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Guess the City 113: Ghost Town Edition 9

Wannaplan?

Bounty Hunter
Messages
3,208
Points
28
Michigan City, Indiana?

Actually, that's a joke. At least they have some operating businesses in their downtown.

I must say, those are amazing pictures. I thought my hometown was bad, but WOW, yours are amazing!! It looks like it became a ghost town within the past ten years. Incredible.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
13,754
Points
55
I'll have to agree with Cairo, IL.

That is an amazing level of abandonment. It must have emptied pretty quick though (per Alan). They didn't even get a chance to pave over the streets after the streetcars left (assuming the streetcars are gone). The tracks are still present in a couple pics.

Beautiful nineteenth century "Main Street" architecture though.
 

SkeLeton

Cyburbian
Messages
4,853
Points
26
Nice pics.. cool architecture... but I guess it must be very depresing to live in that town/city/whatever...

I got no idea of what town it is though...
 

Super Amputee Cat

Cyburbian
Messages
2,224
Points
30
JNA said:
Cairo, Illinois?

The first response is correct!

I actually was going to respond a couple of hours earlier but I thought I'd let a few more people guess and comment. I'm glad I waited.

I was there in May on my way back from Hot Springs to Toledo. I had read about Cairo in a great book called "Far From Home" and had always wanted to see it.

I will post some history and commentary on Cairo soon.
 

Super Amputee Cat

Cyburbian
Messages
2,224
Points
30
Alan said:
Michigan City, Indiana?

Actually, that's a joke. At least they have some operating businesses in their downtown.

I must say, those are amazing pictures. I thought my hometown was bad, but WOW, yours are amazing!!
Thanks! What is your hometown? Michigan City? I want to add you to my postcards site.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Cairo is that bad now? It was awful already ten years ago, when another company in my Guard battalion was based there and I occassionally had to visit. Too bad.
 

Hceux

Cyburbian
Messages
1,028
Points
22
History on Cairo Illinois?

Gosh, what a beautiful collection of great architectural buildings in Cairo.

Can anyone explain why Cairo has become a semi-ghosttown? And why so quickly as some others have already commented?
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
Messages
3,232
Points
25
I know that Cairo, as the original southern terminus of the Illinois Central railroad was set to become a major metropolis (the northern terminus was the small city of Chicago). I think Chicago propsered and Cairo didn't because the Great Lakes river system ended up more important to the nation than the Mississippi (that was St Louis's trouble too), and it was too close to Saint Louis to even be a major city on that system.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Cairo's slide has been going on for a long time now. I'm not sure if my own observations capture it all but...

Cairo is at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. It grew up wneh river traffic was still important, which it is not anymore. (My sixth grade grammer teacher would kill me for that last sentence.)

Cairo is not very close to any major city and is not on any primary transportation route.

Coal used to be a big business in southern Illinois but has not been for decades.

The people of Cairo are... well, if you can't say anything nice....

I believe flooding remains a problem in parts of the city.
 

Super Amputee Cat

Cyburbian
Messages
2,224
Points
30
Re: History of Cairo, Illinois

Hceux said:

Can anyone explain why Cairo has become a semi-ghosttown? And why so quickly, as some others have commented?
Read this book: It will explain everything.

94Cairobook1-med.jpg
 

Hceux

Cyburbian
Messages
1,028
Points
22
Re: History of Cairo, Illinois

Thanks jordanb and Super Amputee Cat for your speedy response. I didn't expect an answer so quickly!!

Jordanb, your explanations definitely cleared things up for me. I recently finished reading "Nature's Metropolis" by William Cronon for one of my classes and just wrote an essay, using this book. (Not a bad book, if any of you are keen on the early development of Chicago)

I remember a section in this book on how the 1850s introduction of railroads from Chicago to the Great West began the decreased use of the waterway (rivers and canals) system, leaving many river port cities behind in their growth and development. Now, I've realized that Cairo is located on the river and close to St. Louis...I understand some possible reasons for the collapse of Cairo.

Super Amputee Cat, thanks for the reference to that book. I'll check it out!
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
Messages
3,232
Points
25
Re: Re: History of Cairo, Illinois

Hceux said:
Jordanb, your explanations definitely cleared things up for me. I recently finished reading "Nature's Metropolis" by William Cronon for one of my classes and just wrote an essay, using this book. (Not a bad book, if any of you are keen on the early development of Chicago)
Yes, I read it, and I'll second you, it's an excelent book. It's also a good study of application of Von Thünen's ideas about the relationship between cities and their hinterlands.
 

Super Amputee Cat

Cyburbian
Messages
2,224
Points
30
It may be out of print as it was written over a decade ago. Basically the book concentrates on two towns that couldn't be more opposite economically, yet are both very much in trouble: Cairo because of it's deep-seated politically currupt and racist past and massive hemmoraging of the population and Kent because of it's hyperprosperity: New York yuppies and their fresh money, moving into town during the Reagan era, driving out the locals and turning it into their own private SUV-addled, sterile monoculture.

In a nutshell, Cairo has been afflicted with some deep racial problems and conflicts that have existed for decades and came to a header in the 1960s when blacks boycotted white owned businesses and devasted the local economy. The vacant buildings you see today are largely a legacy of that boycott and Cairo's deep seated troubled racial past.

As the Southernmost point in the Union, Cairo was a major point of entry during the Civil war, as escaped slaves and displaced poor whites, poured in from the south. (Located further south than Norfolk, it was very much a southern town, even though it was located in Illinois) By the early 1900s, these two groups would form a mutually hostile underclass. Almost overnight, Cairo became a heavily segretated city and with it came the attending house burnings, a couple of lynchings, and political restrictions against blacks.

During the 1910s, the white power structure changed the election laws to a City Commission style of government, which changed the body of City council from district-based to At Large. This ensured that City Council would be entirely comprised of whites, even though the city was almost 50% black by 1920. The ugliness would peak during the 1970s as KKK-like white supremists, known as the White Hats, battled so called black militants for control. During this dark era, the whole town was basically under siege with no one daring to venture outside at night for fear of getting their head blown off.

Cairo was also one of the most politically currupt cities in America, a legacy that lasted well into the 1990s. This book chronicals the efforts of one man, Doc Poston, who tried to bring revitalization to Cairo durng the late 1980s, only to come up against one of the most evil and currupt political and economic "good ol' boy" regimes that ever existed in small-town American governement.
 
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Xing500

Cyburbian
Messages
112
Points
6
Yeah, it's too bad about Cairo IL. If you ever look at a map showing Illinois wealth, it's very interesting how things get poorer and poorer as you go further south. It's sad, and I wish more residence in the state will do more to help their own.
 

Super Amputee Cat

Cyburbian
Messages
2,224
Points
30
Xing500 said:
Yeah, it's too bad about Cairo IL. If you ever look at a map showing Illinois wealth, it's very interesting how things get poorer and poorer as you go further south. It's sad, and I wish more residence in the state will do more to help their own.
To most residents of Illinois, especially Chicago, the state ends at Carbondale.
 

Mud Princess

Cyburbian
Messages
4,898
Points
27
Wow. This is one of the saddest places I have ever seen. You can almost see the tumbleweed blowing down the streets.
 

ablarc

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
713
Points
20
Cairo

CAIRO

A while back, a California developer bought the entire unincorporated company town of Kannapolis, NC. It was the biggest unincorporated municipality in the country.

Now that all the locals have vamoosed, it seems to me that some enterprising developer could pick up Cairo for 10 cents (no, make that 5 cents) on the dollar. What an admirable little tourist destination this would make if it were filled with antique stores or outlet stores or country music emporiums; or all of the above. Add into the mix, a jazz festival, a fiddler’s convention, a Chatauqua-style music festival, an annual biker’s convention, a giant antique car show using the city’s streets as the venue, a gaggle of theaters, a rodeo, religious revival tents, a Tiger Woods designed golf course, an annual soul food and barbecue festival, bookstores, auction houses, toy emporiums, an RV park, craftsmen, art galleries, state fair…you get the idea: the cornier the better.

Mix in some world-class restaurants, and watch the bed-and-breakfast crowd flock in, especially on weekends. Then run riverboat casinos from the town (Illinois has legalized riverboat gambling) and make sure Main Street is well-stocked with taverns, some with entertainment. Don’t forget the kids: they need an amusement park and water slides. Put back the trolley.

Last but not least, in response to Cairo’s pivotal role for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the city rolls out the carpet for the two weeks centered on July 4 for the annual Tom Sawyer Days. During this festive fortnight, all shopkeepers agree to dress in 19th Century garb and the town hums with Mark Twain events, including fence-painting contests and the annual Mark Twain impersonation competition held in Samuel Clemens Hall.

Two interstates converge near Cairo: 57 and 24. Adjacent population centers include St. Louis and Memphis (2-1/2 hrs. each); Nashville (3-1/2 hrs.); Little Rock (4-1/2 hrs.); Louisville (5 hrs.); Chattanooga and the vast metropolis of Chicago (6 hrs. ea.); and Cincinnati and Kansas City (6-1/2 hrs. ea.). Of course, the lucky residents of St. Louis get to ride the Friday night steam train to Cairo, returning Sunday evening.

Here, truly is a glittering theme park waiting to happen, a regional Orlando, but you really need to change the name of the town. You could re-name the whole shebang (with some justification): Middle America! Or maybe, in keeping with the trend of branding, we could call it Oprah, IL; and have this Illinois celebrity become its official spokesperson, plugging it on her show and investing in it her millions.

Oh, and I forgot: the town needs an Oprah House.
 
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