Janesville57.5°

History buffs write second Janesville book

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Carol M. Paur/Special to the Gazette
February 29, 2012
— The world steams forward, but there are those who want to preserve the past.

Janesville residents Judith and Den Adler are some of those exploring history while crossing over into the future. The Adlers have captured Janesville's past in their recent book, "Janesville."


Part of Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" series, the 128-page book features photographs that capture pieces of Janesville's history between 1860 to 1970.


"It's not really a history of Janesville. It includes history, but it's not chronological," Judith Adler said. "It's a series of photographs that depict the history of Janesville."


The Adlers' book is not the first about the city founded more than 170 years ago near the Rock River. From the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections alone, there are 13 other books that tackle different aspects of Janesville and the areas around it.


The Adlers' book, however, deals with all of Janesville, not just particular families or companies, said Ruth Anderson, archive supervisor for the Rock County Historical Society.


"It wasn't their family story," Anderson said. "It was Janesville's story."


The Adlers reviewed more than 2,000 photographs from the historical society's collection of more than 10,000. They scanned about 800 of those photos into a computer and had to narrow their search to fit into the six-chapter book. The chapters include "Janesville at Work," "Building a City," "Janesville at Home," "Commercial Activities," "The Military" and "Janesville at Play."


The project took more than a year to complete.


Arcadia had approached the Adlers about three years earlier, but they were not ready for the project. Den Adler offered to do a book for Arcadia's Postcard History series, also titled "Janesville."


"Somebody gave Arcadia our names," Den said. "They wound up approaching us.


"We agreed to do two books. I suggested we do that one first (Postcard History series). We already had most of the images, whereas I knew there were over 10,000 photographs in the Rock County Historical Society."


Judith said they were careful to not infringe on copyrights.


"We would discuss different topics, and because I've gone through a lot of photos, they wanted to know what photos I thought were the most interesting," Anderson said. "We would talk about different historical events. I would say, I know we have this photo.' They worked to find the most compelling photos."


The photos give readers "a taste of the resources available at the historical society," Den said.


The Adlers, residents of Janesville since 1970, were the ideal team for this project, Anderson said.


Judith formerly worked for the city and worked closely with the Janesville Historic Commission. She holds a master's degree in urban and regional planning. Her husband has a master's degree in agricultural journalism and has taught writing courses through the University of Wisconsin Extension. He contributes to the online newsletter "Extra Innings."


Through the new book, readers get a glimpse of Janesville's past and see the buildings that "stood the test of time," said Anderson, a Janesville native.


As with most books and their authors, the Adlers hope "Janesville" will inspire their readers.


"I would hope it would create more interest in the old buildings and hopefully keep some of them," Den said. "One of the problems is that people keep tearing down the old buildings. Some are architectural treasures."


Judith added, "The book fosters appreciation for what the city has."


"We think people are going to be pretty pleased with what they see," Den said. "Most of them are going to be pictures people have never seen before."


Rene Purnell, owner of Book World in Janesville, is excited about the new release.


"Their first book did really well, and we're hoping this one will, too," Purnell said. "People just love local history books, especially ones with pictures."



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