• conjoint construction;
  • nature-society relationships;
  • Syracuse;
  • New York;
  • terrain;
  • urban fringe


In an example of what William Freudenburg and his colleagues called the “conjoint construction” of nature and society, hills may represent either assets or liabilities for urban settlement, depending on the period and the activities involved. The relationships between terrain and land use in Syracuse, New York, since the late eighteenth century fall into three major eras. The initial phase, in which settlement largely shunned the lowlands, gave way in the 1820s to one in which canals and railroads stimulated development of the lowlands and in which most land uses, save those of the classic urban fringe, avoided the uplands. A new pattern appeared in the late nineteenth century with the arrival of the electric trolley and the automobile and with provision of a municipal water supply able to reach the city's high ground. Development since then has been consistent with Ernest Burgess's 1929 model of “the poor in the valleys, the well-to-do on the hillslopes, and the rich on the hilltops.”