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

  1. #51
    Cyburbian Plus
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    For those on FB -

    Friends of Cairo,Illinois
    Community minded individuals, businesses and non profit groups that support the preservation and growth of Cairo, Illinois
    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)

  2. #52
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    http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/i...cd6728571.html

    Looks like they're going to blow the levees and Cairo might go bye-bye.

  3. #53
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    Speaker of the Missouri House said

    FIRST -
    whether he would rather see Cairo or the farmland underwater, he told reporters, "Cairo. I've been there, trust me. Cairo."

    "Have you been to Cairo?" he added. "OK, then you know what I'm saying then."

    SECOND -
    want to apologize for my insensitive remark and personally apologize to anyone that I offended."

    "My commitment to the residents and farmers of southeast Missouri should not have led me to insult another community and for that I am sincerely regretful."
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/0..._n_855139.html
    Another slap.

    For more info article: Missouri takes levee battle to U.S. Supreme Court
    Last edited by JNA; 01 May 2011 at 5:40 PM.
    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)

  4. #54
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    You can see the status of the flood stage at Cairo, updated every hour, here: http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydro...0,7,8,2,9,15,6
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  5. #55
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    Well, well...

    Cairo has been saved.

    Who needs farmland anyway? It's so dirty and dusty. http://www.searshomes.org/index.php/...-to-be-spared/

  6. #56
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RosemaryT View post
    Cairo has been saved.

    Who needs farmland anyway? It's so dirty and dusty. http://www.searshomes.org/index.php/...-to-be-spared/
    Legally, it was the right thing to do. The breaching of the Birds Point levee was done according to a very long-established and well-known plan. Also, the affected farmers knew their land sat on floodway easements.

    That being said, I don't think there was any risk of flood-related causalities in Cairo. The Mississippi rose slowly, and Cairo's residents had plenty of time to evacuate. From a cost-benefit standpoint, there was more to lose by breaching the Birds Point levee than by letting the river top over the Cairo levees. Also, even if Cairo was spared for now, it's fate still seems sealed, only the town will take a few more slow, painful decades to die. A flood could have been the best thing to happen to many Cairo residents, by washing away the inertia that kept them to seek out better opportunities and lives elsewhere.

    What would be lost if Cairo disappears from the map? Some historic landmarks, perhaps. Still, they might be preserved if the city was turned into a "Confluence National Park" or similar attraction, as with many ghost towns in the West. Save Magnolia Manor, the Customs House, the armory, the library, and the few intact of bungalows and four squares around Washington Avenue, and let the rest of the town return to nature. The cost of establishing and operating Confluence National Park could be far less than what is currently spent on state and federal programs that now keep Cairo on life support.

    On another note, I wonder what Cairo would be like today if the race riots of the 1960s and 1970s never happened. The local economy and population would have continued to decline because of the shift away from river transport, but would have there been the extensive abandonment seen today? Would Commercial Street still be a viable, if not exactly prospering business district? In this report, it's claimed that Cairo was in rough shape even before the riots. From the report:

    Perhaps the most outwardly depressing aspect of Cairo is its housing. Despite a few postbellum mansions and some magnificent old magnolia trees, the town in 1970 had the appearance of utter neglect and decay. At least one-half of Cairo's housing was substandard and in need of major repair. Nearly every block of the city contained one or more abandoned buildings – although it was sometimes difficult to differentiate which buildings were abandoned and which ones were still being used to house families. Unpainted and unheated frame houses with broken porches, windows, and doors were the rule and not the exception in Cairo.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  7. #57
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  8. #58
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    ^^
    Speaking of that, I'm kind of wondering how long it will be before the 'Old Muddy' decides to take a permanent reroute in Louisiana, opting for the Atchafalaya through Morgan City over its current course through New Orleans....

    Mike

  9. #59
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    ^^
    Speaking of that, I'm kind of wondering how long it will be before the 'Old Muddy' decides to take a permanent reroute in Louisiana, opting for the Atchafalaya through Morgan City over its current course through New Orleans....

    Mike
    Having spent a summer working in Morgan City, let's hope it isn't anytime soon.

    It will happen. The Army Corps can only prevent it for so long. It would be a great loss. The Atchafalaya Basin is one of the country's most amazing ecosystems and an unprotected wilderness area. Louisiana's wild crawfish industry is centered there. The Basin is one of the last outposts of individualism. The people who live and work there are an amazaing group of people. When the river changes its course, a way of life will go with it.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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    ghosts

    I was in Cairo a few times back in 2005 on business. There is still some movement in the barge/riverboat business. I spent a a lot of my spare time just driving and walking the streets in this incredible ghost town. I swear I could hear voices on the wind as I stood on the sidewalk of what looked like a well-made city that had been simply abandoned. Someone mentioned The Twilight Zone and that is what it felt like. Like some apocalyptic futuristic scene from a movie. On the millionaire's row, although I didn't know it was called that, I was aghast at the beautiful homes, some of which looked like they'd been plucked out of Florida and put down in this weird place. I wondered as much about the people who looked to be living prosperous lives in this desolate place as I did about all those who abandoned it to rot. Looking at these pictures just gives me some weird feeling of wanting to be in that desolate place. Strange and creepy. Great photos.

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    Cairo vs. East St. Louis

    Has anyone been to both East St. Louis and Cairo? How do they compare?

  12. #62
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by lewyn View post
    Has anyone been to both East St. Louis and Cairo? How do they compare?
    Been through ESL (off the highway, drove around for a few minutes, back on, which probably doesn't count), and in Cairo (driving through most neighborhoods, walking around downtown and the Washington Street area.)

    ESL ; population almost exclusively black, almost nonexistent middle class, some industrial remnants.

    Cairo: about 30%-40% white, small middle class (east of Sycamore St) and some old money remnants, almost no industry (soybean plant, nautical services). Cairo has a functioning Ford dealer in the City limits, which surprised me. Cairo also has a growing community of black Jews. (!)

    Also, ESL is the "little brother gone wrong" to St. Louis, right across the Mississippi. Cairo has no "big brother" city.

    East Cleveland and Hough didn't scare me. Neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago don't scare me. The East Side of Buffalo doesn't scare me. ESL scared me. Cairo has a reputation for corrupt law enforcement ("Y'all got a broken headlight, bo-ah! *smash*) and a population of gruff "river rats" that don't take kindly to blight tourists, so I felt somewhat on edge there.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  13. #63
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    Looks like more of Cairo has gone up in flames.

    http://www.wpsdlocal6.com/news/local...169289696.html

  14. #64
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jsk1983 View post
    Looks like more of Cairo has gone up in flames.

    http://www.wpsdlocal6.com/news/local...169289696.html
    From the article:

    Earlier this year two Cairo volunteer firefighters pleaded guilty to setting two fires.

    According to the Southeast Missourian they were both sentenced to probation.
    This is wrong on so many levels.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  15. #65
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    It is probably better than waiting for the bureaucracy of demolition funding and state/local/epa permits to play out. Sometimes a dark night and a bulldozer would be a good option for some of these buildings.

  16. #66
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    On that note, I've sometimes wondered why some seriously declining cities don't sell 'time' on their abandoned/uninhabitable and beyond economic repair and restoration houses and other buildings to various fire agencies for live-fire training. Doing that, they could bring in some revenue, offer that valuable training to those guys and get rid of those severely blighted structures all in one swoop.

    Or maybe they haven't thought of that.

    Mike

  17. #67
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    On that note, I've sometimes wondered why some seriously declining cities don't sell 'time' on their abandoned/uninhabitable and beyond economic repair and restoration houses and other buildings to various fire agencies for live-fire training. Doing that, they could bring in some revenue, offer that valuable training to those guys and get rid of those severely blighted structures all in one swoop.

    Or maybe they haven't thought of that.

    Mike
    Many of these building have serious structural issues, that when combined with a fire would make them very dangerous for fire fighters to enter. I know that there are certain buildings around here that the fire department just lets burn and their primary job is to ensure it don't spread.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  18. #68
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mgk920 View post
    On that note, I've sometimes wondered why some seriously declining cities don't sell 'time' on their abandoned/uninhabitable and beyond economic repair and restoration houses and other buildings to various fire agencies for live-fire training. Doing that, they could bring in some revenue, offer that valuable training to those guys and get rid of those severely blighted structures all in one swoop.

    Or maybe they haven't thought of that.

    Mike
    That's a fairly common way for rural/small town VFDs to get training in nearby Cattauraugus and Allegany Counties, but not so much here in the Jamestown area where there actually is a fire training center. These are mostly old houses and barns that are burned, however. I'm NOT sure about burning old industrial sites. Probably old grist or saw mills would be no worse than old barns or houses, but old factories might have lots of contaminants.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  19. #69
    Perhaps this has been mentioned somewhere else on the forum, but did anyone read about this project that a small record label owner attempted in Cairo, IL a few years back? It's a pretty interesting read:

    http://pix.hijinx.nu/index.php?topic=34429.0

    Moderator note:
    (Dan) New user, post with a URL, I know, but relevant, so I approved.

  20. #70
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    Cairo: I remember

    All these posts about Cairo are amazing to me. I haven't been there in about 45 years, since I was a kid, but my mom was born there. We used to go down there on weekends. Picking pecans and peaches was the best part of the trip for me as a kid, but watching the happenings around the docks and levee were fun too, especially since we lived up around the similar setup around Granite City. I never noticed any of the people being unfriendly, but that just could be the mind of a child. There were some rundown neighborhoods, but I never ever expected to see the loss I have seen in the pictures here today. For a town to be so full of hate and prejudice that it can basically show up as an advertisement against itself is just outrageous to me. Now, I'll have to be sure I make the trip next time I go home!

  21. #71
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The Cairo Citizen, Cairo's print newspaper, finally seems to have a reliable, regularly updated presence online. The photography is excellent.

    http://thecairocitizen.com

    This is a sad article: New Businesses Bring Growth to Cairo. Not sad because it's growth, but sad because businesses would be seen as nothing out of the ordinary elsewhere are seen as signs of hope in Cairo.

    Short said he will be opening a Subway, a Chester’s Chicken and a Blue Fish General Store in the old Piggly Wiggly
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    I have been fascinated with this town for so long, after driving past and through it so many times on my way south from Chicago. Glad to see the interest and so much info here. I've been doing research on Cairo on and off ever since I found the book, 'Let My People Go' back in college 20 years ago.

  23. #73
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    Things have changed!

    Quote Originally posted by Steve Kane View post
    Perhaps this has been mentioned somewhere else on the forum, but did anyone read about this project that a small record label owner attempted in Cairo, IL a few years back? It's a pretty interesting read:

    http://pix.hijinx.nu/index.php?topic=34429.0

    Moderator note:
    (Dan) New user, post with a URL, I know, but relevant, so I approved.
    These folks that were on the cover of Time magazine are long gone and NEW business has moved in several months ago as well as NEW business on 7th and Commercial streets. You need some new pictures....

  24. #74
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    Depressing.....Yes

    I am not from Cairo, but I have numerous relatives that come from there and lived there their entire life. My parents E. B. Cramer and my mother D. V. Stone both lived in Caire and attended school there and married there. My mother was born in Deilhstadt, Mo, which is across the river from Cario, close to Charleston, Mo., and my brother was also born there. I have many fond memories of visiting Cairo as a child and into my teens. It was a great place to visit, it was starting it downturn and was loosing people and business's at that time. My grandparents (Cramer) are buried at the cemetery just outside of town, my uncle Joesph Cramer, who was killed in WW II is also buried there. My father was a member of Co. K. Its sad to see Cairo as it sits today. To me Cairo will always be remembered for Mac's BBQ and the now instinct Buttertop Coffeecake, which was just about all I ate when we visited. My last relative that lived there passed away recently. My cousin Pee Wee Stone (Albert L. Stonee Jr.) died last year in the nursing home there. I will always remember Cairo the way it was in my youth.

  25. #75
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Here is something interesting I heard about Cairo. One of its major industries had to do with Sears homes. In hearing this, I think that this could have been a major cause of strife among the working class in Cairo. Sears homes died out after WW-2 when developers realized they could deliver homes at a much greater profit and a lower cost by producing them similar to an auto assembly line. Naturally there was more competition for jobs starting in the 1950's and that could have been part of the us vs. them mentality that divided the town. In addition, it had to have taken the economic wind out of the sails as they had fewer goods they could export. This could have caused a downward spiral similar to what had happened to Detroit due to global competition.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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