Bradford Peck

The World a Department Store (Lewiston, Maine: Bradford Peck, 1900): 25-28, 49-50.

According to the introduction to Peck's book written by the Rev. Charles E. Lund, Peck was president of the B. Peck Co. in Lewiston, Maine. This, Lund said, was "the largest department store in New England, outside of Boston." Peck also had an interest in a mid-western dry goods business as vice-president of the Joliet Dry Goods Co. in Illinois. In all, wrote Lund, Peck had thirty-five years as a "practical business man" and could not be dismissed as a mere "visionist." Indeed, at the end of his curiously-titled work, Peck includes the following solicitation for funds: "The reader is invited to assist in the formation of the Treasury Department, the centre of the organization, and we solicit funds that will enable us to perfect the enterprise, advertise it, and promote its growth." Although cast in the then familiar form of a futuristic utopian romance, Peck offered his readers a glimpse of what he believed to be a realistic future if the economic system could be recast as a giant cooperative enterprise.

Peck set his utopian novel in Lewiston. There in 1900 his protagonist, Percy Brantford, took a double dose of a sleeping powder that put him in a coma for twenty-five years. On his awakening in 1925 he found his native city transformed under a system of cooperative enterprise that had replaced the capitalistic system with which he was familiar. Brantford gradually learns about this new society, including the new and improved urban environment that had been achieved. The book illustrates this with ten line drawings of important buildings in the new Lewiston, illustrations prepared by Harry C. Wilkinson. Peck includes a detailed plan of a typical city block with sites for eight apartment buildings. Perhaps of greatest interest is the city plan. This consists of two grids of streets. The more closely spaced and numerous form square blocks. The other grid with streets spaced the equivalent of four of the normal blocks is superimposed at 45 degrees. At regular intervals Peck inserted parks and public squares.

In the first passage below, Percy Brantford records his impressions of the apartments that he saw from his window. In the second, he and Helen Brown have a brief dialog-- first about the beauty of streets and later about a kind of financial zoning of neighborhoods.

For the benefit of our readers we give an outline, together with an illustration, showing how the...apartments were constructed. The map of the city, as you will notice, shows the avenues crossing diagonally, forming triangular sections at certain intersections, the avenues being of extra width. The ordinary city blocks cover about four hundred feet,and, as you will notice in the sketch, the apartment buildings are erected with the idea of having every room open to the light of day.

Mr. Brantford, looking out of his parlor windows, was aesthetically impressed with the view before him. The parkway laid out between his apartments and the buildings facing them recalled to his mind how, in the larger cities, apartment houses were built in long, continuous blocks which rendered it impossible for the inmates to enjoy but a most limited amount of daylight and pure air. Here these old-time back yards, so familiar to him, were transformed into a regular system of parkways, showing that the same care had been observed in their arrangement as was manifested in the laying out of the streets and avenues, and it seemed as if Paradise dawned before him. In the summer time the entire range of these parkways presented a view of glorious magnificence, besides filling the air with fragrance arising from the vast collections of flowers and shrubs so artistically arranged. As he continued to gaze on the heavenly arrangement before him, he recalled to mind what he had seen while riding along the streets of New York, Boston, and other great cities,--these back yards and alleyways, used for the express purpose of dumping ashes, old cans, and rubbish of all sorts, then again, there.came to his mind the thought of seeing, hanging in haphazard fashion, lines operated with pulleys, on which were hung the family washings, consisting of a collection of colors and forms calculated to give people as they passed a nightmare.... "What a contrast! Like coming from hell into heaven," said Mr. Brantford to himself. He still looked and continued to think of these wonderfully improved conditions.

Turning his eyes towards the magnificent apartment structures, he noticed that the park fronts were just as beautiful as those facing the streets and avenues. the park fronts of the buildings were constructed in a slightly different style of architecture than the fronts facing the streets and avenues. He was charmed with the harmony existing in the construction of these buildings, revealing the artistic abilities of the architects and builders in their every line. He noticed that each building had a frontage of from forty-five to fifty feet, allowing of two suites of apartments on each side of the continuous hallway, that opened from both fronts, so that occupants could enter from either the parkway or street side, while between each of the structures was twenty-five feet of beautiful green lawn, which admitted to every room ventilation and light. All buildings contained numerous bow windows for the purpose of letting in all the sunlight possible. These apartment houses were constructed with three stories and basement....

"How beautiful your buildings are, and how finely your streets and avenues are laid out!" said Mr. Brantford.

"Yes," said Miss Brown, "they are beautiful, though as a child I can recall when they were very different. You see, Mr. Brantford, this is the result of a perfect coöperative system. Our streets and highways, together with the system of parks, are in charge of the most skillful men our organization can procure. they are fitted for their positions...."

Our friends were now riding through the residential districts. Mr. Brantford was impressed with the magnificence of the buildings and grounds. These are individual homes owned by the members. Any one desiring to procure a house of his own, by application to the real estate department and board of architects can select a location, and such a house will be erected as his station in life and means allow. "You will notice, Mr. Brantford, that on some streets the residential structures denote greater cost than in other localities. the general plan of the Coöperative Association is to so construct all buildings that they shall harmonize one with the other. People desiring to purchase a house must state the amount of money they wish to invest, then they are shown locations where such a buildings can be erected." 

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: jwr2@cornell.edu 
To Top of Page
To Homepage