New Towns for OldNew Towns for Old

John Nolen

Reprint of 1927 edition, with a new introduction by Charles D. Warren

ASLA Centennial Reprint Series

Published by University of Massachusetts Press in association with LALH

Cloth $34.95

ISBN: 978-1-55849-480-0
To order: University of Massachusetts Press 
tel. 800-537-5487, fax 410-516-6998


John Nolen (1869-1937) was a pioneer in the development of professional town and city planning in the United States. Nolen’s comprehensive approach merged the social, economic, and physical aspects of planning while emphasizing, in the author’s words, “versatility, special knowledge, and cooperation.” Between 1905 and 1937, Nolen’s firm, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, completed more than 350 commissions throughout the United States. Among the best known of these is Mariemont, Ohio, whose development Nolen directed from the ground up.

Rare and long out of print, New Towns for Old (1927) is still of great interest to planners and urban historians. The well-illustrated study contains an overview of the development of American urbanism and a concise discussion of Nolen’s ideas for the improvement of towns and cities. Individual chapters examine a variety of towns planned by Nolen including Mariemont, Ohio; Kingsport, Tennessee; and Kistler, Pennsylvania, as well as the new suburbs of Union Park Gardens in Wilmington, Delaware, and Myers Park in Charlotte, North Carolina. The re-planned towns of Cohasset and Walpole, Massachusetts, are also featured. The forward-looking final chapter includes material on Venice, Florida, one of Nolen’s most ambitious projects.

The new edition of New Towns for Old contains additional plans and illustrations, a new index, and a new introductory essay by Charles D. Warren, which presents biographical and historical context that illuminates the diverse, productive career of this nationally significant practitioner. Perhaps most significantly, it features Nolen’s project list, which has never before been published.

“Nolen . . . sought to realize the dreams and eliminate the nightmares he saw woven into the fabric of American cities, towns, and villages,” writes Warren in his introduction. “His idea of reform was pragmatic, accommodating plans to realities without losing sight of temporarily elusive ideals. His successes and failures are recorded in the landscapes and the cityscapes he left behind.”

“Early in the last century, John Nolen planned model towns, garden suburbs, and industrial cities, whose refinement and design excellence remain impressive to this day. In New Towns for Old, Nolen explained how it was done. Thoughtful, wise, and still inspirational.—Witold Rybczynski

“Warren, a New York City based architect, provides incredible insights into the evolution of Nolen’s career. . . .We would all benefit from reading this book, especially to brush up on the planning techniques and to realize Nolen’s achievements in civic improvement.”—New Urban Review

CHARLES D. WARREN, an architect and author. He is also a coauthor of Carrere & Hastings, Architects (Acanthus Press, 2006) and the introduction to The Architecture of Charles A. Platt (Acanthus Reprint Series, 1998). Warren has taught design at the University of Michigan and the Institute for Classical Architecture, and in 1990-91 he was the town architect in Seaside, Florida.

Download the Introduction

"It is good to have Nolen’s famous little book in print again, especially with Charles Warren’s introduction bringing it to life. It is now clear that Nolen is a once and future American hero.”
—Andres Duany