“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

Great American Cities
Monday, September 14, 2009

After dropping our daughter off at college in central Ohio, my wife and I headed for Pittsburgh for a weekend. We'd never been, and we were heartily impressed. We decided that it was truly a great American city.

Which lead to this discussion: What makes a city a truly Great American City? What traits must it have? This is the list we came up with:

1. Must be home to several Fortune 500 companies, and some of these MUST actually manufacture something in that city.
2. Must have large public buildings with huge columns (museums, libraries, etc.) and some of these buildings MUST be topped by large bronze sculptures.
3. Must still have a vibrant downtown with a defined financial district/community.
4. Must have interesting, self-contained ethnic neighborhoods.
5. Must have some things that can only be found in that city, or they must have originated in that city: (Philly's cheesesteak sandwich, Cincinnati's chili, Atlanta's whole "Peachtree" thing, etc.)
6. Must have a metro area of at least 3 million.
7. Must have a deep, significant history with tentacles that reach into the rest of the country's history.
8. Must have large urban parks populated with pedestrians. (Now say THAT three times real fast!)

And our list:
1. Boston
2. Philadelphia
3. New York City
4. Chicago
5. Pittsburgh
6. Seattle
7. San Francisco
8. Atlanta (barely)

L.A. is too spread out, there's no core. Houston? Not old enough, and it's too spread out with no vibrant urban core. Minneapolis and Dallas come close, but neighboring twin cities sap strength from their case. St. Louis USED to be a great American city. Miami? It's not American anymore. We originally included D.C., but my brother correctly pointed out there is no central downtown, and they don't manufacture anything there. Lots of big buildings with bronze sculptures, however.

So ... am I leaving any out?
Agree? Disagree?


Blogger geeky Heather said...

Yeah, we don't have big bronze monuments on top of a lot of columns in the ATL, but our capital dome *is* covered in real GOLD. =)

September 14, 2009 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Ad Hudler said...

Yeah, that darned Sherman guy burned all those big buildings down....that rascal.

September 14, 2009 at 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why for that 3 million designation?
Denver fits the bill on a lot of these, but definitely falls short. Although, Geeky, we have gold on our capitol dome too! So there! And you forgot major sports franchises, Ad. Although you don't see things that way, many others
do. :)

September 15, 2009 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Ad Hudler said...

Yes, Anon, you are right: I forgot about sports franchises. I think every Great American City should have at least two major-league teams.

September 15, 2009 at 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Dee said...

Every great city needs one television evangelist with a huge following. Here in Atlanta, we have several, my personal favorite being Creflo Dollar [cough cough]. No Jesus TV Star, no Great City designation.

I started to say if there's no Varsity, it can't be a great city, but that only applies to Atlanta... ;-)

September 16, 2009 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Lori Buck said...

What about the Athens of the South, Nashville. We don't have 3 million, more like one, and we don't really have ethnic neighborhoods (although we do have the largest Kurdish population in the U.S.), and I can't think of a bronze statue on top of a building, but we do have the Parthenon for goodness sakes. And we are Music City USA. Nashville's a great town. Oops, maybe that's the problem. It feels more like a town than a city, which suits me just fine...

September 16, 2009 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Ad Hudler said...

Dee: Love the Varsity. Whenever I eat there I can hear my capillaries slamming shut.

Lori: Nashville is very cool. I like the batman building in the downtown skyline.

September 16, 2009 at 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

Richmond, Virginia. It meets almost all of your qualifications, though i can't be sure of the population. We lived there for only 2 years and I'd move back in a heartbeat... wonderful city.

September 21, 2009 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


September 24, 2009 at 7:26 PM  

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