The setting for this particular story takes the shape of an ordinary garage that was built along an ordinary alleyway, similar to what you see in any other residential neighborhood that was built in the mid twentieth century.
My group partner Nathan Beyer and I were allowed inside to record any architectural features we found to be interesting or unique while another group surveyed the neighboring owners home. Inside of the garage we noticed that 90 percent of the material used in its construction had clearly been used prior. Evidence for this was the excessive number of nail holes in the exposed studs that line the walls as well as the roof boards. In some of the holes we even found rusting cut nails. The production for this type of nail predates modern wire nails and in many cases can be dated to the nineteenth century.
In addition to the nail holes remnants of plaster stained the studs in a very particular way. The staining on the studs suggests that they were once joined together by lath, a technique that was popular in the Twenties and Thirties to construct interior walls. Another way we dated the material was by noticing the random sizing of the wooden stud dimensions which lacked any uniform dimensioning, predating the modern 2×4 size.
This garage is a wonderful example of change and transformation within the Thurston Woods neighborhood. The garage was very likely constructed in the Fifties after the material used for its construction was taken from the east end of the neighboring owner’s house, which we are guessing was built in the Twenties.
The reason why we have taken such an interest in this neighborhood, over others, is its representation of a particular time period in Milwaukee. Most of the construction present today in the neighborhood dates to the decade following WWII when returning veterans understood that every American deserves their own home, including a garage to house a new automobile and other materials: a lawnmower, bicycles, etc. All of these veterans would have lived through the an economic depression and therefore adopted the “Do it Yourself” mentality.
The construction of the garage is a prime example of this type of post-war American vernacular architecture where the owner of the project was responsible for recycling of material and the labor in the construction. It is through the hands of the owners that transformation occurs but the past is never erased.