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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. A Model for Identifying and Evaluating the Historic Significance of Post-World War II Housing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22709.
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3 As soldiers returned home from World War II, started fami- lies, and settled into civilian life, a burgeoning demand for housing could finally be addressed and a residential building boom ensued. A significant rise in auto ownership to three out of every four families in the 1950s that occurred in conjunc- tion with the rise of freeway development facilitated sub urban growth away from the city centers.3 Suburban expansion and home ownership continued in the 1960s and early 1970s, with 66 percent of the population owning their own homes in 1970, compared to only 55 percent in 1950.4 The suburban environment that developed in the postwar period from 1946 to 1975 represents the fulfillment of the American dream of home ownership. A distinctive landscape emerged comprised of large-scale, self-contained subdivisions with single-family homes often aligned along curvilinear streets. Post-World War II (postwar) houses were also constructed on isolated lots, as infill within earlier neighborhoods, and in small cluster developments with lesser, overall visual impact. Pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preser- vation Act (Section 106), the FHWA and state DOTs must take into account the effects their projects may have on properties eligible for listing in the National Register of His- toric Places (National Register). State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) are responsible for commenting on eligibil- ity recommendations and project effects. With many postwar houses and suburban developments now more than 50 years old, or coming of age soon, they may need to be considered for eligibility for listing in the National Register for the pur- poses of Section 106. The magnitude of postwar properties will increase dramatically in the next decade, presenting a major challenge to decision makers. This vast number of postwar residential resources requires an effective framework for determining National Register eligibility. The objectives of the research project, as stated in the State- ment of Work, are to: 1. Develop a methodology for identifying and evaluating the National Register eligibility and non-eligibility of: a. Postwar single-family housing built between 1946 and 1975 that is not part of a planned subdivision or unplanned neighborhood, and b. Postwar single-family housing developments built between 1946 and 1975 as a planned subdivision or unplanned neighborhood. 2. Develop a national historic context and a model historic context for a state or region that addresses these types of properties. 3. Apply and test the model historic context in a state or region to demonstrate its utility to state DOTs and SHPOs. Although some state DOTs and SHPOs have begun to address postwar residential resources through historic context development and evaluation for individual projects, it was rec- ognized that broader direction is needed to guide and support surveys and eligibility assessments. The model context and sur- vey and evaluation methodology presented in this report pro- vide a standard framework for cultural resource professionals to use to judiciously and efficiently evaluate postwar housing. This will result in a streamlined and consistent approach to context development, survey, and evaluation that will benefit future Section 106 compliance efforts. Adoption of the meth- odological approaches and defined standards presented herein will result in clearer decision making and agency agreement on the eligibility and non-eligibility of these resources. The project team developed the recommendations in con- sultation with the research panel appointed by the NCHRP that provided valuable insight, greatly informing the study. The project team consists of cultural resource professionals from Mead & Hunt, Inc. (Mead & Hunt) and the Louis Berger Group, Inc. C H A P T E R 1 Background 3 Peter G. Rowe, Making a Middle Landscape (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1991), 5. 4 Rowe, 5.

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TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 723: A Model for Identifying and Evaluating the Historic Significance of Post-World War II Housing provides an approach to the identification and evaluation of postwar housing resources that can be used within the framework of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act.

The report includes a methodology for identification and evaluation of the National Register eligibility and non-eligibility of single-family housing built between 1946 and 1975. The report also includes a national context to understand the development of postwar housing and to help guide the evaluation of postwar residential types.

TR News 292: May-June 2014 includes an article about the report.

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