The Last Company Town

By Dokoupil, Tony | Newsweek, February 21, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Last Company Town


Dokoupil, Tony, Newsweek


Byline: Tony Dokoupil

There was a time when employers provided everything: houses, hospitals, bars. Such a place still exists--but not for long. Welcome to Scotia, Calif.

When the Pacific Lumber Co. started logging in 1863, there were few towns in the dense forests north of San Francisco. So the company built its own. Called Scotia for the hard-handed Nova Scotians who moved there, it became known as "lumberjack heaven"--a complete community with a school, church, post office, family homes, and a power plant that provided electric light years before the White House had it. During the holidays, the company played Saint Nick, stringing lights and giving presents: toys for kids, cash for teens, and a free turkey for every household in town. "It sounds hokey," says Stephanie Jeffers, 59, who settled in Scotia in 1981 and raised a family in the town. "But it was so, so nice."

These days Jeffers isn't the only one using the past tense to talk about Scotia, the last wholly owned company town in America. Scotia is about to change forever. Marathon Asset Management, a Manhattan-based hedge fund that reluctantly inherited this industrial Eden in a 2008 bankruptcy case, is planning to put the entire town on the market this year, a move worth at least $50 million in real estate (the hotel alone is on sale for $2.5 million) and millions more in saved annual expenses. The idea is to make Scotia just like everywhere else--a place where residents have the chance to own their own homes, elect their own officials, and generally control their own destiny. In other words, the American Dream, as two Marathon executives stressed recently over $28 eggs at the Royalton, a glamorous midtown Manhattan hotel.

But despite the happy spin, longtime residents say that Scotia--with its manicured streets and Truman Show feel--already amounts to the American Dream. What Marathon intends sounds "more like a nightmare," says Jeffers, sipping coffee in her company-owned kitchen, with her company-funded fridge covered with tourist magnets from a company cruise. "I've lived here so long, I don't know where I'd go."

It's easy to scoff at such a hyper-dependent existence, and many have. Company towns once dotted the country, meeting a need for laborers in the remote locations where timber, ore, and other natural resources were found. At their peak in the 1930s, they housed about 2 million Americans, including as many as one in five adults in places like South Carolina. But most were shuttered as a result of the post-World War II increase in affordable housing and suburban sprawl, and the name "company town" became a pejorative, immortalized most famously in the country song about a man soul-deep in debt to the company store.

Yet in this age of financial insecurity, far-flung family ties, and slackening safety nets, the company-town concept has renewed appeal. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that Scotia's model--or at least its protective embrace--is showing signs of revival. In Redmond, Wash., Microsoft recently linked together what it calls "the world's largest corporate campus"--side-by-side parcels that include a new "town square" with shops to fulfill nearly every need (but no beer before 3 p.m.). Last week Facebook bought a 79-acre space in Menlo Park, Calif., where it similarly hopes to create a "small-community feel," according to an official statement. These campus models were pioneered by the SAS Institute, a massive Cary, N.C.-based software firm that's long been at the forefront of corporate paternalism, topping Fortune's latest list of "Best Companies to Work For" with offerings that include free medical care by an on-site staff of doctors and nurses.

Google is poised to offer the most paternalistic touch of all. The search giant's Mountain View, Calif., campus already offers a slew of Scotia-esque perks. Employees enjoy the services of a dry cleaner, hairstylist, massage therapist, and chefs who whip up three meals a day. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Last Company Town
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.