History / Geography / Environmental Studies 460
American Environmental History

Exemplary Place Papers

The final assignment in History/Geography/Environmental Studies 460 asks students to choose a particular place--either in Madison or somewhere they know well from your home or travels--and write a brief essay interpreting its environmental history using themes and ideas drawn from the class. The assignment is described in much greater detail in the course syllabus, which can be found here.

Given the unusual nature of the assignment, it's often helpful (and fun) to read samples of the papers that past students have written in response to it. Below are links to a wide variety of "place papers" from the course--remarkably different in approach, style, and focus, but all excellent. They'll give you a great sense of the many ways that this assignment can be tackled successfully.

For the first decade or so that I used this assignment, most students weren't required to do archival research and document the sources they used, so place papers from that earlier period lack the scholarly apparatus that students are now required to include. Because many of them are still wonderful papers, they're included at the bottom of this collection, but students reading them today shouldn't be misled by their lack of documentation. You are now required to include notes for all the sources you cite in your paper.

Finally, remember that some of these papers were written by Honors undergraduates and graduate students, who are required to write longer papers and do more research. If you encounter a paper that seems longer than you expect, this is the reason. You can still learn strategies for approaching your own paper from these longer papers; just scale them back to fit the length of your own assignment.

Place Papers with Full Documentation (good models for current assignment)

Paul Abu-Taleb, "Kingdom of Causeways: New Orleans," 2012 PDF

Lindsay Amiel, "The Many Faces of Cadiz Township," 1994 PDF
(Cadiz Township, Green County, Wisconsin)

Kathryn Berg, "Brittingham Park" 2004 PDF
(Madison, Wisconsin)

Emily Bradley, "From Railroads and Red-Light Districts to Restoration: A History of the Hotel Rubie Marie," 2008 PDF

David Britton, "Utica Lake," 2012 (Waukesha County)PDF

Kim Nicholas Cahill, "From Turkey Ranch to Wealthy Retreat: The Making of Lovall Valley, California," 2002 PDF

Cortney Cain, "Observatory Hill—A Sense of Place?" 2004PDF

Eric Carter, "The Ordinary Place I Once Called Home: Making Sense of the San Fernando Valley," 1999 PDF

Matt Colwin, "From Commercialization to Conservation: The Story of Devil's Lake State Park," 2008 PDF

Courtney Ehlers, "Kenosha, Wisconsin and the Grey Magic of Urban Sprawl," 2008 PDF

Julia Ferguson, "The Trees Tell the Story," 2007 PDF
(Canada Creek Ranch, northern Michigan)

Aaron Goyette, "Train Car Shops Open!" 2000 PDF

Yasemin Gulec Can, "Reading a Ruin: The East Railroad Corridor of Madison, Wisconsin," 2007 PDF

Lynne Heasley, "Of Bass and Fishermen: A People and Forest Divided Around One Small Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin," 1994 PDF
(Bass Lake, northern Wisconsin)

Emily Hilts, "Canoeists, Anglers and Scientists: The Making of Escanaba Lake," 2012 PDF
(Escanaba Lake, Vilas County, northern Wisconsin)

Carolyn Hogg, "The New Suburbia of Denver, Colorado," 2005 PDF

Julia Hon, "The More Things Change Rock Cut State Park’s Environmental History," 2002 PDF
(Near Rockford, Illinois)

Rachel Hunerdosse, "The Stench That Shaped History," 2008PDF
(Lake Monona, Madison, Wisconsin)

Emily Hunt, "Digging Through the Past," 2008 PDF
(A rural property near Ridgeway, Wisconsin)

Jessica Hutcheson, "Ease on the Land," 1999 PDF
(John's Island, south of Charleston, South Carolina)

L. J. Janowski, "Two Visions of the Kickapoo River: Voices For and Against the Lake LaFarge Dam Project," 2003 PDF

Jeff Jordan, "100 Years of Solitude: A Progressive Era Retreat in the Heart of a Modern City," 2008 PDF
(James Madison Park, Madison, Wisconsin)

Jane Kepler, "A Seven Lock Walk on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal," 2008 PDF

Eva Lewandowski, "Maintaining a Rural, Pastoral Lifestyle in Spring Prairie, Wisconsin," 2004 PDF

Joe Malkovich, "An Environmental History of Oldenburg Point," 2005 PDF
(Jay Cooke State Park, near Duluth, Minnesota)

Kerry Martin, "McCargoe Cove: An Examination of Isle Royale through Space and Thyme," 2005 PDF

Cate McCraw, "Swallowed by the Bay: The Historical Landscape of Smith Island," 2008 PDF
(Chesapeake Bay, Maryland)

Emily McKinney, "From Strip to Suburb: The Dangers of Parking in Madison, WI," 2012 PDF

Aaron Megquier, "Encounters with a Wilderness City," 2004 PDF
("New City" in Baxter State Park, Maine)

David Meyerson, "Ghosts in the Soil," 2012 PDF
(Joliet Army Ammunitions Plant, Joliet, Illinois; HTML version at http://davidmeyerson.net/ghosts-in-the-soil/)

Amelia Mitter-Burke, "Mineral Point Road: Two Eras of Change," 2008 PDF
(Madison, Wisconsin)

Laura Muskatevc, "Remembering Elkmont," 2007 PDF
(Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

Andrea Nesbit, "“The City Moved to Us,” 2003 PDF
(Swanton Road, on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin)

Anders Olson, "Patrick Marsh: A Human Nature," 1998 PDF
(Near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin)

Elliot Poh, "Moving Wheels, Shifting Times: Implement Row, 1888-2015," 2015 PDF
(Implement Row, Madison, Wisconsin)

Omar Poler, "The Middle Yard," 2005 PDF
(La Crosse, Wisconsin)

Natalie Ray, "Stories from the Medinah Wetlands," 2005 PDF
(Medinah, Illinois, in suburbs of Chicago)

Sarah Reis, "The Town of Lovell's Kezar Lake," 2008 PDF
(Lovell, Maine)

Katie Sharrow, "Horicon Marsh: A Work In Progress," 2002 PDF

Alexandra Tempus, "No Tresspassing," 2008 PDF
(Alexian Brothers Novitiate, Northeast Wisconsin)

Gina Walejko, "Kalaupapa, Hawaii: What’s in a Name?" 2002 PDF

Joseph Zagrodnik, "The Menomonee Valley: A Window to Milwaukee's Past and a Projection of its Future," 2008 PDF

Place Papers from Earlier Years of the Course When Less Documentation Was Required

NB: for the first decade or so that I used this assignment, most students weren't required to do archival research and document the sources they used, so place papers from this earlier period lack the scholarly apparatus that students are now required to include. Because these are still wonderful papers, they're included here for you to read, enjoy, and learn from...but please don't be misled by their lack of documentation. You are now required to include notes for all the sources you cite in your paper.

Justin Bendell, "Environmental History of Downers Grove, Illinois," 1998 PDF

Kevin Check, "Prairie du Chien and the Changing Role of the Mississippi," 1994 PDF

Margaret Christie, "Farm in the City," 1994 PDF
(Near the Beltline in Madison, Wisconsin)

Amy Dignan, "Journey Into the Heart of a Small Town," 1998 PDF
(East Troy, Wisconsin)

Jeff Dillen, "Temkin Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin," 1994 PDF

Lily Farrar, "A Path Through Owen Park," 2004 PDF

Jay Harvey, "The Growth of the Deer Population in Rusk County, Wisconsin," 2000 PDF

Eric Idsvoog, "Crossroads: Land and Its Value on Madison's West Side," 1998 PDF

John Isom, "Walking Home," 2000 PDF
(Westchester County, New York)

Nicole Magel, "The Attraction of Observatory Hill," 1994 PDF
(Observatory Hill on UW-Madison campus)

Robert Morel, "Forty Minutes north of Chicago, IL there is a town called Zion. This is not a history of that town," 2002 PDF

Thomas Olson, "The Three Worlds," 1994 PDF
(Waukesha, Wisconsin)

Margo Reeder, "Quarry Hill Park: A Reflection of the Social Definition of Health," 2005 PDF
(Rochester, Minnesota)

David Reiley, "A Black Bear's Path," 2002 PDF
(Northern New Mexico)

Jeffrey Schwartz, "The Twin Canals," 2003 PDF
(New Orleans, Louisiana)

Paul Schwinn, "West Bend, Wisconsin," 2003 PDF

Alison Sipkins, "Defeminizing the Camp Warren Garden," 2004 PDF
(Near the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota)

John Sprangers, "The Howard M. Temin Lakeshore Path: A History of Human Intervention," 2005 PDF
(Along Lake Mendota, UW-Madison campus)

Stacey Swearingen, "A River Runs Next To It," 1994 PDF
(Clark Fork River, Missoula, Montana)

Robin Tanamachi, "Winona’s Watchtower," 2000 PDF
(Winona, Minnesota)

Andrea Ward, "Phoenix Park: A Hopeful Metaphor for the Forgotten Heart of a City," 2007 PDF
(Eau Claire, Wisconsin)

Daniel Wiersema, "Marsh Resurrected: The Story of the Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area," 2005 PDF
(Near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin)

Lindsay Woodbridge, "Greenbush: A Center of Economic and Cultural Capital," 2004 PDF
(Greenbush Neighborhood, Madison, Wisconsin)

Christina Socorro Yovovich, "The Mythology of Home," 1994 PDF
(Hoyt Park, Madison, Wisconsin)