Eras of Evolution in One Neighborhood

neighborhood growth-lianesebastianFascinated with growth patterns, using data of construction, this Evanston neighborhood reflects the national climate. This undeclared historic area means that the evolution is clear and organic. To find a neighborhood in a vibrant city that has blocks and blocks of related vintage homes is becoming less and less common. Evanston is unusual because all the homes are custom, even if starting with a pattern (like the Sears kit homes in the late 1900s). Today, the city makes it difficult to tear houses down, and new construction must preserve footprints.

I am always looking for ways to depict time and change in a single image. It is much easier to do with animation. This eight-square map story could be done in one frame with an evolving image corresponding to various years. However, the perception of comparison is very different when viewing all eight phases at once.  By coding the new construction red in each phase, it is clear how land use self-defined. As the farms of the 1870s were sold off into lots, the railroad transformed Green Bay Trail to a national network.

The neighborhood, until running out of land, was always additive. Few structures have been replaced with newer ones, so the organic growth is evident. The area is very well organized.

• The wood frame houses built in the late 1800s occupy the south east and beyond. As great examples of the Stick Style, some sport variations like Italianate, Queen Anne, Georgian, etc. (I illustrated a before and after of one built in 1888.) How they have been altered also mirrors greater societal changes. Divided in the 20s and 30s into two-flats, today they are switching back to single family homes. They sport room additions and enclosed porches, so much of the original character has changed.

• Bungalows of the 1920s filled the blocks of the north east. The curb-view offers an authenticity to when they were built, though the backs of them have room additions. They are classic examples of the Prairie Style.

• Two flats from the 30s lined up on Noyes. They are almost all unaltered from their original constructions, and still used as built.

• West of the tracks is comprised of small commercial structures, sprinkled with old farm houses (many in original condition). All small businesses, these warehouses and storefronts house many tradesmen, craftsmen, and artists. Many are converted to residential lofts.

• The area is dominated by the canal with woods, parks, and golf course, causing residents to feel the city is far away.

It is surprising that, with the railroad intersecting the canal, the area is not filled with large companies for the shipping outlets. Yet, there is no rail station—trains zip quietly by. And the canal peacefully glides up to Wilmette where it flows into Lake Michigan. More ducks are seen on its waters than boats, with the exception of canoes and kayaks in the late afternoon.

I feel the glance-value of this illustration style tells the story of growth more deeply than an animation (though that could be sequenced by date of build and offer a different level of experience. But too often, the contemplation side of perception is skipped over, and details are lost. It is in the details that meaning is most revealed!

—Always inspired, Liane


Liane Sebastian wears an editor’s hat, designer’s coat, and artist’s shoes.



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