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Grant number: FT-60896-13

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Joanna Rachel Merwood-Salisbury
New School (New York, NY 10011-8871)

The History of Union Square as a Democratic Public Space

This project investigates the history of Union Square in New York City as both a geographic location with real formal characteristics and as a symbol of competing ideas about the operation of democracy in the United States. Union Square occupies a distinctive position within the history of modern cities and of urban design as a public space set aside in the 19th century for the sanctioned exercise of democracy. During the Civil War its original purpose as the quiet centerpiece of suburban enclave was overturned as it was increasingly used for mass meetings and celebrations. In the following years it became the locus for all kinds of public gatherings from labor marches (including the first Labor Day parade in 1882), to gatherings of the unemployed during the Depression, and anti-war demonstrations throughout the last century. This project situates Union Square as a case study of urban design that fosters and tests the freedoms of speech and assembly guaranteed in the Constitution.

Project fields:
Urban Studies

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2013 – 7/31/2013