A Report on the Comprehensive City Plan for Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Echoes of the City Beautiful Movement
The Muscle Shoals Sound—and smell—of 1935 included those of furnaces smelting tin, copper, zinc and iron; stockyards and slaughterhouses; the manufacture of shoe polish and sauerkraut as well as the production of fertilizer and munitions-grade nitrate. The immense hydroelectric Wilson Dam provided the industries power and cast a shadow over the town.
Conditions in Muscle Shoals were grim during the Depression. The area had been denuded of its timber and its clay soils exhausted. During World War I, temporary shelters and production areas had been put up willy-nilly to speed the construction of fertilizer and munitions plants.
Wilson Dam would become the building block for the Tennessee Valley Authority; it promised flood control and electricity. Before this, when its construction was finished, it left many of its workers in the county unemployed.
Frank D. Jones, the author of this report, had a different vision of what Muscle Shoals could be. C.1935, Jones, an Engineer with the City Planning Commission of Knoxville, Tennessee, recognized the beauty of the setting and the river’s abundant resources:
An analysis of the community shows that it has gotten into a rather bad condition because of the fact that no official plan was followed and because of the lack of faith in its future…Business, industrial and residential properties have been platted indiscriminately…Development was haphazard, many streets and alleys narrow and unpaved, centralized services impossible.
Jones believed that Muscle Shoals would “undoubtedly become one of the main centers of development” in the northwest corner of Alabama. Jones retained the memory of the Tennessee River “as a natural highway from Alabama to Philadelphia.”
In keeping with the still resonant ideals of the City Beautiful Movement, Jones’ plan for Muscle Shoals put forth a vision of radial boulevards, naturalistic pleasure drives, linked parks, and beautifully designed public buildings. The report also recommended locating new play areas, community centers, and athletic fields near the various new schools that were also proposed in the plan.
The planning report laid out the details of street systems, subdivision, and zoning ordinances. A substantial section of the report covers the logic of the land subdivision and the proposed zoning ordinances. The zoning ordinances isolated but accommodated heavy industry, in keeping with the TVA’s mission to develop the regional economy. Soon Reynolds Metals, Union Carbide, American Cyanamid and Ford Motor located in this area.
Pencil and ink emendations and other annotations suggest the present copy of the report was a preliminary version or pre-publication edition. The cover is hand lettered, the text appears only on the rectos, and some spaces left blank in the typescript have been completed in pencil with various data points. There are no printed illustrations seen here though there are references to plate numbers, spaces for which are left blank. In two instances, pencil drawings or diagrams are drawn on the otherwise blank versos.
Planned or not, since the 1960s Muscle Shoals has been a rhythm and blues mecca, luring Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Boz Scaggs, Bob Dylan, and others to its recording studios.
Description: A Report on the Comprehensive City Plan for Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
[Knoxville, Tennessee. c.1935]. pp., carbon-copy typescript, with pencil emendations. 11 x 8½ inches. Quarter bound in heavy cardboard stock. Title in manuscript to front cover. Text on rectos only. Some emendations and corrections and other annotations. Paper-taped spine mostly perished; some binding soil; lower wrapper almost detached; all very clean and legible within.
Not on OCLC, and pre-1950, we locate only one 7pp. Muscle Shoals planning item.