i spent a few days in Lawrence, Kansas over the holiday - a college town (Rock Chalk, Jayhawk) with a wealth of civic and school pride, a consistently-humming-with-activity historic main street, and a quality 1860s to 1920s midwestern housing stock that any U.S. city in their right mind would wish upon themselves.
There are lessons to be learned everywhere, but Lawrence's homegrown creativity, boutique sensibilities, and artist-class vibe lend themselves easily to the potential of our own rivertown anacostia neighborhood. Look here:
Welcome to Massachusetts Street, the city's main retail destination, but also home to walkable everyday needs - where old blends with new, hip with hippy, and a (to some) frightening influx of chains threatens a long list of locals:
the hardware store, still a local and helpful resource. loving the 20th c. signage
ingredient, a sweet sign and a focus on fresh salad. I could go for one of these on MLK...
urban outfitters in the very "urban outfitters-esque" old Varsity Theater. old theater as new retail is an interesting model that i haven't seen much of, but definitely works.
still not sure how i feel about this one, but sometimes the rules have to be broken
love. it. Signs of Life (tagline: Books & Art, Truth & Beauty) is an amazing blend of coffee shop, bookstore, and art gallery; warm, inviting, and interesting.
Moving from the main drag to the more residential area, but pause for a quick peek at a humble and human-scale sign. We don't always need fluorescent lights to blast out information. sometimes a more human approach is most appropriate:
you can usually count on small-city architects to have cool offices. no exception here.
if you didn't already know, i'm a huge supporter of dark-contrast windows. adds a certain understated punctuation to an exterior:
green fishscales + black windows + garlands = the sum of all classy
unpainted stainless steel roof with washed-out brick: the perfect combo of actual rustic and country-living chic
simple black and white - hard to go wrong here
kansas stone and forest green. check out the great picket fence - don't forget that you can apply for one with the Historic Homeowners Grant. Although now mostly replaced, this same style used to grace many of the front yards of old anacostia
Lawrence's alleys provide access for the unsightly aspects of everyday life: trash cans, utility wires, and garages...
i swear, if that clean-looking wire is all it takes for Lawrence, aint no way we need our utility line disaster in anacostia
...which allows the streets to exude clutter-free elegance on a human scale. no unnatural tree-shearing here to make way for the telephone lines:
the streets are (too) wide, but the stop signs are many
it really is (always) the details that pull everything together. Unfortunately for the modern streetscape, design details have largely been the first thing to go in our computer-generated society. But there is hope:
even the sidewalk bricks are stamped with a little extra detailing. this was one "pattern", but there is quite the variety from block to block.
there will always be brick sidewalk dissenters (and for good reasons), but i am a big fan. especially loving the herringbone crosswalk and granite outlines.
Washington, DC is a city of old street names. Especially in older areas like Georgetown and Anacostia, there is a street name legacy that has largely been forgotten in the era of letters and numbers. Anacostia's Uniontown (generally the historic district) was laid out in a grid of presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and so on. We could definitely use these in our neighborhood:
this is something i will be pursuing for anacostia.
Lawrence is great. It's inspiring to see a place with so many good examples for our hood to follow, and that has found a way to creatively rejuvinate, stay local, and retain a class-act flavor as it grows. i won't speak for the numbing suburbs that flank it, but its historic center is classic America, and a town with a heckuva lot to offer.
photos by DG-rad