On October, 8, 1970, the federal government began issuing bonds to finance the development of an entirely new community—Jonathan, near Chaska, Minnesota. Jonathan was the vision of businessman, conservationist, and former state senator Henry T. McKnight. McKnight believed that by incorporating concepts such as ecological balance, community cohesion, and technological innovation, Jonathan could serve as a model for sustainable suburban development. Privately-financed construction began in the late 1960s. In 1970, the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency approved millions of dollars in loan guarantees to fund additional land purchases and infrastructure development. After a promising start, the project collapsed. McKnight died two months after the first bonds were issued, creating a gaping leadership void. Home sales tanked as a nationwide economic downturn took hold. By the mid 1970s, Jonathan was broke and construction had halted. HUD foreclosed on the town in 1978. Jonathan is now just another neighborhood in Chaska. Intrigued? My co-author Thomas Saylor has written a fascinating account of Jonathan for the latest edition of Minnesota History Quarterly. I highly recommend it.
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