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

5. Commerce,   pp. 95-117

Page 95

Carol Lohry Cartwright and Randal Waller
lmost as soon as communities are founded, commercial activity begins. It is one of the
most important economic functions of any settlement. Even without significant industry,
communities can survive based on commercial activity alone. But once commercial
activity dies much of a community dies with it, losing its focus and causing people to look
elsewhere for essential goods. Henry Janes, who made the successful plat of Janesville, was also
a commercial entrepreneur, operating a ferry service across the river and a combination inn,
tavern, and post office in his cabin. From these small beginnings, Janesville's commercial
district grew along Main and Milwaukee streets, eventually developing into a large downtown
shopping district with department stores, specialty stores, and professional offices. During the
early twentieth century, Janesville's downtown was a regional shopping center, and commerce
provided much of the economic base of the community.
After World War II, the city's commercial enterprises began moving to the outskirts of the city.
At first it was just supermarkets, but soon the first modem shopping center, Creston Park, was
built on what was then the northeastern edge of the city. Although shopping areas developed
on all sides of the city, the northeast side saw the most development, spurred by the
construction of residential housing in the area and the location of the interstate highway
there. A modem enclosed shopping mall was built along Milton Avenue and this mall attracted
other businesses to locate nearby. In the last 10 years, Milton Avenue near Highways 51, 26,
and 14 has filled up with large discount department stores, a mega-supermarket, several strip
malls, and a myriad of fast food outlets. Janesville is still a regional shopping community, but
only a little of this activity still takes place downtown.
4:44 -
In the foreground, the heart of Janesville's business district on the east side of the Rock River. Photograph ca. 1868.

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