Abstract: Our success depends upon your able performance: Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., James Rouse, and the Character of the Institutions That Financed Metropolitan Growth, 1945-1970

Peter Wissoker


Financial institutions have long played a key role in providing the capital that fuels the development of metropolitan areas. Yet we know little about the financing process or how decision-making works within institutions that provide capital. Drawing primarily on thirty-five years of periodic correspondence between the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company and companies operated by early mall pioneer James W. Rouse, this paper aims to draw out the nuances of the lender-lendee relationship, an understanding of which is fundamental to beginning to see how particular sources of financing shape the resultant built environment. The relationship between these firms began in the 1940s when Moss-Rouse Company, a relatively new mortgage broker, served as the Baltimore agent for Connecticut General. In the 1950s, the Hartford-based life insurer funded Rouse's first malls, and in the 1960s Connecticut General loaned Rouse half the money he needed to build a model city at Columbia, Md.; they also worked together to promote Rouse's views on what makes cities and suburbs work. For more than thirty-five years, the two firms traded insights into real estate markets and expertise in loan evaluation, all the while debating the terms and conditions that shaped the financial arrangements that bound them together.