Lincoln: Weaving the spider web outward

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OldSaleSignThe natural development of young cities often clustered in their centers. By 1908, Lincoln’s roughly 43,000 inhabitants mostly traveled by way of mud streets (with nearly 300 miles worth) and 75 miles of streetcar lines. The growing city’s edges were no longer so sharp and the time was right to continue moving outward from the cluster and connecting burgeoning additions.

In 1910 the area south of South Street (between 13th and 27th to Calvert) was still a beautiful tract of cornfield. It was about then the Woods Brothers began executing a 20-year plan for its development, and they purchased much of that land, some for as much as $600 per acre.

There was confusion in the growth of Lincoln at the time. Mark Woods reflected that, “… buildings just went up according to the owner’s urge.” It was time for much-needed residential planning, both to create order and to beautify his city. It was a major challenge to lure citizens past South Street, which mostly created the peak of a natural hill, and also to lure them past the railroad tracks to the east (Rock Island Line, today a hiker/biker trail that meets South Street at about 32nd).

Their plans for motivating people included winding streets with structures set back away from them, all landscaped with shrubbery and trees. These large areas would lend to the city a distinctive character and an aesthetic appeal that shines brightly still. Their innovations would guide growth east- and southward, and help add to what Woods called Lincoln’s “… spider web development.”

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