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Neighborhood History


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After learning about the importance of neighborhood identity, and the history of their city, this activity gives students the opportunity to dive deeper into the history of their school’s neighborhood as an important part of its identity. Students will be broken into groups that represent different time periods. Given text that tells about their given time period, they will visually represent what they believe their neighborhood looked like by drawing on a trace paper overlay of their neighborhood map.


Download the entire Neighborhood History Lesson Plan


Core Question

How does the shape that we give to your city, in turn, shape us?
Supporting Question: How was my community shaped? How is it still being shaped?

Objectives

I can create tell the story of my school’s neighborhood history on a map.
I can explain how historical events impacted the growth and development of my school’s neighborhood.

supporting text

Supporting text for this activity will be local neighborhood history resources. It is recommended to visit your local library for these resources. 

Materials

Large Map of school’s neighborhood (one per group)

  • For Nashville, contact the Nashville Civic Design Center for this resource.
  • For other communities, contact your local planning department for this resource.

Markers
Tracing Paper (large roll)

Timing recommendation

Launch: 15 min
Activity: 45 min
Closing:15 min
Total time: 1 hr

Preparation

This activity requires the research and preparation of local neighborhood history resources.  After finding resources, break the information down into time periods, one of which will be given to each group. When you break down the information, keep in mind that students will be using it to draw what they believe their neighborhood looked like in that time period. An example is attached at the end of this activity guide that was used for a 5th grade class. 

Launch:

  • Prepare a few excerpts from the text that you will be giving students to practice representing as a class.

Activity: 

  • Prepare a time period of the neighborhood history text for each group. 
  • Large neighborhood map for each group that you can also use in the “Neighborhood Analysis” activity. 
  • Large piece of trace paper for each group to draw over their map.
  • Markers for each group.

Closing:

  • Categories ready for discussion.

Procedure

Launch

This launch is intended to scaffold student’s thinking into visually representing the history of their neighborhood from the written text. 

  • Choose a few sentences from  the text that students will be using, and ask them to represent them with a picture. Have students share their pictures with the class so they can see each other’s ideas.
  • Transition to Activity: Refer back to the “Neighborhood Identity” activity, and how important the identity of a place is to the people. Tell students that the history of a place is a big part of its identity, which is what they will be exploring.  We learned how important identity is. History is a big part of it. Orient students on map - school, major landmarks, major streets.
 

Activity

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On a trace paper overlay of your neighborhood map, draw what you believe your school’s neighborhood looked like during the time period that you were assigned.

  • Introduction: Introduce the above directions, and tell students that they will use drawings like they did in the launch to represent a given time period on a map. Each group will have a different time period. Help students orient themselves on the map, and point out major streets and landmarks.  
  • Assign the different groups to their time period, let them read the history, and begin drawing. 
 

Closing

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Allow each group to present their time period to the class. After the presentations, have a class discussion that reflects on what historic events helped shape the neighborhood. Use the following categories to help guide the discussion: 

  1. War
  2. Technology 
  3. Transportation
  4. Parks
  5. Economy/Trade
  6. Social Movements (ex. Civil Rights)
  7. Housing

text example

The following is for the Flatrock neighborhood in Nashville.

Excerpts from “Nashville in the New Millennium: Immigrant Settlement, Urban Transformation, and Social Belonging” by Jamie Winders, and  “Flatrock or Woodbine” by Jewell Elam Hancock

before the 1800’s

  • For many years, probably centuries, before the long hunters and permanent settlers came to Middle Tennessee, tribes of people lived and died here. Later the Native Americans lived and roamed and claimed it as their land. The forests were luxuriant, and the cane brakes thick, making an ideal place for hordes of animals to live.
  • A favorite spot four miles south of what is now the heart of Nashville was selected by the Native Americans as a place to meet, to transect business, and sign treaties. They chose this location because there were many large, flat rocks joined and overlapping, forming a smooth surface.
  • In the middle of this flat surface they placed a second stone, which was rectangular in shape, and rounded at each end.
  • The Native Americans made basins in each end of the rock to be used in crushing corn.
  • This flat rock was located at the intersection of what is now Whittsitt Avenue and Nolensville Road, in the low woody area near the creek.

1800-1900

  • … the neighborhood of Flatrock in the northern portion of southeast Nashville was first settled in the early 1800’s. Formed out of farms deeded to Revolutionary War soldiers, it remained rural and sparsely populated until the late 19th century…
  • A dirt road running south from Nashville was known as “Fishing Forde,” later to be known as Nolensville Road.
  • Hardiman Road, a narrow, dirt, wagon road, crossed “Fishing Forde” running east and west. It soon became Thompson Road, named for the Thompson family who were large land owners.
  • There was a one-room school where the farm children attended and a small school on Mill Creek.

1900-1950

  • Nolensville Road was narrow and unimproved, but it had a street car.
  • In 1912 Radnor Yards, a large rail road switching facility opened.
  • Within a few years, a growing number of people were moving to Flatrock from across Nashville as well as from Nashville’s rural hinterlands, drawn by job opportunities at Radnor Yards (railroad station).
  • By the early 1920’s, Thompson Lane had emerged, and had a few blocks in what would become the smaller neighborhood of Radnor.
  • By the late 1930’s, Radnor had an established business district along Nolensville Road.
  • … Flatrock continued to grow, especially at its southern edge, where new neighborhoods and subdivisions were being developed as Nashville grew outward into the surrounding county.
  • Glencliff developed after World War II, somewhat later than Woodbine and Radnor, and included larger lots and houses that were home to “the doctors and the lawyers and the professional people.”

1950-1990

  • In the 1950’s, Nolensville Road, which was first paved in the 1920’s, was expanded to four lanes as traffic along it increased and subdivisions on either side of it blossomed.
  • The neighborhoods of Woodbine and Radnor were were largely filled by the 1960’s, and new residential construction was concentrated in Flatrock’s southern edge.
  • The building and population boom that started in Woodbine in the 1930’s, thus, was largely silenced by the mid-1960’s, when Radnor Yards (railroad company) downsized…
  • When Helen, a local resident, moved to Woodbine in the mid-1960’s, she had mostly elderly neighbors… By the 1970’s, many of these residents had died, houses along her street were becoming rentals, and nobody stayed very long.
  • Woodbine had always included “a very strange mix” of black and white, affluent and poor residents, with pockets of black settlement throughout.
  • The completion of the I-440 highway loop in the early 1980’s sped up the decline; with a multi-lane highway now going through Woodbine, Flatrock was now more separated than ever.

1990 - Present

  • During this time, Flatrock noticeably changed from an area of “older established neighborhoods” of white, working-class families to one with “conventional rentals” occupied by Hispanics and Asians…
  • By the late 1990’s, as construction associated with projects like the Opryland Hotel continued, a growing number of Latino residents had moved into the apartment complexes along Murfreesboro Road.
  • Nolensville Road catered to a Latino, especially Mexican clientele, leading some residents and political representatives to claim that Latino immigrants had saved the area’s business district.
  • As Woodbine became Nashville’s “Little Mexico” and Glencliff High School became the city’s “United Nations” in the 2000’s, its streets remained caught between new and old. Flatrock in the new millennium was home to elderly white widows living beside Guatamalan households, retired empty nesters with RV’s in the driveway across the street from Mexican families with cars around the house.
  • In response to declining attendance, as well as to declining enrollment in its private academy, Radnor Baptist sold its properties to a group of Catholics investors, who then sold the property to St. Edward Catholic Church. Long involved in immigrant outreach and services in Nashville, St. Edward used the Radnor Baptist property to start “Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church”, the first stand-alone Hispanic church and community center in the area.