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

Carole Zellie

Carole Zellie
'anesville, one of many southern Wisconsin river cities founded in the 1830s, is a textbook
example of the persistence and success of early settlers. Here, on the banks of the Rock River,
they established a variety of manufacturing enterprises that served the agricultural
interests of Rock County and beyond. While the city experienced the boom-and-bust cycles of
the national and regional economy for the past 150 years, it has enjoyed general growth and
stability. This is reflected in its fine collection of historic buildings, encompassing a great
variety of residences and many types and styles of commercial, industrial, and institutional
In Janesville, one does not have to be content to just read about the city's history. Here one may
see the stone cottages built by quarry workers, pre-Civil War storefronts along Main Street, the
cream brick cotton mill along the Rock River (now converted to residential use), and the
extraordinary hilltop houses built by the city's business leaders. Today these and many other
buildings are not museums, but part of the everyday life of the city, some having been adapted
to new uses. Planning for preservation in Janesville incorporates research-such as this
collection of essays, nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, and walking
tours-with ongoing public and private efforts to strengthen neighborhoods and the downtown
commercial center.
These essays document aspects of Janesville's history from pre-settlement to the present.
Together they constitute a framework for understanding related cultural resources based on a
historical theme, geographical area, and period of time. Nationally, such frameworks, or
historic contexts, are a cornerstone of the cultural resources management planning process. In
Wisconsin, the Introduction to Wisconsin Archeology and Cultural Resource Management in
Wisconsin defines contexts within broad, general terms that are applicable statewide, or
within a large portion of the state. This work about Janesville also contributes to previous
statewide contexts studies.
Each essay or context study in the book was commissioned by the Janesville Historic
Commission through a Certified Local Government grant administered by the Division of
Historic Preservation of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. These contexts assist
Janesville planners and historians in evaluation and conservation of the city's historic and
cultural resources. National Register of Historic Places nominations for the city's eleven
historic districts, and many individual nominations have benefited from this research.
Three authors contributed to this publication. Historian Carol Lohry Cartwright wrote most of
the chapters in 1996 and 1997. Cartwright received an M.A. in history from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. She has conducted many historical and architectural surveys for the City
of Janesville, including five National Register of Historic Places historic district nominations.
Cartwright also completed chapters that were drafted by historian Randal Waller in 1987.
Waller holds an M.A. in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and previously
worked as the staff historian in the Division of Historic Preservation at the State Historical
Society of Wisconsin.
The first chapter was written by archeologist Scott Shaffer in 1997. Shaffer holds an M.A. in
public archeology from the University of Memphis. He is currently senior archeologist for
Vaughn Engineering, Madisonville, Kentucky. Since 1996 he has also worked as a private
archeological consultant.

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