Who is John Galt? That’s the question asked in Ayn Rand’s magnificent novel Atlas Shrugged. Readers know that the answer provided through ingenious plot twists is that John Galt lives in Atlantis (as defined within the context of the novel). Residents in a small number of American cities find indications of a Galt in their own neighborhoods.
When Tom Whitesell built an industrial park in New Jersey, he let his admiration for the novel guide at least one choice. By his choice, “John Galt Way” is the name of the street which brings visitors into his complex. Although the development is within the city of Florence, NJ, the city did not select the name of the street. Appropriately, the entrepreneur — the man who gets things done — did. (Photos and more details are provided further down this page.)
A similar situation exists in Roseville, California. Johngalt Ct. is a short distance from Rand Way, which in turn intersects Taggert Ct., Reardon Ct. and Francisco Ct. Given that we have not only the hero of the novel (Galt) named along with the surname of the author (Rand), but also (with misspellings) halves of the names of the heroine (Dagny Taggart) and her lovers (Hank Rearden and Francisco d’Anconia), who could argue that the names weren’t intended as homage? Roseville, located about 17 miles northeast of Sacramento, is easily reached through Interstate 80.
A John Galt Way is part of a residential development built within Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, in the first years of the 21st century. Once again, it seems that the namers of the street were thinking of Miss Rand’s classic futuristic novel. Here, a street near John Galt Way was named for another author who projected the future in his 1950s novels: Robert Heinlein.
Not every street named “John Galt” has such neighbors. John Galt Blvd in Omaha, Nebraska, is just a few blocks in length. Names of streets in the same area give no indication that town planners wished to honor the John Galt whose name became prominent to readers of fiction upon publication in 1957. (Omaha is crossed by Interstate 80 just as Roseville is. The eastern terminus of this interstate is just outside New York City—the living-world city most glorified in Atlas Shrugged.)
John Galt Way is a new short road in Florence, New Jersey, the town immediately north of Burlington, NJ. Both towns are within 20 miles of downtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Branching from U.S. route 130, John Galt Way is in the midst of an industrial district.
At present, John Galt Way is perhaps a quarter-mile in length, and serves mainly to connect the sole major highway to the new light-rail station.
As of June 19, 2004, when these photos were shot, the street was so new that the traffic signals were not yet operational, nor could those exiting from John Galt Way onto U.S. route 130 make a left turn so as to proceed north. Orange plastic cannisters combine to form a barricade.
In the picture below, the light-rail station is the background (center left). (The light-rail line connects Camden with Trenton.)
Not visible in the above photograph is the constuction at the far end of John Galt Way. See that below. A large structure is being built, amidst what seems to be a running track, a football-field-sized flat green area, yet another flat grass-covered area (this one, baseball-field sized), trees in the distance. The bridge on which the Pennsylvania Turnpike crosses the Delaware River is barely visible in this area.
This structure is the new complex of the Whitesell Center.
Doesn’t it seem as if this might be Atlantis — as defined by the modern equivalents of the heroes of the novel: a business park that comes across as a sanctuary, a retreat from the crudities of the modern world?
For information in this report, I an indebted to Joy Weiler of the city government of Florence, NJ, to Joanne Patchel of the Whitesell Center, and to an engineer at Whitesell who chose to remain anonymous. — David Hayes