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Gritty cities!

Dan

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What are some examples of good, gritty cities? They don't necessarily have to be industrial or decaying, but just ... well, "infrastructury" (is that a word?) places with lots of character. Abandoned railroad lines and other infrastructure, an abundance of bridges and tunnels, and lots of brick structures and roads score points. The more it resembles the character of a typical imaginary town on a model railroad line, the better.

Some of my nominations:

1) Chicago! Despite gentrification, there's enough grit here to survive the influx of a million more trixies, chads and Reagan-style power yuppies. Chicago screams "INFRASTRUCTURE!" Lower Wacker Drive, the Chicago Tunnel Company, miles of railroad lines, brick, the story behind raising the roads, and alleys. I love Chicago!

2) Any Pennsylvania city, excepting Erie. See the comment regarding "imaginary town on a model railroad line."

3) St. Louis. Brick, brick, brick, brick, brick, and plenty of old infrastructure (Eads Bridge, Chain of Rocks Bridge, etc.)

4) Detroit. Grit, grit, grit, grit, grit. The ultimate boom and bust town -- Detroit was the Las Vegas, Houston, Phoenix, and Orlando of the 1920s. It doubled in population every decade until the 1940s.
 
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New Orleans is the capital of grit. The French Quarter alone conjures up images of grit as well as odors I care not to describe to the sensible Cyburbia forum users.
 

Chet

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Kaukauna, WI

An unlikely example, that I'm sure few have heard of. Population about 12,000, located just east of Appleton.

A Mill Town (the stinky sulfer belching kind) dominated by one paper company. The City owns 5 - count 'em 5 - hydroelectric dams and provides some of the cheapest electric power in the state. The Army Corps has a series of locks and dams, some of the oldest working ones in the country. The downtown is cross-crossed by head races and tail races for the power generating stations.

The town used to be the northern hub for the Chicago Northwestern Raiload, and even had a HUGE roundhouse and steam engine factory until the early 1980's.

The City Hall is itself a coverted factory building.

It's one RUGGED town!
 

JivecitySTL

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Mustn't forget New York, Baltimore, DC and Cleveland!

Here's are some pics that show St. Louis' true grit:











I love this gritty old bitch.
 

Glomer

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I should make myself clear.....
I'm not saying Duluth is an ugly city, smelly city........in fact it is one of the neatest cities I have ever been to. However it is a port city.......railroad tracks everywhere along the harbor (at certain places)......

As for International falls.......I think gritty because, well, it does stink. Paper mill factory........right on the border of canada.....how griddy can you get??
 

Chet

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Journeymouse - care to offer up any Brit cities?

Manchester?
Liverpool?
 

Dan

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That rusty sign in St. Louis, and the Nation of Islam newspaper hawker scream grit!

If St. Louis is an old bitch, Buffalo is a pot-bellied blue collar Joe, out on "disability," who spends most of the day on his duct-taped recliner.

Truly old-school gritty -- turn-of-the-last-century office buildings occupied almost completely by either private detectives and/or jewelery manufacturing and repair companies. Any of those still around?
 

Cardinal

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I'll be passing through Sault Ste. Marie tomorrow - a very good candidate. As long as we're up north, how about Marquette, MI?

Tacoma, although it is getting a much more clean, friendly reputation.

Seaside, Flor- er,... no.

New Haven, CT

Springfield, MA

Hamilton, ON
 

planasaurus

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Tranplanner wrote:
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario is pretty gritty - in fact, I was surprised by Planderella's nomination of it's American counterpart. It always seemed to me that cruising across the International bridge you'd go from a pleasant little green city (MI) to a sprawling steel mill and paper mill complex on the Canadian side.
I was going to include the ontario Sault Ste. Marie on my list, but I thought that the American one was more gritty.
 

Dan

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Mastiff wrote:
Houston, TX, anyone?
What's the ratio of grit to non-grit in Houston?

Would El Paso be considered gritty? It's mighty dusty, aesthetically challenged, and poverty stricken, but most development is quite recent y traditional gritty city standards.

I'd add El Paso as a RUGGED! city, though. Never seen a place with so many truck stops and so much concrete in my life.
 

Dan

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Tranplanner wrote:
Now who deleted my original post in this thread?! The one planasauras quoted? Hmmm...
[hijack]

Not I, said the Administrator.

[/hijack]
 

Mastiff

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Is that Tie Domi?

If so... was that the only punch he got in?

And isn't he a Predator now?
 

Kwame K

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Duluth, MN

Superior, WI

Scranton/Wilkes Barre, PA

Bridgeport, CT

Dearborn/Melvindale/River Rouge, MI

Hi, I just saw a link to this site posted on a discussion forum dedicated to the city of Detroit (it's in Michigan, just north of Windsor, Ontario (see the Sin Cities thread)). Some might think of Detroit as a gritty city. To me it's just home, but I'll be the first to admit that you've got to be from here to love it here.

I'm not an urban planner or a student of UP, just cruising through. Check out www.detroityes to troll through the Discuss Detroit forum, part of the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit website
 

Journeymouse

Cyburbian
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bturk wrote:
Journeymouse - care to offer up any Brit cities?

Manchester?
Liverpool?
I haven't really seen enough of those two to comment, but a few suggestions are:
  • Stoke-on-Trent, a.k.a. The Five Towns (there are six!) and the Potteries, which used to be where the majority of pottery in the UK was made. Still has the rail and canal infrastructure and all the old factories. It's also pretty grim. Now 'well known' for being the childhood home of Robbie Williams.
  • (Kingston-upon-)Hull, docks and ferry terminal (+ allegedly has fishing) ex-industrial, rail, roads, and the Humber Bridge is only a few miles away. Also grim. Most famous product is a band call the Beautiful South (get the joke?)
  • Grimsby & Cleethorpes. These two grim towns run into each other. Docks, oil & gas pipelines, motorways, rail, factories all over the place. Plus there's a strip of oil cracking facilities that would take an area with a radius of about 30 miles with if the place ever 'lit up'.
A lot of the cities in the North of England, and presumably the rest of Britain, are quite gritty as there was a lot of industry there. Now many cities are trying to clean up and join the tertiary, service based economy.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
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Re: Is that Tie Domi?

Mastiff wrote:
If so... was that the only punch he got in?

And isn't he a Predator now?
Ooooooooooooooooh you're making me MAD!

I am so not a happy Leaf fan this morning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Jen

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Louisville Ky has a gritty aura about it. I have only driven thru on my way South but it is a city that makes me want to hang around and check things out.
 

El Feo

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Jen, native Louisvillian here (by the way, that's pronounced "LOO-uh-vl," for you unlucky non-Kentuckians). I appreciate it more now that I live away than I ever did growing up. It is definitely gritty in parts, but I fear several previous years under Mayor Jerry Abramson (despite an inexplicable popularity, I'm not a fan), soon to be followed by many more under a new merged city-county "metro" government, has left the city on the verge of forgetting the rich history that makes it unique. Like too damn many mid-cized cities, it wants to be "world class," whatever the hell that is - as far as I can tell, all it means is a never-ending quest for an NBA team, six underused parallel runways at your airport, ripping down beautiful buildings with real, if minor historical significance, and a whole lot of corporate ass-kissing.

Nevertheless, I still truly think it is one of the best-kept secrets among second-tier cities - low housing prices, high employment, decent schools, GREAT restaurants, and excellent cultural amenities for a city of its size. And despite my ranting, there's still a great deal of history and character left. I'd be living there now if my wife wasn't a Massachus-ite (Massachusettsian? Masshole?) and it weren't so darn far from an ocean. I'd highly encourage you to stop and spend a few hours (if not more) on your next trip through. Who knows how long it's got left? If you want tips sometime on digs, food, and fun, let me know.
 

Mastiff

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Re: Re: Is that Tie Domi?

Tranplanner wrote:


Ooooooooooooooooh you're making me MAD!

I am so not a happy Leaf fan this morning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Try being a Flyer fan... and knowing your team won't sign Guerin, even though he wants to come there...
 

BKM

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Hey, El Feo:

I'm originally from northern Indiana, but my sister's inlaws live in Kentucky (a Slovenian family on a farm three miles down a scary gravel road just past where the Bluegrass ends (The Knobs))-and I always liked Louisville a lot.

Downtown kinda sucks, but we ate at a cool barbeque place in the Highlands? neighborhood (Olmsted-designed neighborhood) that had a great sense of character to it.

I would nominate my homeotwn, Fort Wayne, Indiana, which certainly has its share of gritty industrial (or former industrial) neighborhoods but has also fully given into the Los Angeles syndrome of ever-expanding leafy suburbs, freeways, and strip commercial.
 

Journeymouse

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Dan wrote:
Some examples of good UK grit I've found online.
Okay. I take my original statement back. Every city/major town in the UK is quite gritty. I guess its because we have a tendency to build on top instead of spread, although obviously we have had suburban sprawl for the last (insert number here) years.

The thing that I've enjoyed visiting most is the tunnels under Exeter. They were built to house lead pipes bringing water to the religious center (13th Century) and later the actual city (14th Century). When the pipes burst, they were rapped in cloths that had been waterproofed in fat, so there were lots of rats, and no lights. The tunnels were the height of a tall man at the time, so the older ones are only about 5' 4" and the older about 5' 6". I was the only adult on the tour who could stand up!
 

donk

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I'll vote for Saint John, New Brunswick.

GRIT

Bridges at the Reversing Falls. Both train and car

Mills. Paper, pulp, wood. - one is visible from almost everywhere

Brewery - moosehead.

ship building yards.

oil refinery

sugar refinery - uptown

working port uptown

old brick buildings up town

Saint John Throughway, blasted out of rock
 

El Feo

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BKM - sounds like you ate at Mark's Feed Store in the HIghlands. Did you happen to see the statue that the residents paid to have erected to the early 20th Century developer of the area? You don't see that much anymore...
 

Virtue City

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I'm thinking:

Pittsburgh, PA

Detroit, MI

Toledo, OH

These cities all adequately fit the image of being 'gritty'.
 

LouisvilleSlugger

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I would say Louisville is a gritty place even though the newer parts aren't quite, but the center area still has a lot of the scars from the past..the waterfront is looking better these days with the Waterfront Park project. Downtown does suck. Old Louisville is fairly gritty in some spots and serves as a nice look into cities once grandeur..also very walkable and diverse. West End of Louisville is full of old abandoned plants and factories..very industrual area at one time..stretches of it dormant. West Broadway is a mix of gritty and up and coming especially through Russell which use to be the most fancy smancy African American neighborhood back in the day filled with tons of Jazz clubs! it seems as though the East End of Louisville has gone the LA route of sprawl / cuookie cutter developments / and so on. the Higlands area of the city is wonderful. Bardstown Rd. in the Higlands is wonderful but it needs more work as it could be so much better.

Louisville has a lot going for its self with the Olmsted Parks.

seem to me the best things about the place are a little bit of the new like the waterfront development and much of the past like The Highlands / Old Louisville. there are cultural attractions here but the place still is more or less a slacker sort of a place..a nice slacker of a place indeed though..things are cheap here, buffets, and so on....
 

pete-rock

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Many of the towns of southern lower Michigan:

Flint
Saginaw
Jackson
Muskegon
Lansing
the "downriver" suburbs of Detroit (Ecorse, River Rouge, Melvindale, Wyandotte, Southgate, etc.)
 

H

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KNOX-Vegas baby!!

Knoxville, TN is the place to be for grit! This semi-ex-industrial scruffy little city sits in a bowl of hills and repeatedly is in the running for worst air quality in the nation. Also last year a report came out (I don’t remember which one, nor do I have time to look) that said Knoxville has the highest percentage of smokers per capita! This adds to the gritty flavor!

Go Vols!
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
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What exactly is "gritty"? I noticed something about Saginaw, my hometown, and I'm not sure if it's gritty.

Help me out here:

Can it be boring and plain?

Or does it have a unique flavor, intense in its own context, but lacking coherence in another?

Or is it about a high crime rate and industrial pollution?
 

BKM

Cyburbian
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Knoxville

Knoxville was my first job. Yep, I would agree with you that its pretty gritty. It also had quite a bit of charcter, and as the lifesucking malls didn't arrive until the 1970s (post 1960s federal urban renewal), it had a lotm of its older commercial building stock still intact (even if completely vacant).

I lived downtown in a tiny apartment (Morningside) four blocks from work at the concrete monster City-County building. I used to wander around the Old City area (where a few nightclubs and wierd artsy shops were found).

Oh well, enough nostalgia.
 

pete-rock

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Beaner said:
What exactly is "gritty"? I noticed something about Saginaw, my hometown, and I'm not sure if it's gritty.

Help me out here:

Can it be boring and plain?

Or does it have a unique flavor, intense in its own context, but lacking coherence in another?

Or is it about a high crime rate and industrial pollution?
To be truthful, I guess "gritty" is in the eye of the beholder. Dan sort of described gritty cities as being heavy on infrastructure and brick construction, for one.

In my mind, gritty cities are blue-collar industrial towns -- factories, some open, many closed; places that have bars that advertise shots and beers and "lingerie shows"; miles and miles of railroad lines; the unmistakable smells of something being manufactured or processed; open-air flea markets with everything from auto parts to bras to being sold; places where every block has a back-alley mechanic and someone with the back seat of a car as porch furniture.

My parents currently live in Saginaw, and while they don't live in an area that's "gritty", I've certainly seen parts that fit the above description.
 
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BKM said:
Hey, El Feo:

I'm originally from northern Indiana, but my sister's inlaws live in Kentucky (a Slovenian family on a farm three miles down a scary gravel road just past where the Bluegrass ends (The Knobs))-and I always liked Louisville a lot.

Downtown kinda sucks, but we ate at a cool barbeque place in the Highlands? neighborhood (Olmsted-designed neighborhood) that had a great sense of character to it.

I would nominate my homeotwn, Fort Wayne, Indiana, which certainly has its share of gritty industrial (or former industrial) neighborhoods but has also fully given into the Los Angeles syndrome of ever-expanding leafy suburbs, freeways, and strip commercial.
I dunno, maybe some of the sections around the old Harvester plant have the requisite grit. But I don't know if the Fort can run in the same pack as St. Louis and Camden.

Now, if number of strip clubs per capita were a factor, that would raise Fort Wayne's stock quite a bit!
 

BKM

Cyburbian
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Andy:

You seem to know Fort Wayne pretty well :)

Yeah, the Harvester area is pretty gritty. Also, the old south side neighborhoods along Clinton and Lafayette. Even Broadway has a gritty feel, although it has become a little bohemian (as boho as Fort Wayne gets)

I would never say, though, that my homeotwn comes anywhere near Camden, or even the grittier northeastern cities (Reading, PA, Worcester, Mass, and the like). Its actually pretty prosperous, as a metropolitan area. And, that is the other difference: it is a stand-alone metro area, not a "bad side of the river" industrial suburb like Camden.
 

michaelskis

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planasaurus said:
Saoux Ste Marie, Mi - a very unlikely gritty ciry.

I agree...
But I would have to Nominate the City of Reading. Once a Rail Road Giant and a city of over 100,000. Now, well, the rail road owns most the vacant land in the city, and now all the heavy industry has left... Oh what fun.
 

H

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Re: Knoxville

BKM said:
Knoxville was my first job. Yep, I would agree with you that its pretty gritty. It also had quite a bit of charcter, and as the lifesucking malls didn't arrive until the 1970s (post 1960s federal urban renewal), it had a lotm of its older commercial building stock still intact (even if completely vacant).

I lived downtown in a tiny apartment (Morningside) four blocks from work at the concrete monster City-County building. I used to wander around the Old City area (where a few nightclubs and wierd artsy shops were found).

Oh well, enough nostalgia.
BKM, Yes for some reason the gritty city of Knoxville has an over flow of great character. The life sucking malls you are speaking of are still there but not so life sucking anymore with lots of life going back downtown with the new river front park, greenway linkages, the current renovation project of Market Square (where they have a great outdoor free concert series), a new convention center, and the conversion of the vacant commercial stock brick buildings into lofts and retail (although in my opinion, your old Morningside area is still the neatest residential area, however I lived next door in the less desirable but still pedestrian distance Fort Sanders District), and of course the Old City is still hot. So all and all, I think you would be happy if you saw it today.

I moved away after school, but I stay connected.
 

BKM

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Sounds cool, Huston. I actually moved mid-term to Knoxville (didn't plan it at all), and finished my Masters while working for the MTC. So, I had no money, and I first lived in Fort Sanders for a couple of months in a rooming house. The one thing I hated was Knoxville's total lack of code enforcement-the overflowing dumpsters right next to the firetrap rooming houses was not pleasant :(

My apartment in Morningside was a really cool little studi with wooden floors and a great view. It only cost $200/month!!!!!

I love California, and it made a lot of professional and economic sense to take my current job, but sometimes I wonder. Knoxville as a city is a far more interesting place than suburban/military dormitory Fairfield.

Oh well. I still love California as a whole, and Knoxville isn't 45 miles from San Francisco (or 20 minutes from the Napa Valley).
 

H

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BKM said:
The one thing I hated was Knoxville's total lack of code enforcement-the overflowing dumpsters right next to the firetrap rooming houses was not pleasant :(

Oh well. I still love California as a whole, and Knoxville isn't 45 miles from San Francisco (or 20 minutes from the Napa Valley).
And the chickens running around??!! But I thought that was cool.

I love northern Cali as well, the Napa Valley wine train tour is incredible! Now I am jealous!
 

BKM

Cyburbian
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Chickens were one thing!

Two weeks of garbage spilling from the student boarding house dumpsters on the sidewalk was another :)
 

H

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BKM said:
Chickens were one thing!

Two weeks of garbage spilling from the student boarding house dumpsters on the sidewalk was another :)
Yeah, kinda stinky… I guess that is another reason why it is a gritty city.
 
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BKM said:
Andy:

You seem to know Fort Wayne pretty well :)

Yeah, the Harvester area is pretty gritty. Also, the old south side neighborhoods along Clinton and Lafayette. Even Broadway has a gritty feel, although it has become a little bohemian (as boho as Fort Wayne gets)

I would never say, though, that my homeotwn comes anywhere near Camden, or even the grittier northeastern cities (Reading, PA, Worcester, Mass, and the like). Its actually pretty prosperous, as a metropolitan area. And, that is the other difference: it is a stand-alone metro area, not a "bad side of the river" industrial suburb like Camden.
Lived and worked there for seven years. Had a house in Southwood Park on the "evil south side" of Fort Wayne. Waitresses at the Munchie Emporium knew my name, and what kind of beer I liked to drink.

Since moving to Cincinnati, I've discovered many strange parallels between the two cities and historic ties. Hell, there's a Mad Anthony Boulevard here in Cinti.

I'll throw Cincinnati in the running for Gritty City 2003. A place whose economy was built on meat packing and finding interesting uses for the byproducts has to have a certain level of grit to it. If you're ever in town and downwind from the Ivorydale plant when they're having a bad day, you'll know what I mean!
 

BKM

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Andy: I bet Cinci doesn't have a "Harry Balls Drive" in its roster of street names (located in the park land next to the Coliseum :)

Southwood Park was always one of my favorite neighborhoods. That southwest corner is still one of the nicest in the city. And, of course, southwest county is the "new money" part of town today. They even airlifted an outdoor shopping mall (with J. Crew and the like) from suburban California to Fort Wayne! I felt right at home-its like a mini-Walnut Creek.

My mother still lives in a first generation subdivision in St Joe Township.
 
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