My new book project uses Chicago to explore the 1920s development boom, the consequences of the housing collapse in the Great Depression, the origins of redlining, and the transformation of residential real estate finance in the 1930s and 1940s.
Chicago was the national epicenter for thinking on urban development and real estate economics, as well as professional real estate practice. When the crash came, finance was a key part of the economic crisis and real estate was a key part of that financial crisis. Washington drew on experts from Chicago who worked in the academy and who worked in professional practice to create and implement programs to resolve the housing crisis.
This work will tell the stories of real estate and housing in the Great Depression in settings from the university seminar room to the corporate board room to the Congressional hearing room in Washington, DC, and down to the dining rooms of residential bungalows in Chicago. Families struggled to pay their mortgages and policymakers lurched to create programs that could alleviate the crisis.
Universities and Cities
My first book, Building the Ivory Tower, examines how universities became the key drivers of urban development in American cities over the 20th century. From New Deal grants to urban renewal projects to new philanthropically funded research buildings, universities have continued to grow and make space for discovery, education, and economic growth. But campus expansion put higher education leaders in conflict with their surrounding communities, as universities pursued global missions while rooted in local places, advancing knowledge at the expense of neighbors.
Historians have long interpreted urban renewal and historic preservation as movements in conflict with each other -- in practice, politics, and ideology. In this research project, I illustrate that, at mid-century, urban renewal and historic preservation were compatible ideals and complementary movements, especially in Philadelphia, home of the nation's signature preservation effort at Independence Hall.
This digital history project unearths the work of the Home Owners' Loan Corporation to illustrate how the federal government drew on local practices and prejudices to create a national system of racial segregation in residential real estate. This Depression-era prioritizing of white housing values over black was key to rescuing the housing market in the 1930s and restructuring the financial markets in the 20th century.
I led a team of students in research and digitization at the National Archives II in College Park, MD, and in GIS processing at VT in Blacksburg, VA, to create resources for the project. Then I worked with collaborators at the University of Richmond, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland to plan the site, hone its interpretation, and promote its launch.
HOLC security map for the northern part of Chicago and Cook County.
I teach courses in U.S. history, digital history, and public history. In Spring 2017 I taught a graduate course in digital history where students created a podcast series on Virginia political history. In Fall 2017 I will teach a grad public history course on historic preservation and preservation photography. In Spring 2018 I will teach an undergraduate course, Data in Social Context, examining the Great Migration, and an undergraduate digital history course on data-driven storytelling.
This historical GIS and data visualization project explores the changing geography of the American electorate, mapping U.S. House and Senate election results throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Elections data mapping has long emphasized presidential elections and the electoral college. These data maps do a disservice to our understanding about politics by eliding the contradictory election results of the legislative branch, implicitly failing to acknowledge the power of the House and Senate as co-equal branches of government with the executive. In addition, emphasis on presidential elections fails to illustrate why presidential victories may not lead to significant policy changes.
This project aims to correct these failures by bringing Congressional data into wide circulation and creating visualizations that make Congressional history visually legible to the public and to scholars. The site will feature interactive map visualizations, elections data, and historical interpretation, and is planned to launch in the spring of 2018 as part of the American Panorama digital atlas.
House Election 1980
This map illustrates the victorious parties in the 1980 House election; red for Republicans and blue for Democrats.