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Thread: Cairo, Illinois: America's most depressing city

  1. #26
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    Hollywood should pick up the entire town at fire sale and turn it into a lot for movies. Or the military could buy the town and use it for urban warfare exercises, including water landings Maybe with NFIP $$ the whole place could be turned into a wildlife refuge after dozing it with a D-11. It could be the first city comprised of entirely homeless families in the USA? The entire community could be purchased by Disney Corp. and redeveloped into a circa 1858-1899 amusement park, complete with water attractions and rides and the local population could be put on the payroll to act in the time period, much like Williamsburg. The city could be marketed to refugees from the middle east as a place to live in peace, not pieces.

    Come on people help me out here
    Skilled Adoxographer

  2. #27
    Cyburbian
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    Great ideas!

    Great ideas TO. I like the movie set idea, although the idea of turning the town into a period restoration, acted out live by the residents seems pretty fitting to me. I'm betting the old timers there are living in the past anyway.

  3. #28
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    Whenever Cairo, IL comes up I'm reminded of a review on NPR of the CD "Greetings From Cairo, Illinois" by Stace England. He write of how much it hurts to return home, but despite the pain it causes he's proud to of his childhood in Cairo. Give it a read.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=5032061


    The CD is a fun listen too.

  4. #29
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  5. #30
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    The other side to Cairo

    I've written a book on Sears Homes (five, actually) and I've done a lot of research in and around Cairo. Did you know that Sears had a massive mill in Cairo in the early 1900s, and *all* of their pre-cut kit homes came from Cairo?

    It's an amazing little town and went from population of 13,000 (1960s) to under 3,000 people today.

    The downtown is a GHOST TOWN and it's just like something out of an old Twilight Zone. Really, really spooky - and I love it.

    In those downtown stores, there were (in 2005) still posters hanging up from the 1960s. It really is like everyone left in a hurry and didn't bother to clean up and clean out.

    More photos: http://www.searshomes.org/index.php/...airo-illinois/

  6. #31
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    That is an interesting article, Rosemary. So much for the claim that they didn't carry any "weatherworn" stock after that flood!

    If anyone else is interested in the whole history of Sears/Sears homes there is a great website all about it here: http://www.searsarchives.com/index.htm
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  7. #32
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Off-topic:
    Can you still purchase those Sears homes, or the plans for them, from anywhere?

    I know you can purchase Katrina Cottage designs and materials bundles from Lowes, but then you're much more limited as to architectural design (at least at this point in time).

  8. #33
    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    Off-topic:
    Can you still purchase those Sears homes, or the plans for them, from anywhere?

    I know you can purchase Katrina Cottage designs and materials bundles from Lowes, but then you're much more limited as to architectural design (at least at this point in time).

    It's not hard to find books with Sears homes or the like in them that will give the floor plan but I'd assume the actual patterns are much harder to find.

  9. #34
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    I cannot find a website for the city. Is it unincorporated?

  10. #35
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    Sears Homes

    There's a lot of interest in the topic of Sears Homes - and for good reason. It's such a big part of Americana and America's history on so many levels. A disproportionate number of immigrants bought and built these kit homes, which came in 30,000-piece kits. Sears promised a man of average abilities could have these homes assembled in 90 days.

    Not to be immodest but...

    I've written five books and dozens of articles on Sears Homes. It's a fun topic and the real pity here is that Cairo - the repository of all this amazing interesting on Sears Homes - is a big mess.

    They've already town down *many* Sears Homes, and the 30+ Sears Homes that remain are in fairly crummy condition. It's always a shame to see these kit homes torn down, but in Cairo, it's doubly tragic as these homes should be developed as a tourist attraction. Problem is, the rest of the town is in shambles.

    This (below) is a happy Sears Home in Shenandoah, Virginia.





    Rose Thornton
    www.searshomes.org

  11. #36
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    I cannot find a website for the city. Is it unincorporated?
    It's incorporated, but is likely so bad off financially that they cannot afford a website.

    Mike

  12. #37
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Cities have come and gone for millenium........what makes this one so special??

    I don't find it sad. And I can't imagine the race riots were the final nail in the coffin.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  13. #38
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    Cities have come and gone for millenium........what makes this one so special??
    Cyburbians are just fascinated about it. Evidence by using the thread/post search.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
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    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
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  14. #39
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    Sears Homes

    Gosh, my posts keep disappearing here. Actually, that's not true. I post and then it says "will appear after moderation" and it does not appear.

    To answer some questions, Sears sold these kit homes from 1908-1940. They came via boxcar, in 12000 pieces. They kit included a 90-page instruction book. Sears promised that a "man of average abilities" could have the house ready to move into within 90 days.

    There are 70,000 kit homes in 48 states. Unfortunately, Sears destroyed all sales records sometime in the 1940s during a corporate house cleaning. The only way to find the houses today is literally one by one.

    Sears offered these homes in 370 designs, and I have memorized each of those 370 designs. My life's work is driving around and identifying these homes. It's a lot of fun but pretty time consuming.

    And that's how I found Cairo, Illinois. It was the home of the Sears Mill, and the precut kit homes were shipped from that mill.

    Here's hoping this post makes it through the moderation gauntlet and appears!!!

    Rose Thornton
    author, The Houses That Sears Built

  15. #40
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RosemaryT View post
    Gosh, my posts keep disappearing here. Actually, that's not true. I post and then it says "will appear after moderation" and it does not appear.
    Moderator note:
    URLs with less than five posts to your name. It's a spam prevention feature. I'll fix that for you.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  16. #41
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RosemaryT View post
    Gosh, my posts keep disappearing here. Actually, that's not true. I post and then it says "will appear after moderation" and it does not appear.

    To answer some questions, Sears sold these kit homes from 1908-1940. They came via boxcar, in 12000 pieces. They kit included a 90-page instruction book. Sears promised that a "man of average abilities" could have the house ready to move into within 90 days.

    There are 70,000 kit homes in 48 states. Unfortunately, Sears destroyed all sales records sometime in the 1940s during a corporate house cleaning. The only way to find the houses today is literally one by one.

    Sears offered these homes in 370 designs, and I have memorized each of those 370 designs. My life's work is driving around and identifying these homes. It's a lot of fun but pretty time consuming.

    And that's how I found Cairo, Illinois. It was the home of the Sears Mill, and the precut kit homes were shipped from that mill.

    Here's hoping this post makes it through the moderation gauntlet and appears!!!

    Rose Thornton
    author, The Houses That Sears Built
    Interesting stuff. I actually did some of my own research on Sears homes a while back when I was purchasing my first home. There was one that I was interested in that was located in one of he best neighborhoods in my town and happened to be a Sears home. This led me to do some research and discover some information on it where I learned it was a model called the "Del Ray" from 1922, albeit modifed from it's original appearance over the decades. Sadly, it was priced a little higher than I could afford at the time and needed a bit of work for that price, so I didn't purchase it. I hope you post more about the Sears homes, though, because I find the mail-order homes era fascinating.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  17. #42
    Cyburbian
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    Just stumbled on this

    Awesome pic set. There is a strange, eerie beauty to those images. Loved it.

  18. #43
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    Cairo

    Cairo is a fascinating little town, and it was a major port city back in the day. Do you remember the movie "Centennial" (James Michener)?

    He talked briefly about Cairo, Illinois as a gateway city.

    It's so incredible that this once-thriving town is now just a shell of its former self.

    Rose

  19. #44
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    HEADLINE: Weekend blaze in Cairo, Ill., destroys 3 businesses
    http://www.courierpress.com/news/201...s/?partner=RSS
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  20. #45
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    HEADLINE: Weekend blaze in Cairo, Ill., destroys 3 businesses
    http://www.courierpress.com/news/201...s/?partner=RSS
    It's a surprise to me that there are actually businesses downtown. When I visited, I saw a blues bar, appliance repairman, the Chamber of Commerce, and that's about it.

    On a related note: postcards of Cairo. There was some real density there at one time.



    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  21. #46
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    Cairo

    Well, here are some happy happy Sears Homes in Cairo. As I think I mentioned above, Cairo was home to a 40-acre mill (20 acres under roof) where Sears established as a manufacturing point for their ready-cut Honor Bilt kit homes.

    Not surprisingly, there are a lot of Sears Homes in and around Cairo. WHat's sad is to think about how many have been torn down? I'd suspect quite a few.
















  22. #47
    Cyburbian
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    Did these prices include the land or just the house materials and construction? interestingly, in current dollar terms, each dollar is worth 40 times as much as it was worth in 1947 and 60 times as much as it was worth in 1930.

  23. #48
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    Did these prices include the land or just the house materials and construction? interestingly, in current dollar terms, each dollar is worth 40 times as much as it was worth in 1947 and 60 times as much as it was worth in 1930.
    I think it was just for the materials. Labor and land was the buyer's problem to source/purchase.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  24. #49
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Everything I know about Cairo, Ill I learned from this song:

    "Cairo Blues" by Henry Townsend (I know it as a Son House tune, but this performance is great!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEJwAfQs0mk

    "Cairo, Cairo is my baby's home
    Cairo, Cairo is my baby's home
    Going to Cairo now and I swear it won't be long"

    This is a bit off topic, but this artist is a St. Louis based musician and Son House was also not from Cairo. And yet they both sing about the place. So, what's the significance of Cairo to African American history? Was it a big site of migration out of the south? I can see that it was a site of significant racial tension come the 1960's and the Civil Rights movement, but I wonder about before that. This song and others I have heard make it sound like a site of opportunity - and welcoming women!
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  25. #50
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Project Cairo from Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/ProjectCairo/

    From the site:

    Project Cairo is an open effort to restore and bring life into the heavily subverted city of Cairo, Illinois (USA), and turn it into a thriving community. Our hope is to enact positive change and growth both socially and economically.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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