Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From Horses to Cars: Chicago in 1894 and 1923

One Chicago block in 1893. Yellow designates stables for horses.

In the process of cleaning up and organizing things during our move, I came across some material from a grad school paper I wrote for a historical geography class examining the physical transformation of a micro-neighborhood in Chicago as automobiles replaced horses as the dominant mode of urban transportation. I used Sanborn fire insurance maps to locate buildings designated as stables in 1894 and automobile garages in 1923.

Zooming in to just one block of the micro-neighborhood reveals the extent of the transformation (note that May Street became Mildred Avenue by 1923). There were only 7 horse stables in the block in 1894, but there were 22 automobile garages in 1923. Click for a larger version of each map to make out the highlighted portions.
The same Chicago block in 1923. Yellow designates automobile garages.

If I had the paper to do over again, I would add a comparative census analysis to determine whether the neighborhood had gentrified during this period. In other words, were the people with comparatively few horses in 1894 the same people who had so many cars in 1923? My guess is no.

Anyway, interesting stuff, thought it was worth sharing.