The Vagabond – City of Gadsden’s first master plan


By Danny Crownover

In 1947, nine men were named by the Gadsden City Commission to plan and direct the future development of the fastest-growing small city in America for that time. The appointment of the board was authorized by a state law and a newly adopted city ordinance.

The goal was to encourage the city’s social and economic improvement in accordance with modern city planning principles and insure the orderly, efficient and economical arrangement and location of future public works.

It could not be named too soon, since Gadsden had been growing so fast during the 1940s that nobody had time to think of planning an orderly development. The result had been the confusion that always follows a lack of zoning and planning.

Additions and subdivisions had been created and mapped without reference to a harmonious whole, while streets, alleys, waterways, bridges, playgrounds, schools, public institutions and public buildings had been allowed to take haphazard arrangement, all because there was no planning or forethought.

This condition was nobody’s fault in particular. The city‘s growth was so sudden and so unexpected that the responsible officials had not been able to keep step. However, said officials hired competent engineers to make surveys, which then were turned over to the planning board with some valuable information and suggestions, thus enabling the board to get down to business as soon as it was named and organized.

The surveys were the basis for grouping public buildings, designing memorials or works of art, transportation facilities such as railroads, highways, bus lines, street lighting, street names, poles and wires. The board also possessed basic information for study of traffic congestion, fire safety measures, prevention of overcrowding on land and preservation of the natural beauty of the area.

The committee planned for promoting a coordinated development of unbuilt sections. In short, the committee planned the future of Gadsden. It was a big job, one that called for much time and study and for considerable understanding of the problems of the needs of a big, new city.

For the past 70-odd years, this first master plan served the City of Gadsden well. The Vagabond looks forward to seeing what new master plans are in store by new mayor Craig Ford.

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