Cities that could have been

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Demothenes, Jan 31, 2019.

  1. Demothenes Can’t we just get back to the good times

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    What smaller cities had the potential to become major urban centers if events had turned out differently?

    Just to start, Ravenna if there was a remaining separate state in the area that could have maintained its harbor. It was very well placed, had a very good harbor, but the silting of its harbor eroded its strategic advantages and gave more importance to cities further north, such as Venice.
     
  2. Escape Zeppelin Well-Known Member

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    I think a lot would need to change for it to be come a major urban center. Theodoric spent tons and tons of treasure to build up the city as a rival to Rome but after he died few people seem to have had any interest in all. It's understandable though, as a capital I've read that Ravenna was apparently a pretty unpleasant location to actually live in between the swamps, mosquitoes, and weather.

    I do think you're onto something though. A surviving Ostrogothic Italy would need a new capital and they don't seem to have had much interest in making it Rome (which was declining quickly in that period.) If a surviving Ostrogothic Italy chose Florence or someplace else I could see them become really major population centers in that period.
     
  3. Umbric Man Umbric Manned

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    I've always maintained Williamsburg, VA could've been as important as Richmond is in OTL if the capital hadn't moved to the latter.

    Both are cavalier-settled cities on a hill by the James River, both were capitals of their colony, both had universities helping their functionality, both were on good spots for north-south transportation. Simply have Thomas Jefferson never hate Williamsburg enough to move the capital to Richmond under excuse of defensibility, and Williamsburg likely takes up Richmond's population and economic vitality. It'll grow big enough to get a port as well since being slightly inland hurt it in colonial times, in TTL metro expansions renders that a moot point.
     
  4. Tarabas Active Member

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    Well, sticking to Italy, I see Pavia as capital of an enduring Lombard Kingdom becoming a mayor city, eventually surpassing (joining with?) Milan. As per Ravenna, the city has a lot of issues, and nobody really liked it, so its downfall seems to me really inevitable. Out of Italy, for sure Toledo is a good candidate, had not Philip II moved the Capital to Madrid.
     
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  5. Daedalus Well-Known Member

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    Lübeck. Its position as a major urban center relied on its status as the seat of the Hanseatic League as it was not the estuary to a major river like Bremen and Hamburg are. Once the league went into decline, so did Lübeck. One way to preserve its power would be for the Danish Sound Toll to continue being a bother for most merchants as that is what drove them to take the overland route from Lübeck<->Lauenburg<->Hamburg since the Stecknitz Canal was present. Others include weakening the Dutch merchants in the Baltic and North Sea, and perhaps preserving the Hansa a little longer, perhaps with better protection guarantees from one another.
     
  6. Frrf Well-Known Member

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    Over in Australia, Bombala or Albury-Wodonga could have been significantly bigger if they'd been chosen as the federal capital rather than Canberra. If New Zealand had joined, they might have insisted on a coastal city, so that might boost somewhere else like Jarvis Bay.
     
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  7. Planet of Hats Obsolete Mule Donor

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    Owen Sound and the Midland-Penetanguishene area in Ontario, in a timeline in which the Georgian Bay Ship Canal was built and opened up quick naval access to Lake Huron. Midland and Penetanguishene in particular would probably make for natural ports for ships coming into Georgian Bay with goods. Other areas that could've been bigger would be areas further west along the Huron-Superior shore - Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie being the natural choices, but also the town of Spanish, which seems to have actual decent soil around it instead of barren rock.
     
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  8. Basil Makedon Argead Dynasty = House of the Rising Sun

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    I always found the ATL where Rome wins the Veii wars interesting, if a little ASB
     
  9. Demothenes Can’t we just get back to the good times

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    They did win the Veii wars...
     
  10. Basil Makedon Argead Dynasty = House of the Rising Sun

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    It was a joke...
     
  11. Demothenes Can’t we just get back to the good times

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    Buddy, that ain’t a joke. A joke would have a premise or a punchline.

    To the point, Rome had a couple of advantages that made it superior to Veii or any of the other towns on the tiber. It was located at the first ford, which made it a natural meeting place, it’s close to the tibers mouth, and it’s located in an extremely fortified position. While I think that looking towards PreRoman is entirely valid, I might look towards an even more inland settlement rather than creating an alternate Rome. Perhaps an earlier Florence, or perhaps a larger Neapolis/Naples.
     
  12. Basil Makedon Argead Dynasty = House of the Rising Sun

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    I know that Rome had the major advantage, that’s why I said Veii winning would be a joke, because it was so unlikely.
     
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  13. History Learner Well-Known Member

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    I'll add a few.

    In 1850s, the U.S. Government conducted a series of land surveys in order to find the best route for a Trans-Continental railway to the Pacific, and ultimately found the southern most proposed line was the best. The Gadsden Purchase was done in order to secure the territory needed to build it, but then the increasing sectional disputes between the North and the South killed it the project until the 1870s. Even then, the Central Pacific monopoly managed to screw it over. Had it been built, as was originally intended, it would've roughly followed the route of what IOTL became the Butterfield Overland Trail:

    [​IMG]

    The main difference would be, instead of connecting up towards San Francisco, it would've directly terminated in San Diego (Another spur would, most likely, later connect it to San Francisco). Such an advantageous position, in terms of being an excellent port and a terminus for the first Trans-Continental Railroad would've turned San Diego into the premier city and port on the West Coast. As was noted IOTL by the opponents of the 1870s effort:

    So basically San Diego ends up as the city in California, with Los Angeles never coming into being as a major city and San Francisco slowly dying off in the 19th Century before the earthquake in 1906 finishes it off.

    Shifting back east with this, the most likely Eastern origin point for the railroad is Memphis, due to the shorter route it offers and the fact there was already some existing track in the region to build from. Such would, between the rail traffic and Mississippi River trade, make Memphis the main city along the river and definitely so in Tennessee. Depending on when the Civil War gets fought if it's not prevented, such might make Tennessee Unionist enough to prevent its secession, although I personally doubt such given how West Tennessee was politically at the time.

    Some more, either in this proposed ATL or on their own:

    Richmond, Virginia - In the event of no Civil War, or at least Virginia not getting as smashed by it, Richmond would definitely be a greater city without having to be rebuilt and the continued status of West Virginia in the Commonwealth would likely prove a boon to industrialization, as the resources of the aforementioned state would be flowing to Richmond.

    Big Stone Gap, Virginia - Change the Civil War (Averted or quicker ending) or remove Alexander Arthur, and such would've made available the capital needed to carry out the industrialization plans for the town. Such would've nerfed Middlesboro in Kentucky and perhaps Kingsport, Tennessee later on as Eastman Kodak might be more interested in developing its plant in the growing BSG. I personally don't think it could've become a Pittsburgh as was extolled, but a city of 50-80,000 with a strong industrial basis certainly seems possible. Such would've also kept the nearby coal towns relevant and large, first as sources of coal for iron/steel production, and then as suburbs as the town became a city. Add in UVA deciding to locate their affiliate campus here instead of Wise, and you'd definitely have the Virginian version of Johnson City, but with the industry of Kingsport thrown in.

    Middlesboro, Kentucky - As kind of a reverse of the above, avert the 1890 Fire and have Barings not make such bad investments in Argentina, and Middlesboro could end up bigger than it did. If capital keeps flowing in, the railroad tunnel can be built and thus the city could become an important hub between Knoxville and Lexington, but the plans to turn it into a major industrial site were always going to fall short due to the poor quality of materials in the area. Overall, it could probably reach a size of 20-30,000.

    Fort Blackmore, Virginia - I've never been able to confirm such, but a High School history teacher of mine stated that Eastman Kodak nearly built what became their Kingsport Plant in or near this tiny hamlet, but were stopped by some of the local tobacco growers. Had they failed, Fort Blackmore probably could've grown into a city of 30,000-40,000.

    Johnson City, Tennessee - If you can somehow avert the Panic of 1893, Johnson City would continue to grow in size, and might be able to turn itself into a second Knoxville.

    Muscle Shoals, Alabama - I'll let the town itself explain what nearly happened:

    So kill off Norris, and you might be able to get a second Birmingham.

    Mobile, Alabama - After the Civil War, trade began to shift away from the Mississippi and New Orleans lost some of its prominence in this regard. Had it got hit by a sufficiently strong Hurricane sometime in the 1870s-1890s, it's possible Mobile could've replaced it as the premier port on the Gulf, given its central location and proximity to the iron production sites at Birmingham.

    Birmingham, Alabama - Avert the Civil War or have it won by the South, and Birmingham would've turned into every bit the rival of Pittsburgh that it was intended to be. Due to unfair Pro-Pittsburgh pricing rates forced into usage, Birmingham's ability sell was deeply undermined, and this was further compounded by the lack of sufficient regional capital to draw on due to the effects of the Civil War. The Iron and Steel Industry of the Birmingham, Alabama, District by Langdon White (Economic Geography, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Oct., 1928), pp. 349-365) outlines the areas Birmingham would've easily been able to out-compete Pittsburgh in at the minimum:

    [​IMG]

    Chicago, Illinois - Yes, I know it was already great, but it certainly could've been greater, had it successfully managed to become the center of American automobile production.

    Duluth, Minnesota - U.S. Steel apparently narrowly chose expanding production in Pittsburgh over Duluth in 1911, a move which, if reversed, certainly would've brought more development.

    Topeka, Kansas - Had it got the international airport over Kansas City, it could've went the Atlanta route of development.

    Portland, Oregon - In the 1960s they tried to build a stadium to attract the Raiders and made a bid for the 1968 Olympics, but both ended up failing. Had they not, it would've obviously been a boon for the city.
     
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  14. Thon Taddeo Well-Known Member

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    Cairo, IL seems like it should have been a bigger city, being where the Ohio and Mississippi meet.
     
  15. Kevin in Indy Now with charcoal!

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    The biggest issue with Cairo is the terrain. There is not a lot of local "high ground" on which to anchor a city. The potential for flooding on not only the Ohio but also the Mississippi Rivers is huge - the city is essentially walled off with levees.
     
  16. Nomis Nosnibor Well-Known Member

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    Roxburgh in Scotland is a very famous example. Although a quick Wikipedia search will tell you why it didn’t survive. Other British examples could be Wroxeter or Stamford home of England’s third ever university (albeit a short lived one).

    Then there are the “proposed” new towns that never happened for various reasons such as New Bolingbroke and Market Carlton
     
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  17. Demothenes Can’t we just get back to the good times

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    I can’t help but feel as though Los Angeles would have been the casualty of a greater San Diego- San Francisco seems as though it’s simply too far north, that area needs an urban center and the bay is one of the best ports in the world. I do like the idea that Long Beach or San Pedro would be the navy/marine hub with a bigger San Diego.
     
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  18. Eckener Well-Known Member

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    Guthrie, Oklahoma

    Territorial capital and then state capital after 1907, there was an election in 1910 that voted to move the capital to Oklahoma City. OKC had started to outpace Guthrie economically thanks to some key railroad junctions and industry in the city, and the local leaders there lobbied for the vote and then won.

    If the rail lines had converged instead in Guthrie, or other similar economic factors, Guthrie remaining as the state capital would have impacted the whole center of the state. All the small towns in that area instead would be part of the urban metro area surrounding Guthrie.

    Basically I would picture the urban core that currently surrounds Oklahoma City shifting north by about 40 miles(the distance between downtown OKC and Guthrie)
     
  19. Arcavius Arms and the Man I Sing

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    Instead of the Romans losing, have the Romans flee to Veii after tha Gallic sack as was proposed OTL. The population of Veii explodes as Rome becomes a ghost town, and Rome never quite recovers.
     
  20. MrGreyOwl Watching Bird

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    To the list of American cities I would add Galveston, Texas. It was poised to become a large urban centre before being utterly wrecked by a hurricane in 1900.