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Keywords:

  • cultural diffusion;
  • Oregon;
  • place identity;
  • town planning;
  • urban morphology;
  • Willamette Valley

ABSTRACT. Wilbur Zelinsky's classic 1977 account of the Pennsylvania town as a cultural place type–the urban component of the nationally influential Pennsylvanian culture region–acknowledged that it was not exported intact across the successive western frontiers of the United States. But, aside from Edward Price's specialized study of courthouse squares, we know little that is systematic about how town-planning ideas diffused across the continent. This investigation offers evidence from the Willamette Valley in Oregon of the eventual variety and geographical distribution of town-platting conventions that developed in this Pacific Coast “destination’ setting and the possible provenance in the Ohio Valley of certain early Oregonian town-plan features. The evidence raises questions about the resilience of town-planning conventions in light of the distance carried, cultural time lags, and changing ideas about best practice and local suitability.