Found: A Streetcar Map!

Remember that post a while back about streetcars and how they came and went in Mississippi with hardly any physical reminders or even decent maps to show where they had been? Well, over the holidays, I picked up a publication that I’ve used as a reference but have never actually read straight through, “From Frontier Capital to Modern City: A history of Jackson, Mississippi’s built environment.” Actually I still haven’t read it all the way through, but I’m getting there. I guess I should call it a book, except that it doesn’t seem it was ever actually published as a book. The title page says it was “prepared for” the City of Jackson, Mississippi under Mayor Harvey Johnson by The Jaeger Company of Gainesville, Georgia. It also states that it was “financed in part with Federal funds from the National Park Service . . . through the Historic Preservation Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.”

Unfortunately, and somewhat surprising given that it’s a historical document focusing on historical development, there’s no date of publication. I’m guessing it was produced during Mayor Johnson’s first or second term, which would be between 1997 and 2005. The MDAH catalog gives it an estimated date of 2000.

Anyway, the reason I’m going on about it is that inside, on page 51, is a map of Jackson’s streetcar lines in 1912, around the peak of the trolley system.

It’s no surprise that the trolley ran up State Street and out West Capitol, but I at least was taken aback by the other lines up Bailey and West Streets, down Gallatin, and even down South State Street. This information will definitely give me new eyes as I drive around Jackson and see patterns of development from that period.

Here’s a little of what “Frontier Capital to Modern City” has to say about the streetcars (pp.52-53):

By 1912, the Jackson Light and Traction Company has purchased the original Jackson Electric Railway, Light and Power Company, and in 1916 the company operated twenty-two cars over sixteen miles of track. The cars could accommodate between thirty and thirty-five people and were usually manned by a motorman and a conductor; top speed averaged twenty miles per hour. This period appears to have been the peak of the street railway’s usefulness in Jackson; by the mid-1920s, track mileage and the numbers of streetcars declined due to the popularity of the automobile.

As Kenneth Jackson so thoroughly explained in his Crabgrass Frontier, the streetcars and suburban development were tied together during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, and I would have liked this publication to give us some details about which, if any, suburbs were developed under the auspices of the railway lines. But even so, this map is invaluable, and gives us all something to go on during jaunts out into wild wild West (and northwest and south) Jackson.

Surely there must be maps of the lines in each of the cities that had them, so keep your eyes peeled, and if you find one, I hope you’ll share it with the rest of us!



Categories: Architectural Research, Jackson

12 replies

  1. There are many quasi-“published” books out there, nearly all of them originating with some governmental organization. I have quite a few in my collection, and they are all facinating due to the fact that they are usually very thorough and members of the public are not allowed access to them. Most cities and some larger agencies (TVA for example) have created many master plans, historical surveys, and architectural surveys for their own use that are sitting in their records that (and not to sound paranoid) most will claim “do not exist.”

    Perhaps you could examine the areas around these streetcar lines and find out whether they influenced suburban development around Jackson. Also, see if any streetcar remains still exist now that you know the entire route. The car barns and shops likely do not exist anymore (though other places have kept theirs) but some traces of the tracks might still be present.

    • A friend passed this article along to me, since my firm assisted in this project in 2000. For clarification, the estimated date of publication is correct, as the project was started and finished in 2000. I am happy that over a decade later this publication is still referenced and in this case proved helpful in documenting the city’s former streetcar system.

    • Thanks for stopping in and helping us get that date right!

  2. While its been a while since I picked up my copy of Crabgrass Frontier it surely must mention Riverside IL. being one of the first railway line suburbs. As the suburbs gained popularity, railroads would offer free fair out and back to encourage perspective buyers to look at houses amenities and lots. Although I can’t imagine anywhere in Mississippi that would have had a concentrated wealthy population outside a city center, needing a passenger only rail line, before the availability of the street car.

  3. From Frontier Capital to Modern City is a great publication. I used it as a source for my final paper in a History of Planning class I took at Jackson State. The publication mentioned that many of the early developments in West Jackson (i.e. Poindexter Park, Duttoville) were the result of streetcar extensions. I’ll definitely be placing a link to this post on the West Jackson blog. Thanks!

  4. Thanks, Curnis, and I’ve learned a lot about West Jackson from your blog. It’s a fascinating part of town. I wish we could get the Masonic Temple back into full use again.

    BTW, another recent post that might interest you is http://misspreservation.com/2010/12/17/architectural-twins-two-overstreet-churches/

  5. Hi there,

    Is there a way to get a pdf copy of the publication? I’d love to read it but can’t find it anyplace online-

    Thanks much,
    Kathryn

  6. I’ve never seen a pdf version, but that would be great if the City would scan that and put it on its website. It’s a shame for it to languish in only a few archives since it has so much information. MDAH has a copy, but you can’t check it out: http://zed.mdah.state.ms.us/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=96368.

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