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1 A Model for Identifying and Evaluating the Historic Significance of Post-World War II Housing By 1945, the housing backlog that began in the Great Depression and accelerated during the war years had left approximately 3,600,000 families without homes. To address this defi- cit, new housing starts reached a total of 1,023,000 in 1946, increasing more than threefold over the prior year.1 As postwar residential construction continued, the number of new houses built in the period from 1946 to 1975 reached over 40 million.2 Many such houses are now or will soon be more than 50 years old and may be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (National Register). Pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106), federal agencies must take into account the effects their projects may have on properties eligible for listing in the National Register. As a result, postwar residences are increasingly being considered as part of Section 106 compliance. To address the challenges faced by cultural resource professionals and decision makers when confronted with this vast number of postwar residences, an effective methodology for survey and National Register evaluation is needed. The NCHRP of the National Academies funded the project to assist departments of transportation (DOTs), State Historic Preser- vation Offices (SHPOs), and the FHWA in effectively dealing with postwar resources and fulfilling associated compliance requirements under Section 106. This research project focused on the achievement of the projectâs objective of developing a practical, consistent, efficient, and useful approach to the identification and evaluation of post- war resources that can be used within the framework of Section 106. The main components of this study include the following: â¢ Development of a methodology for identification and evaluation of the National Register eligibility and non-eligibility of single-family housing built between 1946 and 1975. â¢ Preparation of a national context to understand the development of postwar housing and to guide the evaluation of postwar residential types. â¢ The application and testing of the methodology and national context to three diverse geo- graphic locations (Arlington County, Virginia; Arlington, Texas; and Madison, Wisconsin) to demonstrate its utility. The results of this application were used to refine the methodology for both survey and evaluation presented in this report. These results are not included within this report, but are available on the project website. S U M M A R Y 1 Joseph B. Mason, History of Housing in the U.S. 1930-1980 (Houston, Tex.: Gulf Publishing Company, 1982), 45-47. 2 U.S. Census data accessed at http://www.census.gov/const/startsan.pdf on 29 March 2011, and U.S. Census data from 1966 in Barry Checkoway, âLarge Builders, Federal Housing Programmes, and Postwar Suburbaniza- tion,â in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 4, no. 1, March 1980, 23, and reprinted in Critical Perspectives on Housing.
2The guidance for survey and evaluation builds upon the National Register Bulletin Historic Residential Suburbs, Guidelines for Evaluation and Documentation for the National Register of Historic Places to provide efficiencies in the survey and documentation of postwar single- family residences and address the challenges the ubiquity of vernacular homes of that era pose to the evaluation of their National Register eligibility. The most significant component of the survey methodology is a selective survey approach tailored for this resource type that focuses documentation and evaluation efforts on those resources that are more likely to meet National Register Criteria. The methodology recommends the review and documentation of these resources first as components of a potential historic district, since most postwar houses will not meet National Register Criteria individually. For individual resources, documenta- tion and evaluation is limited to those examples of postwar forms and styles that stand out among similar properties. Collectively, this results in a streamlined approach that effectively deals with the large number of similar postwar resources. The national historic context developed for this study is also a useful tool for state DOTs, SHPOs, the FHWA, cultural resource professionals, and others in understanding the themes and issues that relate to the development and construction of individual houses and postwar neighborhoods and subdivisions. Spanning the period from 1946 to 1975, the contextual information provides the larger national framework within which to place local residences and subdivisions or neighborhoods as they are evaluated on a project-by-project basis. The national historic context also serves as a guide for the development of local historic contexts by identifying themes to consider for local context development. The survey and evaluation methodology is applicable to postwar residences nationally and provides the opportunity for consistency among state agencies needing to identify and evaluate individual properties and planned subdivisions and unplanned neighborhoods of the period. Use of this methodology by state DOTs will streamline the survey and evaluation process with consistent results across geographic areas. If necessary, the methodology can be tailored to meet individual state requirements while adhering to its overall intent to follow a practical and streamlined approach that recognizes the ubiquity and homogeneity of many postwar residential resources.