Insuring the City

The Prudential Center and the Postwar Urban Landscape

Elihu Rubin

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An in-depth look at Boston's Prudential Center and what its story reveals about the evolution of the modern American city

The Prudential Center anchors the Boston skyline with its tall, gray tower. It is also a historical beacon, representing a midcentury moment when insurance companies such as Prudential were particularly aware of how their physical presence and civic engagement reflected upon their intangible product: financial security.

Looking to New York's Rockefeller Center, the creators of the Prudential Center aspired to use real estate development as a tool toward civic achievement, reinvigorating central Boston and integrating a large complex of buildings with new infrastructure for the automobile. Architectural historian Elihu Rubin tells the full story of "The Pru," placing it within the political, economic, and architectural contexts of the period. The Prudential Center played a pivotal role in the economic redevelopment of Boston and was arguably one of the most significant urban developments of the 1950s and '60s. It is an important story, and one that provides great insight into the evolution of the modern city in postwar America.

Elihu Rubin is an architectural historian, city planner, and documentary filmmaker. He is the Daniel Rose (’51) Visiting Assistant Professor of Urbanism at the Yale School of Architecture.

“More than the story of a single project, Insuring the City is a thoroughly engaging account of the evolving relationships between cities and suburbs, downtowns and midtowns, architecture and business, public policy and private interests, and development politics and visual culture.”—Lawrence J. Vale, MIT, author of Architecture, Power, and National Identity

“A very valuable book, one that will be essential reading for scholars concerned with the 20th-century city and its architecture.”—Richard Longstreth

“You don't have to be from Boston to admire Insuring the City. Elihu Rubin returns a long overlooked player--corporate America--to the story of urban renewal and reminds us in particular how crucial insurance companies were to the creation of the postindustrial city. This is a handsome and important book.”--Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

“Fascinating. . . . Rubin offers a surprisingly broad reinterpretation of urban renewal in the automobile age... treat[ing] corporate decision makers seriously as shapers of the postwar city."—Urban History Association

 Honorable Mention in the General Non-Fiction category at the 2012 New England Book Festival.
Winner of the 2013 Lewis Mumford Prize for the best book on American city and regional planning history published in the past two years - given by the Society for American City and Regional Planning History.
ISBN: 9780300170184
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
256 pages, 6 x 9
50 b/w illus.