Field Assignment 2

Social and Physical Change in Neighborhoods


  • Read Sam Bass Warner, “The Evolution and Transformation of the American Industrial Metropolis” (City Reader, p. 55)
  • Read Kenneth Jackson, “The Drive in Culture of Contemporary Urban America” (City Reader, p. 65)
  • Note both readings are in a single PDF here.


Part I: Physical Change

Your job is to visit areas of Boulder that were developed during different time periods and study how the built environment has evolved over time. Specifically you will be looking for houses emblematic of different time periods.

The section Housing Ages in Boulder below includes maps of the prevalence of houses for each decade since the 1930s. Find and photograph 3 houses that you think are emblematic of these time periods: 1. Pre 1930s 2. 1940s 3. 1950s 4. 1960s 5. 1970s 6. 1980s 7. 1990s 8. 2000 - present

Remember the axiom of historic lumpiness! Not all houses in the neighborhoods you visit will have been built in the 1940’s, 50’s, etc. You should try to find houses that seem emblematic of that decade. How will you know you are right? Read Jackson, think about what you see, and TAKE A LOT OF PICTURES. This may save you some trips back to a neighborhood; make sure you have not missed anything. Be sure to keep track of the addresses of the houses.

Pay special attention to garages (see discussion in Jackson). What happened to garages between the 1930 and the 1990s-2000s? Note the size of the garage and its orientation to the rest of the house. Do the houses have driveways? Alleys? Does the street width, distance between houses, and/or house size seem different in the different decades?


  1. Photo slides (8-12 slides): For each decade create a slide with 1-3 examples of houses. You’ll have one slide for pre 1930s, one for the 1940s, etc… More photos isn’t better, just include what you think is necessary to support your comments on the “observations” slides. YOu’ll have a minimum of 8 photo slides (for each decade since from pre 1930-2000) and a maximim of 12 slides.
    • For each house you show in a photo slide use data from the City of Boulder’s Open Data Catalogue to verify the house age. This data isn’t perfect, there are lots of zeros and the dates are sometimes incorrect. You can, object or disagree with the data. On each photo slide indicate the address of each house and the age of construction from the open data catalogue. DATA HERE.
  2. Observation slides (8 slides): For each decade describe the changes you observe compare to prior decades. After each decade specific photo slide include 1 slide describing the changes from prior decades.
  3. Conclusion slides (1-3 slides): Speculate on the causes of the changes you observe. Be sure to ground your speculation in the Jackson reading (and if possible Warner).

Part II: Social Change

Part two of this assignment has individual and group work.

Individual work

Go to [Social Explorer] (, this site is only available from on campus or through the university library (you have to login). Identify the census tract where you grew up. Look at the data from 1970-2000, available on what social explorer calls “Decennial Census’ on 2010 Geographies.” Try to build a story of the demographic and economic change in your home census tract. For help on making maps and using social explorer see: An example from Seth’s childhood home shown below.

Group work (Deliverable)

Prepare a set of 4-8 narrative slides describing the the demographic and economic changes in one person’s neighborhood. You should choose a person who lived in a place with interesting changes. These slides should tell a story of the evolution of a neighborhood in terms of the economic and demographic characteristics of the people who lived there.

Housing Ages in Boulder

Pre 1930 Housing

1940 Housing.

Note: not many houses were built in this decade only 15-30% of the houses in these neighborhoods were built during the 1940s.


1960 Housing.





This map is a little funky because of how the data was collected, it actually contains three variables.