Building the Ivory Tower Universities and Metropolitan Development in the Twentieth Century

LaDale C. Winling

Today, universities serve as the economic engines and cultural centers of many U.S. cities, but how did this come to be? In Building the Ivory Tower, LaDale Winling traces the history of universities’ relationship to the American city, illuminating how they embraced their role as urban developers throughout the twentieth century and what this legacy means for contemporary higher education and urban policy.

In the twentieth century, the federal government funded growth and redevelopment at American universities, enabling the universities to implement new visions for campus space and urban life. However, this growth often put these institutions in tension with surrounding communities, intensifying social and economic inequality, and advancing knowledge at the expense of neighbors.

Winling uses a series of case studies from the Progressive Era to the present day and covers institutions across the country, from state schools to the Ivy League. He explores how university builders and administrators worked in concert with a variety of interests—including the business community, philanthropists, and all levels of government—to achieve their development goals. Even as concerned citizens and grassroots organizers attempted to influence this process, university builders tapped into the full range of policy and economic tools to push forward their vision. Block by block, road by road, building by building, they constructed carefully managed urban institutions whose economic and political power endures to this day.

Winling cover


  • $39.95 cloth, 978-0-812-24968-2
  • $39.95 ebook, 978-0-812-29454-5
  • 264 pages
  • 46 illus., 6 x 9 in.

about the author

LaDale Winling is an assistant professor of history at Virginia Tech. His specialties are U.S. urban history, digital history, and public history.

His digital project examining the Home Owners' Loan Corporation and redlining, Mapping Inequality, was released in the Fall of 2016 in collaboration with scholars at the University of Richmond, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland.

Winling is currently researching a book on real estate and finance in 1930s Chicago, and developing two digital projects on political history. This site is the successor to If you are interested in HOLC redlining, please see this page and visit the Mapping Inequality site.