Southern Landscapes in the City’s Shadow: Environmental Politics and Metropolitan Growth in Texas and Virginia, 1900-1990
Baker, Andrew C.
Boles, John B.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation explores the twentieth-century connections between city and countryside within the metropolitan South. Popular myths of suburbanization, reinforced by much of suburban historiography, envision a “crabgrass frontier” inexorably spreading suburbia into a static and defenseless countryside. This myth serves the ends of environmental, slow growth, and open space advocates. It does so, however, by obscuring the transformations, some imposed by the city and some endogenous to the countryside, that reshaped these rural landscapes into metropolitan hinterlands. Highways, airports, reservoirs, and early commuters bound these rural landscapes to the city before the arrival of suburban sprawl. This dissertation uses the histories of two southern metropolitan counties, one outside Houston, Texas, and the other in Northern Virginia, to examine the history of these rural counties as they simultaneously developed into metropolitan hinterlands and countryside, a reflection of urban conceptions of rural life. This project integrates rural, environmental, and agricultural history into the history of the metropolis in a way that calls urban historians to explore the city’s impact beyond suburbia and that challenges rural historians to allow these dynamic metropolitan rural areas to destabilize their larger narrative of a rural America left behind. Additionally, it examines the gentlemen farmers, historical preservationists, and nature-seeking suburbanites who abandoned the city to live in this countryside. These privileged white newcomers formed the vanguard of the anti-growth movement that defined metropolitan fringe politics across the nation. In the rural South, these activists obscured the troubling legacies of racism and rural poverty and celebrated a refashioned landscape whose historical and environmental authenticity served as an implicit critique of the alienation and ugliness of suburbia. Green pastures, historical preservation, horses, and white privilege defined this metropolitan fringe landscape. Using a source base that includes the records of preservation organizations and local, state, and federal government agencies, and oral histories, this project explores the distinct roots of the environmental politics and the shifting relationship between city and country within these southern metropolitan fringe regions.
Southern states; New South; Sunbelt; Flood control; Reservoir; More... Water supply; Dams; Lake Conroe (Tex.); Conroe; Seneca Dam; Riverbend Dam; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Metropolitan; Suburban; Suburbia; Sprawl; Environmentalism; Foxhunting; Equestrian sports; Woodlands (Tex.); Montgomery County (Tex.); Loudoun County (Va.); George Mitchell; Urban imperialism; Recreation; San Jacinto River Authority; San Jacinto River; Potomac River; United States Army Corps of Engineers; Dairy farming; Go Texan Day; Farmland preservation; Transferable development rights; Land use taxation; Rural zoning; Historical preservation; Waterford; Roy Harris; Piney woods; Piedmont Environmental Council, Middleburg, Virginia Less...