East Isles and Lowry Hill to do an historic context study

East Isles Residents Association (EIRA) will collaborate with Lowry Hill Residents Inc. (LHRI) on an historic context study. EIRA approved a motion to use Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds from its Historic Designation strategy at a meeting on Nov. 15.

An historic context study illuminates the age and details of neighborhood buildings and land-use patterns in the neighborhood.

Carol Zellie of the St. Paul-based cultural research management firm, Landscape Research, said it’s the first step in a preservation planning process for communities and “a tool in assessing historic resources.”

Zellie has performed similar studies locally and nationally. Other studies have centered on particular synagogues, public schools and chapter houses (fraternity buildings). They’ve been conducted across the city and most recently in the Wedge neighborhood.

Zellie said context studies aren’t a comprehensive neighborhood study and are usually organized around building types. Typically, they examine the physical development of an area with a focus on architecture and landscape history. The studies involve examinations of the real estate process, broader city growth, transportation and representative property types.

For example, when studying a working-class neighborhood, an organization conducting an historic context study will investigate mass development, such as houses intended for factory workers built near a former streetcar line.

Houses close to the Southwest lakes, however, tend to show individual character, Zellie said, and were designed by the city’s leading architects. She said East Isles and Lowry Hill afford a variety of land-use patterns to study.

She said she’s especially interested in exploring the acquisition of lake properties by the Park Board and the Board’s connection to local real estate marketing and promotion of the area.

To conduct an historic context study, an amalgamation of resources including photos, maps, newspapers, published accounts and interviews, are compiled.

“It gives a better picture of neighborhood resources,” Zellie said.

The study will take about six months to conduct and will cost $25,000.