McIntire, retrieved May 7, 2018.
  2. Web. Facing the legacy of Paul Goodloe McIntire
  4. Web. From Paris to New York: Towards a City Beautiful, retrieved May 7, 2018.
  5. Web. City Beautiful movement: urban planning, retrieved May 6, 2018.
  6. Carlino, Gerald A. and Saiz, Albert, Beautiful City: Leisure Amenities and Urban Growth (December 6, 2008). FRB of Philadelphia Working Paper No. 08-22. Available at SSRN: or Posted: 07 Oct 2008, Last Revised: 13 Sep 2014.
  7. Bogart, Michele H., Public Sculpture and the Civic ldeal in New York City, 1890-1930, 1989,Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press, p.82.
  8. {{|url=}}
  9. Web. Facing the legacy of Paul Goodloe McIntire, retrieved May 7, 2018.

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