Fearful Symmetries

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04 June, 2017

The Neighborhood: Eastmorland

I have lived in the Eastmorland neighborhood for about a year now but only recently began taking walks with my Frau which has helped me to get to know the area. Having grown up in Chicago, I have always seen the neighborhood as a defining unit of a city. Chicagoans often answer the question of where they live by giving their neighborhood. (Either that or an intersection.) Neighborhoods there provide identity to one degree or another. By saying you live in or are from a particular one locates your home within the city. But it also gives clues as to what class your family is or was; it often signifies ethnic groups as well with enclaves developing in various neighborhoods. Some have a large number of residents from a certain age group or are home to LGBT communities. Others are known for examples of architectural styles within their borders. In short, a neighborhood in Chicago isn't simply a geographical place.

Madison doesn't embrace the neighborhood like Chicago. This is likely because of the city's relatively small size, far fewer immigrants establishing enclaves, et al. No, Madisonians mainly refer to sides of town with the traditional east vs. west still predominant although the utility of this distinction has lost a lot of its meaning as the city has grown.

Madison has about 100 official neighborhoods but many are quite small. Last year the Wisconsin State Journal profiled 20 of them, including Eastmorland. While the article itself wasn't particularly informative – it basically said we're all neighborly – it did yield this handy map.

Highway 30 forms the border to the north, with Highway 51 being the eastern edge and Cottage Grove Road the southern. The western border is mostly Starkweather Creek but also a bit of Lake Monona and Monona Drive. Eastmorland is pretty quiet as there are only 2 collector streets linking larger roads - Walters Street and Dempsey Road - which link Milwaukee Street to Atwood Avenue and Cottage Grove Road, respectively. Historic Madison, Inc. has a nice guide to street names for the area which offers some history as well.

An ad in The Capital Times on June 23, 1928, announced an auction sale of lots in Lansing Place on Milwaukee Street, east of Fair Oaks Avenue, adjoining the city limits. The owner was George C. Rowley, an established Madison developer. He seems to have chosen the first and last names of local residents for all of the street names.

Having mainly been developed in the 1950s, most of Eastmorland is post-war bungalows/cottages that look like this:

Early suburban with larger lots than you'd find in the older parts of Madison and set back farther from the street.

But there are exceptions. On Milwaukee Street by Leon you find a few older looking homes.

I assume that these were built in the 1930s by folks who bought plots in Lansing Place from George Rowley. Another older home sits at Hargrove and Dennett. It's the only house in that grassy strip that runs between Hargrove and the railroad tracks for 2 or 3 blocks.

This house is at the corner of Johns and Margaret.

It has a very large yard and I am guessing it was built by someone of means back in the day who wanted to live out in the country near Lake Monona yet still in fairly close proximity to Madison. There's another older home on the northwest corner of Tulane and Dempsey.

I moved to Eastmorland from the Marquette on the isthmus. The variety of homes here pales in comparison to my former neighborhood but we have tons of trees. And not just ones planted in the 1950s when the area was developed. There are still a smattering of very old trees. Plus there is a fair number of evergreens which makes for nice scenery during the winter. Unlike the isthmus, there are parts of Eastmorland where they had the sense to run utility lines through backyards instead of out on the street. Thusly there are a lot fewer trees that have had their canopies butchered to make way for cable. This mainly seems to be on streets west of Schenk. Here, for example is a scene from Dempsey Road.

If Eastmorland has an architectural claim to fame it must be the number of lean-tos. While there are plenty of garages, lean-tos are not uncommon.

I spied this house on a recent walk.

I suppose it's still post-war bungalow but you have more space on the second story with the roof nearly flat on the back half. There's another like it across the creek on Fair Oaks near Thorp.

I'll finish with some stats from the Wisconsin State Journal neighborhood profile site. Eastmorland is very white – nearly 90% as of 2010. Not many renters. Home values are generally below the city average with most of the neighborhood averaging around $178,000 although the western section is lower at $162,500. This area was developed earlier and I suspect houses are smaller on average with the eastern section having some of what look like proto-ranch homes and some larger lots.

Eastmorland is a quiet middle class kind of place.

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|| Palmer, 8:30 PM


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