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Contemporary perceptions of nine decades of depopulation in New Bedford, Massachusetts

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Abstract

Economic decline associated with the Rustbelt's shift away from manufacturing hit many places hard, but few saw the kind of wholesale shift in its physical form as New Bedford, Massachusetts. This article asks what physical changes occurred during the city's sharp decline in population from 1920 to 2010, and how residents, community leaders and government officials perceive the problems and opportunities generated by this decline. This article begins to offer an answer through a spatial analysis of historic Sanborn maps, Geographic Information System (GIS) data and photographic evidence to examine how building location, density and form have changed over the last half-century of depopulation, coupled with interviews of residents, community leaders and government officials.

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Notes

  1. Southeastern Massachusetts is typically defined as comprising Bristol, Plymouth and Norfolk Counties.

  2. While construction had already occurred in South Central by 1888, the first map with any evidence of structures in Bullard Street was not until 1893, and Cove Street structures only began to appear in the 1906 map.

  3. The base map included all structures and streets for the first map year for each neighborhood.

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Acknowledgements

This research was partially supported through the Faculty Research Award Committee at Tufts University and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Research assistance was provided by Alyssa Rosen, Rui Guo, Lindsey Wright, Erin Kizer, Kiersten Mailer, Sarah Spicer, Meaghan Overton, Laura Smead, and Jessica Soule.

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Hollander, J. Contemporary perceptions of nine decades of depopulation in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Urban Des Int 18, 6–23 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1057/udi.2012.25

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