I've written so much about legendary planner John Nolen's Venice city plan, that I didn't expect to learn much at the exhibit's opening last week.

But curator Michelle Harm did a magnificent job of fleshing out Nolen and the 1920s business and social climate. The exhibit includes photos of Venice as it developed, letters, drafts of early maps, and fascinating correspondence, including between Nolen and Orthopedic pioneer Fred Albee. We know Albee hired Nolen and that he made a killing on flipping land, buying it for $185,000 from Bertha Palmer and nine-weeks later, flipping it for $1 million to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. But when it came to paying Nolen the $1,500 balance for his Venice city plan, six months went by and Albee ignored invoices and pleading letters for payment, prompting the following letter from Nolen: "I am putting this badly and frankly because I cannot afford to have payments so long delayed as yours have been. To do so would require new and different methods of financing our business."

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Albee eventually paid.

The Design for Living: John Nolen and the Renaissance of New Urbanism exhibit runs through February. The museum is free (donations appreciated) and open Mondays through Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 351 S. Nassau Street.

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