First map of Memphis, showing start of city at junction of Wolf River and Mississippi River.
Where politics govern in selecting a city site the location is ordinarily a compromise. Thus Washington was located half way between the north and the south, before the west was developed, and Columbus and Indianapolis were located at the geographical centres of their respective states. The influence of climate in locating cities is shown in such summer resorts as Newport, Bar Harbor, and Lenox, and such winter resorts as Los Angeles, St. Augustine, Atlantic City, and Pasadena.
The exact starting point of cities is worth noting, since all growth consists of movement away from it To say that a city owes its location to a harbor, to the head of river navigation or to a fertile inland plain, is somewhat indefinite, since a large part of the harbor may be neglected and valueless, and the head of river navigation and the inland plain may furnish many other locations apparently equally desirable and yet not utilized. In the early days when protection was all-important, the fort was the point of origin, but with commercial cities the starting point is the most convenient point of contact with the outer world; this being a wharf where deep water and a high bank meet, if transportation is by water, the intersection of turnpikes topographically located, if transportation is by wagon, and a railroad depot placed for the convenient shipping of products, if transportation is by rail. With river cities the requirement of deep water and a high bank, and further, the avoidance of swift currents, was frequently best met where a creek ran into a river, the first docks of New York being on the creek where Broad St. now is; of Philadelphia, where Dock Creek joined the Delaware River; of Toledo, where Swan Creek joined the Maume6 River; of Memphis, where Wolf Creek joined the Mississippi River, and of Richmond, where Shockoe's Creek joined the James River. Where steep hills descend close to the water's edge there are in some instances two starting points for the town, one for business buildings at the water's edge and the other for residences on the hill, as at Richmond, Knoxville, and Kansas City. At Omaha, owing to variations in the height of water, the town started about ten blocks back from the waterfront.
Baltimore as laid out. 1730, and showing present boundaries.
Lucca, Italy, in 1870. Example of European city surrounded by fortifications, tending to concentrated land utilization.
Where the first settlers, having in mind a future city, lay out a plat at the inception of the city, the starting point of the city may be determined arbitrarily, the central point being a public square or a public building. Corporate or private ownership is in some cases sufficiently powerful to alter the location of a city, either by forcing it away from the original point of the older settlement, as at West Superior and Tacoma, or by preventing it from occupying its normal site, as at Houston.
Sometimes the first location of a city is so unsatisfactory that the entire settlement is moved, as with Akron, O., where the soil did not hold the water from the power canal for the flour mill, Hence the mill was moved and the town followed. Also Charleston, S. C, first started on the west bank of the Ashley River, and Mobile moved in 1710 from 27 Mile Bluff. Small towns have been bodily moved either to avoid municipal debt or to secure better locations. Recently in the Dakotas several towns were moved on rollers from six to twelve miles, from the small rivers on which they were first built to the new extension of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R. R. In most cases vested interests, both in the buildings and in the value of the land, are too powerful to permit of a wholesale moving, the efforts of inhabitants being aimed towards counteracting any deficiencies of location by increased or differently directed labor.