Jon A. Peterson, 1935 – 2023

Jon A. Peterson, longtime member and friend of SACRPH, passed away on July 1st at Essex Meadows in Essex, Connecticut. Born in Columbus, Ohio, on September 21, 1935, he was the son of Alvah Peterson and Helen Hoff Peterson. A graduate of Upper Arlington High School, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history with high honors from Swarthmore College, a Master of Arts degree in American History from Ohio State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy from Harvard University, writing his dissertation under the direction of Professor Oscar Handlin.

He began his teaching career at Queens College of the City University of New York in 1966, retiring as professor emeritus in 2005. At Queens he served as director of the master’s degree program and as chair of the Queens College History Department, 1990-1994. Deeply interested in American urban history, he chaired the Columbia University Seminar on the City, 1973-1976.

Decades of intense scholarship on the origins of the American city planning movement culminated with The Birth of City Planning in the United States: 1840- 1917, which, among other accolades, was awarded the Spiro Kostof Book Award, 2005, from the Society of Architectural Historians. Throughout his career, he was active in professional organizations related to American, urban, landscape, and architectural history.

Jon had wide interests apart from his scholarship. When he retired, he returned to a lifelong interest in watercolor painting. He was an enthusiastic birder, an excellent photographer, an accomplished gardener, an avid hiker and traveler, focused especially on horticulture tours around the world. He had a special passion for Block Island, where in the 1990s he helped to create Whale Rock House, a beloved family property.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Jane (Eaker), daughter Sarah S. Peterson, son Andrew J. Peterson (Kathy Clark), and his brother David Peterson. Prior to moving to Essex, CT, in 2018, he and Mary Jane lived in Great Neck on Long Island for 48 years.

A memorial service is planned for Friday, August 4, at 3 pm in Hamilton Hall, Essex Meadows, Essex, CT. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations either to the Essex Meadows Scholarship Foundation or to the Block Island Nature Conservancy.

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