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Main Street

How a City's Heart Connects Us All

Traverses the central thoroughfares of our cities to uncover the ways they bring together our communities

How do Main Streets contribute to our mental health? This intriguing question took social psychiatrist Mindy Thompson Fullilove on an 11-year search through 178 cities in 14 countries. As Andy Merrifield notes in the foreword, “Mindy has drifted through a lot of Main Streets, walked them, observed, talked to people, ordinary people as well as professional practitioners.

While she got to pace many miles of New York’s Broadway, eat French patisseries as a flâneuse in Gay Paree, sip çay in Istanbul, and chill in Kyoto’s dazzling Zen temples, her real concern is Main Street, USA, the more modest main stems of provincial America.” From these visits Fullilove has discerned the larger architecture of Main Streets. She observes the ways that Main Streets are shaped for a vast array of social gatherings and processes, how they are a marker for the integrity of civilization―and the marks aren’t always good. She also looks at Main Streets as “an allée, a way that is part drama and part quotidian. While passing through, we get to look at one another, to sing, to recognize what we are, have been, might be.” Her conclusion, that Main Streets are essential for gathering people and sharing information, emphasizes that tending our oft-neglected civic and commercial centers is a task worthy of us all.

Fullilove, MT. Main Street: How A Cities Heart Connects Us All, New Village Press, 2020. Foreword by Andy Merrifield. Distributed by NYU Press.