In his book The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch used five types of elements to define a city’s layout. He talks about paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks. These elements can be applied to different areas throughout Washington Park. This paper takes the reader on a journey through the neighborhood and explains the significance that Lynch’s elements have within Washington Park.
A few days ago, Terrance moved into the Washington Park neighborhood. He found a nice loft apartment and is getting settled in. Terrance is pretty crafty and had this idea to create a custom countertop in his kitchen. He heard about a store in the area that sells reclaimed lumber and also makes custom bars and furniture. Terrance wanted to see what this store had to offer so he ventured out in search of it.
After biking a little ways, Terrance stumbled upon Amaranth Bakery & Cafe on W. Lisbon Avenue. If he would not have seen the sign, he would never have known the place even existed. He stepped into the bakery and was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome he received. The employees and customers were all friendly and inviting. The bakery itself was a cozy little space filled with the smell of fresh bakery items and brewed coffee. Terrance ordered some coffee and a muffin and took a seat near an older gentleman to read the morning paper.
As he settled in, Terrance overheard the people in Amaranth talking about a plank road that was unfamiliar to him. Curious, he asked the old man about this mysterious plank road. The old man dove right into his recount about the 1849 Lisbon plank road that connected the City of Milwaukee with many outlying cities and towns. Terrance learned that the plank road was a major roadway that people used primarily from 1849 to 1869. The plank road lost its utilization because of the amount of maintenance it took to keep the road in good condition. It became abandoned, and the state legislature decided to pave the state highway system in its place.
The old man continued talking and said that the plank road was a route filled with many local taverns and shops. These rest stops acted as the main source of communication back in the day to pass along any stories, news or information. After learning about the historic taverns and shops along the plank road and becoming acquainted with the Amaranth Bakery, Terrance made the connection that they are both similar nodes in the community. They have the same experiential qualities, and they serve the same purposes. These stores were places to relax after a long day of travel or work, and they were hangout spots for locals to interact with each other and with visitors. They were important businesses in the community, just like the Amaranth Bakery is today.
Lynch states that a node “…may be primarily junctions, places of break in transportation, a crossing or convergence of paths, moments of shift from one structure to another.” The way he explains a node is exactly what these historic plank road locations were. Travelers enjoyed these stops along their route. These businesses were in the best location and they were symbols of the neighborhood.
Another obvious element of Lynch’s would be that the Lisbon plank road was a path for the community. In an excerpt from The Image of the City, Lynch says something that describes the plank road perfectly. He states, “People observe the city while moving through it, and along these paths the other environmental elements are arranged and related.” The plank road was lined with taverns, shops and other businesses to give travelers refuge and to be of service to them. It was a major path back in the 1800s, and W. Lisbon Avenue is a major path in Washington Park today.
The parallels between the old and the new are conclusions that have been drawn after extensive research. After researching the historic Lisbon plank road, its importance to not only to downtown Milwaukee, but also to the small neighborhoods and towns that it bisected can be seen. The similarities between the businesses of the past and the businesses of today are second to none. Both are small, welcoming and locally owned places for residents and visitors to gather, share stories or just relax. When one looks at a map of the Washington Park neighborhood back in the late 1800s and early 1900s and compares it with what is seen today, the changes are astounding. However, when one really dissects the neighborhood, it can be seen that a lot of the same values and ideals are still in place.
After finishing his second cup of coffee and realizing how wrapped up he got in the old man’s history lesson, Terrance decided that it was time to settle his check and continue on his journey. Before leaving, Terrance asked the cashier about a place that sells reclaimed lumber that he has heard so much about. The cashier knew what he was talking about and directed Terrance to head west on W. Lisbon Avenue.
Terrance knew he had ridden too far, drifting through the neighborhood. He had ridden his fixed gear bicycle to the limit of the neighborhood, where the texture transitioned from a densely packed neighborhood to one dominated by the automobile. In this area, the retailers and fast food options were chains. This was the edge of the district, the line that divided Washington Park from Washington Heights. There he stopped to speak with one of the numerous pedestrians who walked on the sidewalk. Terrance asked where he might find the Custom Home Bar shop. The pedestrian advised that he head southeast on W. Lisbon Avenue, one block past the statue of Frederick von Streuben, then turn south, and go until he reached the old Kisslich Place.
Terrance turned around and headed southeast on W. Lisbon Avenue. He quickly observed that where W. Lisbon Avenue met the northern most point of the Washington Park was effectively the central node of the neighborhood. The area was small and sparsely built but held the library, as well as a key pathway into Washington Park, the namesake of the neighborhood. Cementing the civic character of the intersection is a monument to Frederick Von Steuben, a German who bravely fought in the American Revolutionary War and once symbolized the neighborhood's patriotism as well as the German involvement in the founding of the nation. Despite the character of the intersection, Terrance noticed that there was a lack of shops at that primary location.
He headed south, into the residentially grained portion of the district. Located in the middle of a residential block was an old time rusticated brick and wood sided factory. In the distant past, it was a workshop of Peter Lauer’s Carpentry and Planning Mill. A company that grew along with the neighborhood, providing lumber and products for newly built homes. He entered and spoke with the head carpenter about purchasing some reclaimed lumber for a countertop of his own. Terrance also asked about the history of the building. The shopkeeper spoke about the legacy of finely crafted furniture in Washington Park, and the continuity between then and now. Terrance was suitably impressed and left appreciating the material history, the effort and sweat that went into building this neighborhood on the edge of olden-day Milwaukee. He mounted his bicycle and rode on. Pedaling throughout the neighborhood, Terrance becomes entranced in thought, observing the distinctive qualities that seem to mark his path.
W. Lisbon Avenue cuts through Washington Park as a commercial highway by which numerous institutions knit together to create a sense of community. Modern technology brought glass storefronts and neon signs to the formerly sleepy corridor, attracting potential investors and younger families. The area grew, the streets bustled and mass transportation was extended by way of streetcar. They rumbled by, a constant soundtrack proclaiming the virtues of industrialization.
W. Lisbon Avenue is now a path of modern commercial real estate encouraging circulation through rural Washington Park. The inner city is expanding and drawing jobs and potential employees out, through the W. Lisbon Avenue funnel. Expansion of Milwaukee’s urbanism brings new businesses to the area and encourages residential development as immigrants follow the employment migration pattern west. The American dream infects Washington Park, and young families take root in ribbons of rented houses along W. Lisbon Avenue. The ‘picket fence’ ideology encourages upward mobility through hard work and entrepreneurship. “This may be called the sense of a place, and while sense varies with culture and with personal temperament and experience, there are regularities in these perceptions due to the structure of our senses and our brains.”
Youth in the area find strong educational opportunities and rejoice in the freedom promised to them by the new American dream. United through a common European ancestry, they strive toward the same goals, encouraged and supported by the bustling modernism of the W. Lisbon Avenue corridor. Neon signs light their stage, and streetcar horns dictate their lives; they are free to seize opportunities and explore surrounding businesses.
While deep in analysis of the neighborhood, Terrance realized he can relate much of his journey to a class he is currently taking at the local technical college (MATC). Much of his travels are discerned from Kevin Lynch’s book, The Image of the City. Terrance’s paths and trajectories all seem to be based off of Lynch’s five elements to define a city’s layout. He noticed that the neighborhood can be laid out in a matter of paths, edges, districts, nodes and landmarks. He soon realized that, through following the major paths of the area, he is led by bustling street edges as well as many interesting small businesses that seem to stand out as landmarks of the neighborhood. He soon found himself guided down W. North Avenue in search of a new mattress for his newly rented apartment.
Amid the confusion of picking out the perfect mattress to satisfy the difficult needs of Terrance’s terrible back, he noticed a couple also searching for that right sleep number. He overheard a couple discussing their recent travel to the local candy store.
Curious by this wonderful sounding store, Terrance decided to hold off on the aggravating mattress search. He quickly approached the couple to ask for directions to satisfy his sweet tooth. They pointed Terrance down busy W. North Avenue and cautioned him to turn onto W. Lisbon Avenue, which will intersect at a very acute angle. He was then told to follow W. Lisbon and continue with the bend in the street when he sees the Chocolate Rose Lounge. The couple indicated that the candy store is only a few more blocks and seems to stand as a beacon or a central node to the neighborhood; he will not be able to miss it. Excited to satisfy his craving, Terrance grabs his bicycle and begins to pedal down the busy pathway known as W. North Avenue. Intrigued by the many different storefronts, he noticed they begin to create an edge, guiding him down the street. Continuing down W. North Avenue, he was suddenly forced to swerve in attempts to avoid a passing car and decided that traveling on a side street may be safer.
Terrance quickly noticed the Chocolate Rose Lounge ahead and realized he needed to try to merge onto the bustle of W. Lisbon Avenue. Cruising down this new street, he saw a lone building standing tall in the distance. As it progressively got closer, he could finely make out a sign, Kehr’s Candy. In all excitement, Terrance quickly pulled off, locked his bike, and sprinted for the door. Excited to witness this local treat, he was abruptly stopped by a loud group of kids leaving with hands full. His excitement built even more. Terrance headed inside and was quickly greeted by a man behind the counter. Overwhelmed by the cornucopia of delectable treats, he approached the counter to place an order. Through the friendliness in the candy man’s voice, Terrance comfortably took a glimpse of the many old photographs on the wall. They all seemed to depict the candy store within the community throughout the years as well as the family store inheritance over the course of time.
Bag of candy in hand, Terrance headed toward the door and so generously thinking on his feet, opened the door for an elderly couple entering the candy store. Upset upon the return to his bicycle, noticing a flat tire, he wondered how he will return to the comforts of his home. He strolls to the bus stop to fix his bike another day.
Surprised by the almost packed bus, Terrance sat in the only open seat he could find. Asking if it was alright to sit, he struck up a conversation with the person in the adjacent seat. Terrance talked about his incredible first time at Kehr’s Candy but felt upheld that something seemed missing next to the distinguished hub within the neighborhood. Discussing his thoughts with the local, who chimes in how they tend to stay away from the unhealthy sweets but really enjoy growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables. To Terrance’s surprise, a sudden epiphany is brought on of the neighborhood coming together to enjoy a similar experience. Thinking back to his trek from the furniture store to Kehr‘s Candy, he noticed very few fresh organic food stores. Terrance realized a community vegetable garden for locals to both grow and sell their own foods could be ideal for this thriving community: and he knows just where to put it.