Innovative approach to surveying the Motor City
Posted in: Cultural Resources
A preservation success story
Mead & Hunt is celebrating Preservation Month with preservation success stories. We highlight this project to illustrate an innovative approach.
The city of Detroit experienced rapid development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and became one of the largest cities in the nation historically. This unique American city represents the explosive trends in industrial and residential growth and development during this period. Surprisingly little information was available on the large number of residential neighborhoods that developed in response to the city’s booming population. Previous architecture and/or history surveys had focused on the heart of the city, scattered residential pockets, existing historic districts or areas located adjacent to transportation improvement projects.
To gain a comprehensive understanding of residential neighborhoods, the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office undertook a city-wide reconnaissance-level survey. Completed within an aggressive schedule of only 11 months, the survey evaluated residences collectively and identified those individual resources and districts that had the most potential to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. This ambitious project allowed for a comparison of like resources within the greater context of entire city.
Working on this project, I found the comprehensive approach especially beneficial as an innovative and quick way to evaluate a huge number of subdivisions. Rather than determining significance and assessing integrity case-by-case, we were able to weigh many neighborhoods against each other and identify the truly significant examples.
Eighteen historic districts and 189 individual resources were identified as eligible for the National Register as a result of the survey. The Detroit survey report is available online.
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Additional information this project: Surveying and documenting post-war housing: A new methodology
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