A Path for Kindred Spirits:The Friendship of Clarence Stein and Benton MacKaye

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Throughout history friendships between great thinkers have provided the basis for philosophical exchange. Such was the case with Clarence Stein and Benton MacKaye, conservationists and architects, who in the early twentieth century found their shared inspiration in nature. Despite diverse backgrounds, Stein and MacKaye's belief that the betterment of society lay in its connection to the natural world fueled their dialogue and resulted in their most ambitious projects--MacKaye's plan for the Appalachian Trail and Stein's plan for Radburn, New Jersey. In Radburn, Stein and fellow architect Henry Wright used "superblocks" and cul-de-sacs to create a personal, self-contained community in the midst of a larger, impersonal city setting. Similarly, MacKaye's Appalachian Trail allows people to easily access nature, blurring the line between the industrialized and natural worlds.Robert L. McCullough offers a detailed account of Stein and MacKaye's personal struggles and public triumphs during several tumultuous decades in American history that encompassed both the Depression and World War II. Using numerous primary resources, including MacKaye's hand-drawn maps of the American countryside and the pair's affectionate letters to each other, McCullough demonstrates Stein and MacKaye's painstaking commitment to their professional careers and their friendship. Arguing that their work would be not as well-rounded--or as well-received--if Stein and MacKaye had not supported and encouraged each other's respective projects, McCullough solidifies their legacy not only as great American visionaries, but also as caring friends.
Publication Date: 
July 15, 2012