One of the best books I have read in the past few years was William Easterly's The Tyranny of Experts. (I mentioned the book in recent columns about the Rockefeller foundations and about the Trump Recession.)
Professor Easterly, who teaches at NYU, and two other economists have reframed some of the material in that book about the history of the development of Greene Street in Manhattan and put it into a working paper. They also have a slick interactive web site about the street. From the paper:
We see a pattern of recurrent surprises. The Dutch did not expect New York to thrive when they gave the Greene Street block to slaves and then gave up New York altogether in favor of Suriname (Surprise 1). The affluent residents of the block in 1830-1850 did not expect to be replaced by brothels (Surprise 2). The brothel owners, workers, and customers in 1880 were likely surprised to be replaced by a thriving garment industry (Surprise 3). The garment industry on the block did not expect the severe downturn after 1910 (Surprise 4). The urban planners in the 1940s and 1950s did not anticipate the block would explode in value again, first with art galleries (Surprise 5), and then even more with today's luxury retail stores and residences (Surprise 6)....Freedom of people, ideas, technologies, finance, and goods to move within and across geographic units was arguably part of what made the block's dynamism possible. This freedom in turn made the block free to change spontaneously, reacting to other blocks with the same freedom all around it. The chaotic four-century history of this one city block may suggest that such spontaneous forces play a larger role in development than is usually assumed.