Cover for Easy On, Easy Off
Easy On, Easy Off
The Urban Pathology of America's Small Towns
Jack Williams

John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize - United States, (2016)

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Life outside our nation’s big cities comprises a remarkably rich aspect of America—culturally, historically, and physically. Because of the way we move through the country, however—on roads built for maximum expediency—most of us are rarely if ever exposed to these small communities, a trend that is moving these towns dangerously far off the maps of commerce and public consciousness.

In Easy On, Easy Off, Jack Williams takes to the roads of the interstate highway system to explore America’s small towns, bringing back diverse examples of both beautiful and neglected places that illustrate how shifts in modern transportation have influenced urban form. Most of these communities are little known beyond their discrete regions, yet their struggles to prosper are universal. Mill towns, county-seat court squares, villages of the Great Plains, mining towns, and California's forgotten Chinese settlements all share similar fates—overshadowed by interstate off-ramp towns and bypassed by high-speed traffic.

Employing more than 150 historic maps and images, unique drawings, and contemporary photographs, Williams convincingly argues that irreversible changes have overtaken the landscapes of small-town America, with each community’s economic and social vitality slowly shifting away to other commercial places that attach to our highway interchanges and extrude into strip malls. A tale of success perhaps for the highway system, the more urgent story relayed in Easy On, Easy Off is of the loss of the complex fabric of thousands of small towns that once defined this nation.

Preparation of this volume has been supported by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund

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