Neighborhood Histories: Enhancing local knowledge through an examination of the built environment
Monica Frost, M.Arch Thesis 2012
The Thurston Woods Neighborhood History project preceded the field school. It was conducted by Monica Frost and was an effort to link research and history within a local community. This section is an excerpt from Frost’s research. Her project “Neighborhood Histories” is an effort to link research and history within a local community. Often we see history as static information disassociated with our everyday lives. Museums, historic sites and historic markers are much needed ways of disseminating information to the public, but often their content overlooks the relationship between history and our modern lives. When we explore the places where we live, we discover a wealth of information about ourselves: past, present and future. Neighborhood histories influence the way we look at our environment and the way we understand the world around us.
Whether the extension of the street grid creates new communities or the creation of a “main drag” connects areas of the city, streets often establish boundaries while providing larger connections. Neighborhood streets can take different forms. They can be main streets, side-streets, backstreets, or alleyways, each serving its own set of needs and activities. Lower traffic volume and narrower widths give us a greater ability to share the road with vehicles. Streets can be closed for block parties, get you to your driveway, and discretely connect you to a larger network of streets. Medium streets function at the neighborhood scale. They provide efficient ways to get from one end of the neighborhood to the other. They support smaller areas of commerce that bind the neighborhood. Busy thoroughfares discourage foot traffic and street crossing. The high traffic areas become a city highway, taking you along the length or width of the city and extending to cities beyond. One such street is Cedarburg Road (presently Milwaukee’s Teutonia Avenue) which evolved from a farming road to one of the city’s major thoroughfares.This road began for ease of travel well before the area was incorporated into the city and its grid. The higher traffic pattern also determines the nature of the streetscape. Billboards and other large scale signs line the street, advertising products and businesses so that they can be easily identified by people driving their cars or riding the bus.