St. Anthony, 1857, now East Minneapolis, on east side of river. Minneapolis itself originated as an overflow from St. Anthony, the starting point being determined by the bridge resting on the islands shown.
Turning to the various types of buildings occupied, we note that buildings are frequently spoken of when it is the utility carried on within them which is meant. That it is utilities and not mere buildings which are influential should be strongly emphasized, since the view is commonly held that buildings create value in land, so that where expensive buildings are erected the land will be expensive, and where cheap buildings are erected the land will be cheap. It is easy to disprove such a superficial view by noting misplaced buildings, such as a business building in a residence section, a residence in a business section, or an expensive residence or business building in the midst of cheap ones, which, even though occupied, probably do not yield enough to pay taxes. Also the buildings of an entire section may by no means evidence the value of the land, as note the handsome residences on the upper west side of New York on cheap land by contrast with the old brownstone residences on the costly land near Fifth Avenue; or witness any declining business section from which the tenants are removing, so that values are falling, although good buildings remain. Nevertheless, it is true that the quickest method of arriving at an approximate estimate of the value of land is by looking at the buildings by which it is covered, for in general, buildings are properly located. To say, however, that buildings create land values is to reverse the truth, buildings being the servants of the land and of value only as they fulfil its needs.
Los Angeles in 1857. A Mexican city which has disappeared under American rebuilding.
Chattanooga, 1863. Population chiefly soldiers. Market Street from 5th to 8th Streets, shown in center of picture (even then the principal street).
The continual readjustments in the life of a city reflecting the total social relations of its inhabitants, lead to the concept of a city as a living organism. That such a concept is popularly held is shown by the common phrases, the "heart" of the city, to represent the business centre, the "arteries" of traffic to represent the streets, the 'lungs" of the city to represent the parks, and to carry the simile further the railroad depots and wharves may be called the mouths through which the city is fed, the telephone and telegraph lines its nervous system, while man in his residence has been likened by Spencer to a particle of protoplasm surrounding itself with a cell.
One fruitful source of error in studying land values is to regard the problem as involving only a point of time instead of a period of time. Any valuation based on present facts alone is incomplete, consideration of past influences and future prospects being vitally necessary. The life of value in land, whether the unit taken is a city, a section of a city, or a single lot, bears a close analogy to all other life in being normally characterized by a small beginning, gradual growth and increased strength, up to a point of maximum power, after the attainment of which comes a longer or shorter decline to a final disappearance. Thus all value in city land undergoes a continuous evolution from a state of non-existence through a cycle of changes, to a final dissolution, or to a new birth, when the process is repeated on the same land. One more qualification should be made limiting the working of economic laws, viz., the individual factor, which may create or destroy cities, sections within cities, or individual properties within sections. A striking uniformity exists, however, in the obedience of individuals to economic laws, self-interest being a compelling factor, so that individual sections, especially on the negative or destructive side, may be classed as exceptions.
Underneath all economic laws, the final basis of human action is psychological, so that the last stage of analysis of the problems of the structure of cities, the distribution of utilities, the earnings of the buildings which house them, and the land values resulting therefrom, turn on individual and collective taste and preference, as shown in social habits and customs.