The old age of the Ville shows in the disproportionate number of surviving wood frame houses. Built before brick fire codes reached them, these houses sheltered the first inhabitants of the area when it was miles from the city. Sadly, they are extremely vulnerable to fire, and fire has struck far too many of these houses to be a coincidence–and likewise, the fires seem to originate in the center of the structures. The important historic role these structures serve to tell us about the early years of the neighborhood is often obscured by asphalt shingles or vinyl siding, rending these simple vernacular houses hard for the casual observer to enjoy. But they are important, and they are slipping away, not just in the Ville, but elsewhere, their expense for rehabbing often cost prohibitive.
Interesting: the Sanborn maps reveal the vast majority of at least the western the Ville and Greater Ville was wood frame construction:
It finally dawned on me why the Ville was where African-Americans were forced by segregation–the wood frame houses were deemed inferior and therefore the area was “given up” in the name of segregation.