One thing that has always struck me about the northeast United States is how many darn town squares there are. You can’t walk more than a few blocks without running right into some sort of old, well-laid-out public park. I figure it’s a hold-out from colonial times, when you needed public areas like that in which to graze cows and hang laundry and put literate women on trial for witchcraft.
At the time when many of these squares were first built up, land was much more affordable, and you could get, like, 100 acres in the center of town just by giving the mayor a few bags of grain and three of your children (relax – you have like, 12 more at home). So setting a huge piece of land with excellent views aside for the people was no real big deal, because real estate agents and apartment buildings didn’t exist yet.