HomeDiagramsDatabaseMapsForum About
     

Go Back   SkyscraperPage Forum > Discussion Forums > City Discussions


Reply

 
Thread Tools Display Modes
     
     
  #1  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 2:37 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 4,436
Best smaller historic cities in the Midwest?

Hey all,

There's a lot of debate regarding small historic cities in the Northeast, and even the South, but not really that much regarding the Midwest. On the face of it this seems odd, because a lot of the Midwest was pretty heavily settled by 1900, with plenty of urban neighborhoods. They tended to fare pretty poorly in the mid 20th century, since industrial demands often led to the clearance of "slums" which could have had potential for revitalization, but some areas have to exist.

I'm aware of some very small touristy towns like Galena, IL which survived almost totally intact, but these seem to be exceptions rather than the rule.

In terms of qualifications for the discussion, we're automatically excluding the big cities of the Midwest here (so no Chicago, Milwaukee, Cinci, Cleveland, St. Louis, etc.). Aside from that everything from a mid-sized metro down to a city of just a few hundred is fair game. However, at minimum the city should have a well-preserved business district (few to no parking lots visible) and have at least one nice historic neighborhood within walking distance of downtown (preferably something more interesting than the typical American Foursquare/Craftsmen Bungalow mix).

I have a few ideas, but the Midwest isn't my area of expertise, so I figure I'd throw it out to the crowd first.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #2  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 2:42 PM
Steely Dan's Avatar
Steely Dan Steely Dan is online now
devout Pizzatarian
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Lincoln Square, Chicago
Posts: 26,624
For a smaller city, Madison is as good as it gets in the Midwest.

Ann arbor is very nice too.
__________________
"every time a strip mall dies, an angel gets its wings"
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #3  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 2:49 PM
iheartthed iheartthed is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: New York
Posts: 7,036
I think the industrial Midwest does towns about as well as anywhere else. It's bigger cities that had the most damage. Off the top of my head, these all seem to have cores that are in good shape:

Ann Arbor
Marquette
Traverse City
Kalamazoo
Sandusky, OH
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #4  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 2:54 PM
Crawford Crawford is online now
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Brooklyn, NYC/Polanco, DF
Posts: 26,495
Sandusky looked pretty depressed to me, unless there's been some radical change in the last 15 years. I remember taking a side trip to a pretty dead downtown last time I went to Cedar Point. Looks like a typical Eastern Great Lakes industrial small city.

Anyways, I thought smaller historic cities means places like Cooperstown, NY or Jim Thorpe, PA or Manchester, VT. Quaint places with the touristy main streets, and the boomer-focused leisure tourism. That wouldn't describe really any of these cities, excepting Traverse City, and Traverse isn't particularly historic.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #5  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 3:06 PM
bnk's Avatar
bnk bnk is offline
પટેલ. કે ન
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: chicagoland
Posts: 12,068
Having lived there for 6 years while in school.

I'm Going to throw in Des Moines. Similar in size to Madison with a State Capital and several Universities, although not a top tier Big Ten University.

It has healthy growth, Jobs, diversity of housing and an decent Downtown with an affluent west end.

State Capitals have a bit a gravity pull in them naturally.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Des_Moines,_Iowa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madison,_Wisconsin
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #6  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 3:28 PM
Boisebro's Avatar
Boisebro Boisebro is offline
All man. Half nuts.
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Boise, Idaho
Posts: 3,359
a couple that come to mind:

Duluth, MN - has an old, industrial feel and a lot of history regarding mining and great lakes shipping

Houghton/Hancock, MI - old mining towns. the UP of Michigan has a lot of these, including the "Iron" towns (Ironwood, Iron Mountain, Iron Michigan) and Copper Harbor.

Prairie du Chien, WI - i believe it's one of the oldest towns in WI, with plenty of older buildings and historical sites.
__________________
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”―Mark Twain
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”―Saint Augustine
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”―Anonymous
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #7  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 3:30 PM
Crawford Crawford is online now
Registered User
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Brooklyn, NYC/Polanco, DF
Posts: 26,495
Yeah, Houghton/Hancock is a good one.

Des Moines is nothing like we're talking about. It isn't particularly small, historic, quaint or touristy. Unless I'm misreading the topic.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #8  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 3:47 PM
dc_denizen's Avatar
dc_denizen dc_denizen is offline
Selfie-stick vendor
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: New York Suburbs
Posts: 10,718
Des moines downtown is too empty to be included
__________________
Joined the bus on the 33rd seat
By the doo-doo room with the reek replete
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #9  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 3:55 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 4,436
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
Anyways, I thought smaller historic cities means places like Cooperstown, NY or Jim Thorpe, PA or Manchester, VT. Quaint places with the touristy main streets, and the boomer-focused leisure tourism. That wouldn't describe really any of these cities, excepting Traverse City, and Traverse isn't particularly historic.
It can mean places like that, but it doesn't have to. I would also define places like Lancaster, PA, Portland, ME, Kingston, NY, Dover, NJ, New London, CT, Annapolis, MD, and Savannah, GA as historic, even though they are generally larger (and in some cases pretty economically mixed).

I think a mid-sized Midwest metro can arguably qualify on a neighborhood-based level. For example, the Oregon neighborhood in Dayton has a level of urbanity you don't generally see in mid-sized midwestern cities. Evansville has some nice historic fabric immediately south of Downtown as well. But my experience is most midwestern cities tend to have a "ring of ruin" surrounding the downtown, so once you get past the parking craters the neighborhoods are mostly boring detached single-family houses. So like in LaCrosse, there's a pretty awesome downtown...and then this.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #10  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 3:56 PM
iheartthed iheartthed is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: New York
Posts: 7,036
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crawford View Post
Sandusky looked pretty depressed to me, unless there's been some radical change in the last 15 years. I remember taking a side trip to a pretty dead downtown last time I went to Cedar Point. Looks like a typical Eastern Great Lakes industrial small city.
I don't remember it being dead, but I haven't been since the early 00s. The downtown looks pretty intact from the Google street view, though.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #11  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 4:25 PM
BigDipper 80 BigDipper 80 is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 116
Yellow Springs is probably the most vibrant small town in Ohio, although architecturally it's not too exciting.

Other nice small cities in southwestern Ohio include Miamisburgand Troy. Both of these suburbs are mostly-intact and have reasonably vibrant downtowns with a lot of independent businesses.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #12  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 4:39 PM
SIGSEGV's Avatar
SIGSEGV SIGSEGV is online now
He/his/him. >~<, QED!
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Loop, Chicago
Posts: 5,342
The UP has some nice small city examples (Houghton, Marquette, Calumet, even though Calumet is mostly a gold town and you might include it as part of Houghton/Hancock anyway).

Dubuque has some good bones. I qutie embarrasingly haven't been to any downstate Illinois cities, but I imagine some must have good bones (Peoria? looks nice on streetview: https://www.google.com/maps/@40.6918...7i16384!8i8192)
__________________
And here the air that I breathe isn't dead.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #13  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 4:39 PM
ChiSoxRox's Avatar
ChiSoxRox ChiSoxRox is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
Posts: 2,291
Dubuque, Iowa

(Trim giant image quoted below)
__________________
Like the pre-war masonry skyscrapers? Then check out my list of the tallest buildings in 1950.

Last edited by ChiSoxRox; May 26, 2022 at 7:50 PM. Reason: Try to shrink image
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #14  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 4:42 PM
eschaton eschaton is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 4,436
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiSoxRox View Post
Dubuque, Iowa


(Shutterstock)
Dubuque was definitely hurt a bit by urban renewal/mid 20th century neglect, but it has an impressive collection of rowhouses and rowhouse-like buildings considering it's in Iowa.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #15  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 4:47 PM
left of center's Avatar
left of center left of center is offline
1st Ward
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: The Big Onion
Posts: 2,369
Dubuque, IA and Galena, IL makes for a great weekend getaway. I try to hit both up at least once every summer, just to get away from the city. Both are very charming with great red brick bones. Excellent craft brews out there as well; Galena Brewing Co in Galena, 7 Hills Brewing in Dubuque, and Blaum Bros Distilling Co just outside of Galena is also worth a visit!
__________________
"Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world." -Frank Lloyd Wright
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #16  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 4:52 PM
pdxtex's Avatar
pdxtex pdxtex is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 2,838
Michigan is full of nice small towns. Dexter, Chelsea, Plymouth, Northville. Clarkston, Mt. Pleasant, Midland, Marquette, Traverse City, South Haven. Tons. Traverse City is arguably the nicest city in Michigan if leisure is your goal.
__________________
Portland!! Where young people formerly went to retire.
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #17  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 5:08 PM
galleyfox galleyfox is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 645
Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
But my experience is most midwestern cities tend to have a "ring of ruin" surrounding the downtown, so once you get past the parking craters the neighborhoods are mostly boring detached single-family houses. .


Yes, you can see from Galena, IL and Mackinac Island, MI that the area behind the main business street was usually just some old wooden housing or brick warehouse stuff.

Most small and medium sized Midwestern cities and towns were not that well-established before the Model T was mass produced, so they didn’t think too hard about demolition.

For example, Pontiac, IL is about as intact as a traditional prairie town can reasonably be. A pretty grand Main Street, and right behind that is

Often 3/4 of the population growth happened after the car was invented, so why not tear down the old shacks for space to park the car.





For Illinois, these towns on the map would have been the genuine “historic” towns that developed before cars become too popular.

Most were never that viable economically and became stuck as farming towns or county seats. Others like Quincy fell into true economic decline later, and don’t have many intact traditional neighborhoods left.

So Chicago and Galena (being an easy drive from Chicago) survive that era as mostly intact and walkable.

Reply With Quote
     
     
  #18  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 5:18 PM
galleyfox galleyfox is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 645
Quote:
Originally Posted by SIGSEGV View Post

Dubuque has some good bones. I qutie embarrasingly haven't been to any downstate Illinois cities, but I imagine some must have good bones (Peoria? looks nice on streetview
In a perfect world, Peoria would have become the state capital instead of boring old Springfield. Waterfront, proximity to Chicago, etc.

It has every other asset except for a functioning economy, which a capital could have stabilized at least.

https://www.peoriamagazines.com/ibi/...battle-capital
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #19  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 5:21 PM
edale edale is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 1,544
The first thing that came to mind is Madison, Indiana. It's on the Ohio River in Southern Indiana, about an hour from Louisville and 1.5 hours from Cincinnati. They have a really charming main street, and some beautiful historic neighborhoods. It's located on a pretty small piece of flat land between the river and some steep hills, where Clifty Falls State Park is located. It's a lovely little town, and definitely draws day trippers from Louisville, Lexington, and Cincy.

A couple of other historic towns near Cincy I can think of:
Maysville, Kentucky

and

Hamilton, OH (linked to their German Village neighborhood, but they also have a pretty decent downtown )
Reply With Quote
     
     
  #20  
Old Posted May 26, 2022, 5:25 PM
Steely Dan's Avatar
Steely Dan Steely Dan is online now
devout Pizzatarian
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Lincoln Square, Chicago
Posts: 26,624
Quote:
Originally Posted by galleyfox View Post
In a perfect world, Peoria would have become the state capital instead of boring old Springfield. Waterfront, proximity to Chicago, etc.

It has every other asset except for a functioning economy, which a capital could have stabilized at least.

https://www.peoriamagazines.com/ibi/...battle-capital
and bradley is the #2 regional university in the midwest as ranked by USNWR.

perhaps if peoria has been the state capital all along, bradley might have grown into more of a full-fledged R1 national university, and the special sauce of state capital combined with major university could have propelled it into becoming IL's version of a Madison-lite?
__________________
"every time a strip mall dies, an angel gets its wings"
Reply With Quote
     
     
This discussion thread continues

Use the page links to the lower-right to go to the next page for additional posts
 
 
Reply

Go Back   SkyscraperPage Forum > Discussion Forums > City Discussions
Forum Jump


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 3:23 AM.

     

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.