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

  1. #76
    Cyburbian
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    Needin' a "Little Egypt" Spring

    Those were some truly amazing pictures at the head of the thread. And as someone else mentioned, it looks pretty desolate; no one is walking around.

    The Mississippi Valley is unique and unusual, IMO, compared to the rest of the Midwest/Midsouth/South that the river goes through.

    Despite that, in many places elsewhere, it appears that Cairo is one of the pioneers. Yea, a pioneer of decline. When this thread started is about the same time when plenty of boom towns were going bust. Plenty of long-time economic powerhouses have reached a point where the economic erosion has become serious enough to say in those places, it's not just a temporary downturn but long-term ...or even that life is permanently changed, like in Cairo.

    True turn-arounds are becoming fewer and farther between. Along the Mississippi, Davenport/Quad Cities and Dubuque were once considered the epitomes of Midwest rust. These days they are doing pretty well. But these are the lucky ones. Other towns seem immune to economic resuscitation - or there is not enough of the gravy to pass around the table.

  2. #77
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Folk Hood View post
    Despite that, in many places elsewhere, it appears that Cairo is one of the pioneers. Yea, a pioneer of decline. When this thread started is about the same time when plenty of boom towns were going bust. Plenty of long-time economic powerhouses have reached a point where the economic erosion has become serious enough to say in those places, it's not just a temporary downturn but long-term ...or even that life is permanently changed, like in Cairo.
    When I lived in Austin, I'd take frequent weekend journeys on the farm-to-market roads leading out of town, seeing what lies beyond the hipsters and bats. East of Austin, the blackland prairies are littered with dying little towns. They last prospered in the 1920s, when weather was unusually good, farming and light industry was extremely labor intensive, intercity roads were still bad, and the middle class was coming onto its own. Most of these towns no longer have a reason to exist; they hang on through inertia, pride, and to some extent, economic development programs. They'll never come back. They're too far from any larger city to be a bedroom community, they have no critical mass of their own to build on, and only a few have unique advantages or charms that make them stand out from the hundreds of other prairie towns. No amount of Main Street programs, enterprise zones, tax incentives, public works projects, lot giveaways, or campaigns promoting their "family friendly" nature will save them.

    This phenomenon is nothing new. Throughout Europe, thousands of small villages have emerged and disappeared through the centuries. The United States is still a young country. Even though we try to prop up these small towns, I think over the next century or two, most of the places that have lost their reason for existence will disappear from the map. Cairo will probably be among the larger communities that eventually cease to be, but others will follow.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  3. #78
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    When I lived in Austin, I'd take frequent weekend journeys on the farm-to-market roads leading out of town, seeing what lies beyond the hipsters and bats. East of Austin, the blackland prairies are littered with dying little towns. They last prospered in the 1920s, when weather was unusually good, farming and light industry was extremely labor intensive, intercity roads were still bad, and the middle class was coming onto its own. Most of these towns no longer have a reason to exist; they hang on through inertia, pride, and to some extent, economic development programs. They'll never come back. They're too far from any larger city to be a bedroom community, they have no critical mass of their own to build on, and only a few have unique advantages or charms that make them stand out from the hundreds of other prairie towns. No amount of Main Street programs, enterprise zones, tax incentives, public works projects, lot giveaways, or campaigns promoting their "family friendly" nature will save them.

    This phenomenon is nothing new. Throughout Europe, thousands of small villages have emerged and disappeared through the centuries. The United States is still a young country. Even though we try to prop up these small towns, I think over the next century or two, most of the places that have lost their reason for existence will disappear from the map. Cairo will probably be among the larger communities that eventually cease to be, but others will follow.
    I agree, towns come and go and if the money isn't there, no amount of academic thought will bring them back.

    And, IMHO, a larger one that I know of that is on that same track is Ontonagon, MI, located in da wesdern YooPee, a general region with many mining ghost towns. With a 2000 Census population of 1769, it had shrunk to 1494 by 2010, when the Smurfit-Stone paper mill - and the city's (actually organized as a Village) main reason for existing - closed and the plant has since been demolished. My expectation is that it will eventually shrink to about 200-300, enough to service tourists to the nearby Porcupine Mountains and support the county's government. I believe that it will be an interesting planning case study in the decline of a place that has lost its reason for being.

    Mike

  4. #79
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    the rest of the story

    I grew up in Cairo and left in 1960. the racial issues were so hidden from us that we didn't really know they existed. a look at the Cairo High School yearbook from 1960 is an illustration of this ..it revers to a "Norman Rockwell" existence this is a town that died of racism.
    .

  5. #80
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    Interesting city

    I like all of the pictures. I just read an O. Henry short story "The Exact Science of Matrimony" and the town that the story was set in was Cairo, IL. So I looked it up. The story was probably written in the 1910's when Cairo was booming.

    Very sad Cairo looks, but I would love to visit as I am intrigued by cities that have risen and then fallen. I guess there is no solid solution to saving Cairo. I feel like if you could buy one of the buildings or one of the older homes you could use it as artists studios, if that would work in that region, rent them out super cheap and give artists and craftspeople a place to work for cheap!

    This original post was from 5 years ago! so maybe something positive has happened since then - I hope

  6. #81
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Future book (2015) - "Doomed: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Dangerous City, Cairo, Illinois."
    http://www.islandpacket.com/2014/08/...ow-author.html

  7. #82
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    The book about Cairo

    Thanks for posting this JNA, I look forward to seeing what this book has to say about Cairo.

  8. #83
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    Cairo after WW ll

    I was born in Cairo in 1948. Dad, a WWll veteran, managed the Woods Motor Company, on Sycamore St next door to the fire department. Both buildings are still standing.

    At the time the local hospital was run by Catholics. Dad and Mom first rented an apartment on 10th or 11th St. owned by W.T.and Hazel Hails (sp?). They had no children. Mr. Hails was a conductor on the Illinois Central Railroad. He and Dad would take me to railroad station north of town (can't find it on Google Earth now) and one of my earliest memories is sitting in the cab of a new IC D-3 locomotive. I also remembering going to the station with a group of people to receive the body of a Cairo son killed in the Korean War.

    We were members of the First Christian Church located on 14th Street (I think). It appears to have been torn down.

    I remember the hustling business on both sides of the street in the block where the Gem a Theatre was located. Cairo had a big parade when 7Up was first introduced. I remember ice cream suppers in a vacant lot near the Church.

    We later moved to a corner house at 34th and Highland. Now it's the early 1950s. This was before modern refrigeration and supermarkets. It seem each block or so had a little grocery store. We shopped at Mr. Rink's store down the alley in the next block.

    I remember the Mark Twain Hotel, the Cairo Evening Citizen (a daily newspaper then), and boat races on the Ohio River. And I remember the Magnolia Manor especially the large magnolias there at the time. There was a city bus service. Mother's baby sister moved in with us and she became an operator at the local phone company. One time one of the bus drivers gave my aunt and I a free ride around the whole route the bus ran.

    Once the Barnum and Bailey Circus came to town and the promoter wanted to borrow a Henry J car Dad was trying to sell. All of the seats were removed. With front row seats "comped ", I got to see the little Henry J motor out to the center ring and watch all these clowns emerge from that little car. The circus was held in a large field which backed up to the north levee adjacent to the big gate which would be lowered to protect the city from flooding.

    We moved to Memphis in 1954. I was not a eyewitness to decay and long decline of Cairo, and I followed with sadness the reporting of the city's accelerated destruction during the racial tensions of the late 1960s.

  9. #84
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Articles -
    Army Corps Project Pits Farmland Against Flood Threat
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/201...t-flood-threat

    pitting some deep-pocketed farm owners against less wealthy towns like Cairo.

    Leaders, residents optimistic about the future of Cairo
    http://thesouthern.com/news/local/le...cafd53405.html

    overcoming a “spirit of hopelessness” that has engulfed not only Cairo but also the lower Southern Illinois region.
    Involving the public in the planning, a critical missing piece up to recent times in the city’s health, has helped restore hope.,

  10. #85
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

  11. #86
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Oh Yeah.....

    How are we doing with obtaining the Cyburbia Compound in Cairo Illinois?? We should crowd fund that thing!
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  12. #87
    Cyburbian The Terminator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The One View post
    How are we doing with obtaining the Cyburbia Compound in Cairo Illinois?? We should crowd fund that thing!
    I think our compound should be in Detroit!

    Fun Fact: Cairo, IL had a crusty af, super politically correct anarchist pop punk centered around the label "Plan-it-X Records" and this dork named Chris Clavin. They came to Cairo because no one else in the midwest wanted them and their body odor and crappy music. As far as I know they've all packed up and left for Bloomington, IN by now.

  13. #88
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    NPR story -
    Saving Cairo: A Once Thriving River Town Finds Itself On Life Support
    http://www.npr.org/2017/06/04/528650...ntent=20170604

    HIGHLIGHTS -
    has one of the fastest depopulation rates in the United States
    real fears of a domino effect here - - housing, school enrollment
    There hasn't been a new, private home built in Cairo for an astonishing 50 years.

  14. #89
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Oh Yeah.....

    Quote Originally posted by The Terminator View post
    I think our compound should be in Detroit!

    Fun Fact: Cairo, IL had a crusty af, super politically correct anarchist pop punk centered around the label "Plan-it-X Records" and this dork named Chris Clavin. They came to Cairo because no one else in the midwest wanted them and their body odor and crappy music. As far as I know they've all packed up and left for Bloomington, IN by now.
    Detroit would be great! I can get a mid century two story classic for about $750.
    “The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    - See more at: http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-ph....r7W02j3S.dpuf

  15. #90
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    Ben Carson says despite public housing crisis, Cairo can be saved
    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/poli...165985292.html

    Carson visited the southern Illinois town as two public housing complexes are being torn down, forcing hundreds of residents to find new homes.
    He said HUD is working hard to keep as many people in Cairo as possible who are being displaced from the two projects.
    I wonder what other HUD Secretaries have visited ? or made promises ?

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