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David Gurin and Jane Jacobs correspondence

Collection MS-2017-031: David Gurin and Jane Jacobs correspondence


  • Creation: 1963 - 2016

Scope and Contents

This collection contains correspondence from urban planning activist and writer Jane Jacobs to David Gurin. Jacobs provided critical feedback and support for Gurin’s work in urban planning and activism, including comments on his thesis and writings. She also sent him copies of a letter of reference, as well as an unpublished letter to The New York Times regarding Gurin.

The collection also includes programs and other materials from conferences and award ceremonies related to Jacobs collected by Gurin.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note: Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs (née Butzner) was born on May 4, 1916, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Butzner, a physician, and Bess Robison Butzner. After graduating from Scranton's Central High School, Jacobs briefly trained to become a stenographer before taking a position as a reporter with the Scranton Tribune. In 1938, she moved to New York City and attended Columbia University's School of General Studies for two years. In the years that followed, she held a number of writing and editing jobs. In 1944, she married Robert Hyde Jacobs, Jr., an architect, with whom she had three children: James Kedzie (1948), Edward Decker (1950), and Mary Hyde (1955).

In 1952, Jacobs became an associate editor at Architectural Forum magazine, where she was introduced to the topics of city planning and rebuilding. She wrote a book sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation that focused on American cities: The Death and Life of Great American Cities was published in 1961 and went on to become Jacobs's most well-known book. In addition to her writing, Jacobs was also an activist. She was arrested in 1968 after she disrupted a public meeting about the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a project she opposed.

Jacobs moved to Toronto with her family in 1969 in part due to her objection to the Vietnam War. She quickly became an influential figure in Toronto and soon after her arrival helped to stop plans for the construction of the Spadina Expressway. Jacobs became a Canadian citizen in 1974. She continued to write on topics including urban issues, Canadian cities and sovereignty, and economics. Jacobs was nominated to the Order of Canada in 1996 for her work on urban development. Her last book, Dark Age Ahead, was published in 2004. Jane Jacobs died on April 25, 2006, in Toronto.


Allen, Max, ed. Ideas That Matter: The Worlds of Jane Jacobs. Ontario: Ginger Press, 1997.

Jacobs, Jane. Architect's Journal. November 22, 1961.

"Jane Jacobs." In Contemporary Authors Online. Accessed 2006.

Biographical note: David Gurin

David Gurin received his Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University and later studied city planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 1963, he worked in New York City for the Mobilization for Youth, an anti-poverty program. Gurin also served as Deputy Commissioner of Transportation in New York City. From 1991 to 2011, he lived in Toronto, Canada, where, he served as Commissioner of Planning.

In 1962, while a student at Harvard, Gurin began a friendship with Jane Jacobs that lasted until her death in 2006.


"David Gurin, CV." Research Associates, Centre for Urban and Community Studies. October 2005. Accessed January 23, 2019.

Description of correspondence provided by Gurin, Box 1, Folder 7, David Gurin and Jane Jacobs correspondence, MS.2017.031, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.


.25 Linear Feet (1 container)

Language of Materials



This collection contains correspondence from urban planning activist and writer Jane Jacobs to David Gurin throughout his career as an urban planner. The collection also includes programs and other materials from conferences and award ceremonies related to Jacobs.




Gift of David Gurin, July 2016.

Related Materials

Jane Jacobs papers, MS.1995.029, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

David Gurin and Jane Jacobs Correspondence
1963-2016 (bulk 1963-2006)
Stephanie Hall
January 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States