This is a fascinating book that shifts perception of Oglethorpe's Savannah plan dramatically from that of a beautiful but essentially limited example of utopian design to an urban model fully representative of mainstream eighteenth-century intellectual thought. -Jack Williams, Professor Emeritus, Auburn University, author of East 40 Degrees (Virginia) Thomas Wilson brings a fresh perspective on the planning accomplishments of James Oglethorpe, situating Savannah's famous urban plan within the broader framework of Enlightenment philosophy, social reform, religious philanthropy, and agrarian idealism. His study challenges accepted notions of Oglethorpe's intentions and makes a compelling case for understanding the urban plan of Savannah as part of an integrated system of land use planning. This book will be a valuable resource to anyone interested in the history and planning of American cities. -Robin Williams, Savannah College of Art and Design Wilson is deeply familiar with Savannah.... His] detailing of this history is serious but accessible, not stuffy or academic. It's a fascinating tour of the potential, and the limits, of design. -Landscape Architecture Magazine To make the familiar unfamiliar is one of the most powerful acts of a historian and Wilson does this. His carefully researched story describes both Oglethorpe's contribution to the Enlightenment and the rich intellec- tual context for both the idea's initial generation and its manifestation in Georgia. Wilson successfully chal- lenges the "static portrayal of Oglethorpe's role in his- tory " and is able to persuasively argue for his contribu- tions to "social reform, political theory, and town plan- ning" (p. 1).The description of Oglethorpe's efforts to create social equity through physical design remains rel- evant today. In addition, Wilson's careful analysis points to a frequent misrepresentation of the plan as infinitely expandable, demonstrating instead that there is an ideal scale at which the plan as a whole is optimal. -Thaisa WayH-Environment Wilson considers this philosophy, the present-day physical ambience of Savannah (with 18th-century urban design filled in with 19th-century architecture protected by 20th-century historic preservation districts), and its implications. What can it say to planners today?... Wilson handles both the history and the planning issues with delicacy and precision. Don't miss this treat. -Planning Magazine The Oglethorpe Plan: Enlightenment Design in Savannah and Beyond fills a gap in Georgia colonial history, carving out a place for a contextual history that brings the influence of Oglethorpe, Georgia, and Savannah to the present day through the premise that social change can be rooted in urban design. -Georgia Library Quarterly Wilson's insightful analysis opens new avenues of study regarding the implications of Oglethorpe's timeless design of Savannah, both in its historical context and for current urban planning. -Georgia Historical Quarterly.
Thomas D. Wilson, AICP, is a town planning consultant in South Carolina. He previously served as director of comprehensive planning in Savannah, as planning director for Beaufort County, South Carolina, and as a planning official and research analyst in Miami, Key West, and Philadelphia.