A Nice Place to Visit

Description from Temple University Press:

How did tourism gain a central role in the postwar American Rustbelt city? And how did tourism development reshape the meaning and function of these cities? These are the questions at the heart of Aaron Cowan’s groundbreaking book, A Nice Place to Visit.

Cowan provides an insightful, comparative look at the historical development of Cincinnati, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore in the post-World War II period to show how urban tourism provided a potential solution to the economic woes of deindustrialization. A Nice Place to Visit chronicles the visions of urban leaders who planned hotels, convention centers, stadiums, and festival marketplaces to remake these cities as tourist destinations. Cowan also addresses the ever-present tensions between tourist development and the needs and demands of residents in urban communities.

A Nice Place to Visit charts how these Rustbelt cities adapted to urban decline and struggled to meet the challenge of becoming an appealing place to visit, as well as good and just communities in which to live.

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“Cowan, in clear prose, details the transformation of American cities into tourism-oriented meccas. Through exhaustive research in periodicals, business journals, municipal records, and manuscript collections, he recounts the actions of political and business leaders as well as the reaction of poor blacks, those most often affected by urban renewal schemes. He thereby illustrates the postwar redesign of the urban landscape. He also notes the unintended outcomes of tourism development, as when Harborplace became Baltimore’s hip-hop epicenter during the 1980s. Cowan’s analysis is balanced, exposing the positives and negatives of the ‘good community’ sought by tourism boosters. This book is more than a tale of four cities; it is a compelling story of modern America.” —American Historical Review

“Today, tourism is a key component of every city’s strategic plan, polished and perfected through a combination of sophisticated messaging and an array of curated attractions. In A Nice Place to Visit Aaron Cowan expertly probes the postwar roots of this trend by analyzing early efforts in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis to deploy tourist-oriented development as a tool for reversing long-standing patterns of aesthetic and economic decline…. Far from a simple narrative of rebranding and redevelopment, Cowan’s analysis delves deeply into the specific geographical, economic, and political circumstances behind each city’s chosen course of action. Each case study also successfully illuminates broader cultural developments affecting communities nationwide.” The Journal of American History