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Early Suburbs

Wisconsin experienced enormous growth in the late nineteenth century. Industrial expansion and rapid population increase led many Wisconsin municipalities to annex land, allowing the community to grow and to decrease urban congestion. These new areas increased the city's tax base and provided additional housing, usually at the higher end of the market. In return, cities offered urban amenities, including electrical and telephone service and sewer lines.

Between 1870 and 1900 the population of the state nearly doubled, including the population living in urban areas and the density of the urban population. The inner core of Wisconsin's cities was becoming overcrowded and unsanitary. The early suburbs were, therefore, seen as an oasis for the more affluent population. The new suburbs provided single-family homes, often on larger lots than were available within the central city. Before zoning was commonplace, developers platted lots in a regular pattern to create a sense of physical order and used deed restrictions to regulate appearances and uses. While trolley and streetcar systems allowed larger cities, such as Milwaukee, to expand their residential neighborhoods, it was not until the common ownership of the automobile that suburban living became possible in other areas of the state.

While early suburbs were often affluent, the trend toward suburbanization extended to the middle and working classes. These suburbs are often distinguished by a uniformity of housing styles and lot sizes and a standard set back to the buildings. In Wisconsin's smaller cities, many post World War II developments were attached to the existing city grid or were located immediately adjacent to the current corporate limit as an extension of the municipality. In larger urban areas of the state, many suburban developments exist as stand alone plans tied to major commuter arteries. Nationwide by 1990, with the growing prevalence and popularity of suburban living, the majority of all Americans lived in suburban areas.

More examples from the National Register:

University Heights Historic District, Madison

Wingra Park Historic District, Madison

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