East Side History Madison’s Blog

By and for the East Side History Club, a project of the Goodman Community Center

East Side History Club welcomed Vernacular Architecture Forum conference to Eken Park Neighborhood

Posted by eastsidehistorymadison on June 10, 2012

Burr Angle and Ann Waidelich (second and third from right) greeting visitors in Eken Park. (Joan Phelan was also present, but obscured by the basketball backboard post and East Side History Club sign).

On June 9, the focus was on the Madison’s East Side, as the Vernacular Architecture Forum convened in Madison. The East Side History Club, represented by Joan Phelan, Ann Waidelich, Burr Angle, and Sarah White, welcomed attendees during their two-hour visit to the Eken Park neighborhood. Who knew one of our more modest neighborhoods is a significant example of vernacular housing? (The term refers to buildings constructed of locally available resources, following traditions that address local needs and circumstances.)

The conference, titled “Nature + City: Vernacular Buildings & Landscapes of the Upper Midwest,” took participants on two tours of Madison’s East Side. After visiting some of the area’s oldest homes in the Third Lake Ridge neighborhood, four busloads of architecture enthusiasts came to the Eken Park neighborhood to view examples of some of the world’s first modular homes. Many of the modest-but-functional houses on Coolidge, Myrtle, and other nearby streets, built following World War II for returning veterans, retain their original style.

At about 900 square feet set forward on 40′ x 100′ lots, the 1-story two-bedroom homes were designed with attics ready for converting to a third bedroom as postwar families expanded. Two homes were open for conference attendees to walk through.  One, on Myrtle Street, is being renovated by Operation Fresh Start and the other, on Coolidge St., is for sale.

Burr Angle constructed a model demonstrating the typical layout of these homes, developed by John Tilton from pieces manufactured by the Milwaukee-based Harnischfeger Corp. Their occupants were mostly factory workers at the nearby Oscar Mayer plant or French Battery Factory.

Two Eken Park residents (Merlyn O’Brian and neighbor) enjoyed a new view of their homes in the 2400 block of Coolidge Street, thanks to Burr Angle’s detailed model.

Two Wisconsin State Journal articles discuss the conference and the homes:

-Sarah White, for the East Side History Club

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