During the Second French Empire, Napoleon III forever changed the face of Paris, when he commissioned Baron Haussmann’s transformation of Paris. However, his ambitious foreign policy also had a subtle influence on urban planning in North America. During the Second French Empire, Napoleon sought to reestablish French influence in North America. France had not held power in the New World since Napoleon I sold the territory of Louisiana to the United States in 1803. One aspect of the Emperor’s plan for expanding France’s sphere of influence involved re-instituting a monarchical form of government in Mexico. In late 1861, with the United States embroiled in a civil war, Napoleon invaded Mexico after its government announced that it would no longer be able to pay its foreign debt. France invasion was initially supported by Mexico’s other major creditors, Britain and Spain, but they withdrew once made aware of Napoleon’s plans to turn Mexico into a French satellite state. By 1863 the French army had taken the capital forcing Mexican President Juarez and his cabinet to flee north where they would maintain a government of exile until after the defeat of monarchist forces in 1867.
Once the French had wrest control of the majority of Mexico, conservatives and other members of the Mexican nobility soon offered the Mexican crown to Austrian grand duke Maximilian Ferdinand. Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico and his wife Empress Carlota arrived in 1864 and took up residence at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City with the understanding that they would continue to be supported by the occupying French troops. The couple’s stay at the castle was brief, the Second Mexican Empire only existed for approximately three years, but during this time Maximilian had the castle remodeled in the neoclassical style that was first made popular in France during the reign of Napoleon I. Mexico’s Emperor even paid homage to the younger Bonaparte with his construction of a straight wide boulevard, modelled after the Champs-Elysees, which stretches from Chapultepec Castle to the National Palace at the centre of Mexico City. Maximilian named it for his Empress (Promenade of the Empress), but when the defeat of his Empire resulted in his death the street was renamed Paseo de la Reforma (Promenade of the Reform War). Today the boulevard is the location of many of Mexico City’s monuments including one which houses the tombs of some of the key figures in Mexico’s War of Independence, as well as, another that houses the remains of heroes of the Mexican Revolution.
The topic for this semester’s term paper is Ebenezer Howard’s garden city movement and how his concepts have influenced urban planners over the past century. I had hoped to write a paper on how planners had intended to monetize early development of the Okanagan Valley, but time constraints and the difficulty associated with using primary sources led to a change in subject matter. However, I would like to still be able to add a little local flavour to my research paper, which is why I’ve continued some of the research into the early planning done in the Okanagan Valley. During this research it came to my attention that one of the driving forces behind early development in the valley was a gentleman from Inverness Scotland named George Grant MacKay.
During the late 1880s, while Ebenezer Howard sought inspiration for his garden city movement in the works of Howard Bellamy and Henry George, another man was also drawn to North America and its abundance of farmland (Howard briefly farmed in Nebraska during the 1870s before returning to England). However, unlike Howard, George Grant MacKay did not concern himself with social issues, such as, the uncontrolled growth of European cities and its resultant urban sprawl. Mackay was a real estate developer and land speculator that learnt of British Columbia’s burgeoning agricultural industry and its potential for development while visiting a Glasgow exhibition. After relocating his family to Vancouver, he founded a real estate company that purchased and then subdivided a large tract of land in North Vancouver. MacKay’s next investment was in the Okanagan Valley. MacKay formed the Okanagan Land and Development Company in 1890. He and a small group of investors began purchasing ranch properties in the Kelowna and Vernon area, which they then subdivided into fruit farming properties and town sites. These properties where then marketed to prospective farmers in British Columbia, as well as, in the United Kingdom. Some of my research suggests that Mackay may have been the first to recognize the developmental potential of the valley. Thereby, making him at least partially responsible for its fruit growing industry.
Ebenezer Howard and George MacKay appear to have few characteristics in common. They might even be considered polar opposites. Howard, the avid social reformist, and Mackay, the profit driven capitalist. However, the two men are not entirely dissimilar. They were both men of vision that knew how to use their connections to help accomplish their goals. Each man founded an organization that were responsible for the planning and creation of town sites. Finally, Howard and MacKay both embraced technology as one of the means by which their plans could be brought to fruition.
Baron Georges Haussmann is one of the most influential urban planners of the 19th century. During the reign of Napoleon III, Haussmann transformed Paris from a disorganized medieval city to a modern legible city that was the envy of Europe. Many of Haussmann’s improvements in Paris were designed to protect his Emperor’s capital from rebellion. He also wanted to satisfy wealthy industrialists that sought to improve trade by better connecting Paris with the railway and thereby other of France’s industrial centres. The Baron accomplished this feat by entirely reorganizing the city’s medieval system of highways, both, within the city, as well as, those leading into and out of Paris. In terms of security, many of the complaints that had been leveled by the police and military were solved firstly by removing the slums and secondly by widening or removing many of Paris’s narrow streets. The wider streets facilitating the use of cavalry and artillery in case Parisians once again chose to riot in the streets of their city.
In spite of the fact that the majority of Haussmann’s plans for the redevelopment of Paris were designed to allow the rapid movement of men and materials around the city of Paris, its citizens were not forgotten and those who were not displaced by the changes made to the city, enjoyed improvements in sewer and drainage systems. When Napoleon was forced to dismiss Haussmann from his post in January of 1870, he had been Prefect of the Seine for seventeen years. Always the cunning and ruthless politician, it seems that Haussmann had simply made too many enemies for the Emperor to continue to protect him.