Urban Renewal in St. Louis on Jane Jacob’s 100th Birthday

St. Louis was really good at Urban Renewal. It renewed the riverfront, then renewed a large section of downtown, then renewed the Mill Creek Valley, then renewed a portion of the city to build the Pruitt-Igoe public housing development. The city renewed other swaths of historic decaying structures, replacing them with Interstate highways. So much renewal, so much success.

It’s tempting to think that city leaders and citizens simply didn’t know better half a century ago. Certainly, suburban development, clearing urban “slums” and erecting modernist parking garages, office towers and residential buildings, was said to be the future.

History, at least its first draft, is written by the winners. Urban Renewal was winning. But part of the forgotten history is that people did fight back. Residents did oppose demolition. Activists did go to the courts and seek relief and the protection of their rights.

Today would be Jane Jacobs 100th birthday. Jacobs and supporters of her activism certainly lost more battles than they won, but the wins were big: Boston’s North End, the defeat of the Lower Manhattan Expressway, and others. Undoubtedly, the biggest victory was the birth of a movement, a broad recognition of cities, their fine grain development patterns, and the importance of the sometimes messy, discordant development patters that created interest and vitality for, and by, residents.

In some ways Jacobs needs no introduction, but reading (or re-reading) The Death and Life of Great American Cities is always challenging and enlightening. And there’s more to her life and career than one book. I encourage you to explore her other writing and read more about her life. [Books by Jane Jacobs] [Jane Jacobs on Wikipedia]

More on nextSTL:

To honor Jacobs on this day, we share images of Urban Renewal in St. Louis:

The Mill Creek Valley:

Mill Creek Valley demolition Mill Creek ValleyMill Creek ValleyMill Creek ValleyMill Creek ValleyMill Creek Valleythe Mill Creek Valley after demolitionMill Creek Valley

The Gateway Mall:

Union Station looking west Gateway Mall 2Gateway Mall 4 Gateway Mall 1 Gateway Mall demo

The St. Louis riverfront, now the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial:

st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8904995691_ost-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905612312_ost-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8904995247_oold-cathedral-then_8909508045_o old-cathedral-then-and-then_8905155917_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8904995607_o  st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8904995291_o  st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8904995033_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8904995213_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611746_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611810_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611846_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611892_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611928_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611984_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611606_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611646_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611728_o st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905611444_ost-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905612148_oold-cathedral---st-louis-mo_8557740424_o  st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8905612120_o  st-louis-riverfront-before-clearance_8904994867_o

Pruitt-Igoe:

Pruitt Igoe 5Pruitt Igoe 9Pruitt Igoe 8Pruitt Igoe 7Pruitt Igoe 3Pruitt Igoe 2Pruitt Igoe 10Pruitt Igoe 6Pruitt Igoe 4 Pruitt Igoe_Urban Renewal