Urban planning community | #theplannerlife

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: Echoes of (former) glory

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2004
    Location
    on my 15 minute break
    Posts
    21,486

    Echoes of (former) glory

    Drove through a number of small towns in Ohio this past weekend. It was interesting to note the sometimes profound differences in fortunes comparably-sized communities in the same general region can experience. In many of the hard-bitten towns you could drive along Main Street and see multiple shuttered businesses, but clear signs of former glory still remained. In some cases it'd be the late 19th century ornate Italianate mansions falling into disrepair that remained near the center of town. In other instances it'd be a largely vacant retail center that clearly required more money or population base to support its presence than currently existed.

    Echoes of former glory can present themselves in a variety of different ways - perhaps it's simply acres of urban prarie, or maybe it's an 1890 opera house or Masonic lodge that now serves as a second hand clothing store, possibly it's the public library collection that seems to exist above and beyond the community's current station.

    What cultural, economic, or other evidence in the built environment have you seen that conveys echoes of former glory in the communities you're familiar with?


  2. #2
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 1996
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    14,737
    Blog entries
    3
    You see it a lot in Cleveland. The outward migration of Cleveland's black community, and the socioeconomic transformation that often followed, went through the city's then-middle-class to wealthy East Side, rather than the working-class West Side.

    A few examples, from a previous thread:











    From an earlier report about the neighborhood's struggles: "However, the visible remnants of elegance and better days only served to intensify the aura of decay that encompassed Hough."

    In Buffalo, "former glory" takes another form, at least along Delaware Avenue, where the huge mansions of once prominent families now house schools and non-profit organizations. A few mansions are still in use as residences, as are all of the luxury walkup and high-rise apartment buildings.

    In Ithaca, most of the mansions of the once very wealthy Cornell Heights neighborhood are now fraternity and sorority houses.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    New Town
    Posts
    3,968
    Not sure if this directly relates, but I'm reading this very interesting book right now by Timothy Egan called "The Worst Hard Time" Its about the settlement of the plains areas of panhandle Texas and Oklahoma as well as parts of Colorado and Kansas and the ensuing dust bowl. A fascinating read and the author weaves these real stories (from interviews with people who lived it) into a sort of fictionalized narrative. Its all real, but he tells the story in more dynamic ways than a history or investigative reporting would be. It reads like a story.

    What a crazy time that was - there are towns in the area that went from nothing to a boomtown, to total abandonment inside of 40 years! In some areas, buildings still remain but no one has lived there since the 1930s. In other cases, the dust bowls' consistent 50 mph winds not only stripped the paint off of buildings and buried cars in 40 foot sand dunes, but also reduced many buildings to dust and rubble.

    But in the early years of the area being opened up to settlement, there was excess rain and great yields of wheat. All kinds of people came to the area. I just finished reading about the Russian-Germans who came from the Volga region (before that they had been enticed to leave Germany by Catherine the Great and settle that barren area as a buffer between Russia and the marauding Kirgiz, Tartars and Khazaks). These folks traveled all the way across the world to settle in Oklahoma and largely re-established communities very similar to those in Russia. And they were no strangers to difficult terrain. Still, many did not last and all that incredible energy they expended to build the place up was largely lost in the ensuing dust bowl/depression 1-2 punch.

    So, as far as former glory (not to be confused with Walmart's clothing line Faded Glory...) these places went from uninhabited to the "next great settlement boom" to uninhabitable within a very short period of time. My family was part of settlement in Oklahoma during this same time period, although not in the panhandle area. My father's side of the family did lose their farm in the dust bowl and left for Arizona to try and cure my g-grandmother's TB (my grandfather stayed behind as he had a scholarship to Texas Tech). The other side were merchants and so fared a little better, but it was a very very difficult time for everyone.

    The real Former Glory, of course, was the tremendous grassy plains that had developed over about 20-30,000 years and provided essential grazing lands for many a beast, including the buffalo. All of that sod - over 5 million acres - was turned and blew away within about 40 years. It boggles the mind...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
    Registered
    Oct 2005
    Location
    #NoogaStrong
    Posts
    2,713
    This can be seen in just about any small southern town from Walterboro SC to Hawkinsville, GA to Kinston, NC. All these towns were, back in their hay day, the center for regional commerce and where the farmers took their goods and bought supplies. Today, as you drive through you can see large stately homes that were probably owned by business and land owners but today have fallen into disrepair. Down the main street you may still see the wall sign or facade of a hardware store, five and dime, hotel, or even department store, which has all given way to Dollar General and Walmart today.

    It is sad to see and unlikely to change even with the predicted reurbanism of America. These places are just a little too small to support a vibrant diverse population you need to sustain multiple businesses and salaries.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    10,074
    It has been over a decade since I traveled through Sterling, Illinois. Sterling's great industry was steel. Along a street adjacent to the mill stood a row of wonderful Italianate and later mansions. During the late 1800's these were the homes of the executives of the mill. Living near the mill was important. Once it was no longer necessary (since we had cars) the owners moved on to newer homes. The old mansions were eventually converted to apartments and suffered from neglect. I wonder what they look like today.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Jamestown, New York
    Posts
    1,720
    In Buffalo, I think the "echoes of former glory" have to be the grain elevators along the waterfront, most of which are now abandoned hulks that nobody knows what to do with except to demo. These represent the basis of Buffalo's prosperity from mid-1800s through the 1950s when the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway started the great decline of the city as a transshipment center for Midwestern grain to the East Coast and to Europe. At one time, most of the grain grown the US came into Buffalo on lake freighters, and was either milled into flour for US markets or transferred to railcars to be shipped to Atlantic ports for export.

    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    This can be seen in just about any small southern town from Walterboro SC to Hawkinsville, GA to Kinston, NC. All these towns were, back in their hay day, the center for regional commerce and where the farmers took their goods and bought supplies. Today, as you drive through you can see large stately homes that were probably owned by business and land owners but today have fallen into disrepair. Down the main street you may still see the wall sign or facade of a hardware store, five and dime, hotel, or even department store, which has all given way to Dollar General and Walmart today.

    It is sad to see and unlikely to change even with the predicted reurbanism of America. These places are just a little too small to support a vibrant diverse population you need to sustain multiple businesses and salaries.
    This isn't just happening in the South. It's the very same thing that you see in NY and PA outside of the biggest cities. Smaller cities and bigger towns away from the big metros are hanging on as regional business centers of sorts, but the real small towns are just dying. I think that the latest census has shown that many rural counties all over the country are simply running out of young people.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Lowering the PCI in the Hills
    Posts
    7,149
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    It has been over a decade since I traveled through Sterling, Illinois. Sterling's great industry was steel. Along a street adjacent to the mill stood a row of wonderful Italianate and later mansions. During the late 1800's these were the homes of the executives of the mill. Living near the mill was important. Once it was no longer necessary (since we had cars) the owners moved on to newer homes. The old mansions were eventually converted to apartments and suffered from neglect. I wonder what they look like today.

    Bay City, Michigan suffered the same fate with lumber mill executives and the decline of their mansions. About a century ago, Bay City was near the top of the list in terms of the number of millionaires, per capita, that called the city home. That is no longer the case.

    I haven't been up there in years, but when I was in grad school we had a guest lecturer one day that used to be the head of their planning or housing department (or something like that) who said that many of those old stately homes are still there but most were divided up into boarding houses and the like back in the 1950s - 1970s but are still standing somehow.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  8. #8
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    the delta
    Posts
    1,213
    Pictures really make the stories so much more interesting. I love reading about the experiences residents have in these neighborhoods.

    This my be a naive question, but in Saint Paul MN Summit Avenue has all the old mansions of the well-heeled and they are all still in mint condition. Do you think the absence of "civil unrest" is what allowed these homes and neighborhood to continue to thrive in an area and time of outward expansion? The suburbs have many "rich people" but for some reason all the old mansions are still intact.

    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=4...14.69,,0,-1.87
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  9. #9
    <ahem, cough, cough Gary, Indiana, cough, cough> Back in the day, they has some nice buildings and a nice downtown. Back when the mills were going strong. Live After People had some shots of the some of the old churches. All that's gone away now.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2009
    Location
    The Glass City
    Posts
    2,610
    I feel a loss whenever I look at Iolani Palace. Not because I have strong feelings about the Hawaiian Sovereignty Movement or anything like that, but because the property use to stand for something. It was the home of the Royal Family and surrounding the home was this enormous gentle rolling yard and tropical views. It was one of the first buildings to have electricity, indoor plumbing, and an elevator installed - prior even to most government buildings in the U.S. at the time. It is not particularly gorgeous or large as far as palaces go, but it has a remarkable history. Currently, large portions of the yard are intact but the home is now a museum and is surrounded by pavement. I find it particularly offensive that such an remarkable piece of architectural history has been paved over so that lazy people can park their vehicles closer to the museum. Maybe it is an overreaction based on my feelings about cars, but it is so aesthetically unpleasing to have asphalt and cars surrounding the property.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Glory Days
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 8
    Last post: 15 Aug 2012, 9:18 PM
  2. Replies: 20
    Last post: 15 Sep 2005, 10:48 AM
  3. All hail the great glory of Google
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 17
    Last post: 01 Apr 2004, 10:12 AM