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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

9. Landscape architecture and planning,   pp. 165-176


Page 168

other techniques were employed by state, regional, and local planning agencies. Most of these
local activities followed the passage of such federal environmental legislation such as the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act. This trend
has been characterized as the "quiet revolution in land use control." Many of these plans and
concepts have been tested in court and affirmed. In the 1980s, interest in economic growth and
private initiatives for community development have increased economic planning and
redevelopment planning efforts. (The Plan for Planning 1982:14-15)"
Planning in Janesville
Formal city planning did not come to Janesville until the 1920s. Prior to this time, the city
developed within the corporate limits of its original plat and the many additions that ensued.
The federal government authorized the first survey of the Rock County area in 1833. In that
year, the west side of the Rock River was surveyed and offered for purchase. Non-resident
speculators purchased the land, and in the fall of 1835, Thomas Holmes of Milwaukee made
the first plat within the modem city limits of Janesville. This was the Rockport Plat just north
of the Rock River (Old Fourth Ward Historic District). Rockport failed in its bid to become the
center of Janesville, and the plat was not filled in until many years later. Another early plat
was made across the river from Rockport. Called Wisconsin City, it was not successful either.
(Brown 1908:525-527)
The plat that succeeded in becoming the center of Janesville was located on the east side of the
river. Henry Janes, who arrived in 1836 in the settlement that would come to bear his name,
platted the east side of the river, including what is now downtown Janesville, but his plat was
never officially recorded. Settlers began entering the community at a rapid pace in the late
1830s, and in 1840, the Board of Rock County Commissioners made Janes's plat the Original Plat
of the city of Janesville. In the 1840s, several other plats were added. The largest of these
were Mitchell's Additions and the Smith, Bailey, and Stone's additions. As the nineteenth
century progressed, many more plats were added to the city. During the 1890s, developers
added new "suburban" or "garden"-style plats to the city, such as the Riverview Park
Addition, the Glenetta Addition, Carrington's Additions, and the Forest Park Addition.
(Brown 1908:530-534,579)
Several important factors came together to inaugurate the era of formal planning in Janesville.
In 1918, the General Motors corporation acquired the Janesville Machine Company and built a
new factory to make tractors. In the late 1910s, a movement by progressive Janesville residents
to change the city government from a mayor-council system to a council-manager system took
shape. In 1919, the first planning commission was established. And in 1922, Janesville's City
Council hired Henry Traxler as city manager. Traxler, a trained engineer and progressive
administrator, remained the Janesville city manager for several decades and was responsible
for many city improvements during his tenure.
But the most significant event in the history of Janesville's planning efforts was the
development of the first comprehensive city plan, written by noted planner John Nolen for the
Janesville Chamber of Commerce in 1920. John Nolen (1869-1937) was a pioneer in the
development of modem urban and regional planning. His firm, in Cambridge, Mass., completed
more than 400 plans between 1904 and 1937, including comprehensive plans for both old and new
cities, plans for suburbs and parks, and plans for civic, educational, and commercial institutions.
At the same time, Nolen wrote important articles and books on planning and helped establish
the nation's first planning degree program at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. He also trained other planners in his office who went on to distinguished careers.
(Tishler 1989:70)
Landscape Architecture and Planning


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