History

Urban Renewal in D.C.

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A story in three photos.

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  1. we want our land back. the feds can go back to philly

  2. Cool. Just saw something similar, with a different ending. Dearborn MI – the area that used to be Ford’s airfield, and is now the DEarborn Development Center (AKA Dearborn Proving Grounds test track). Fascinating transformation over…60, 70 years, something like that.

    DC – not such a nice ending. And the city of Detroit? Just sad…

    Thank goodness for the aerial phots, though – they do provide a compelling story.

    Thanks, Jesse

  3. When house becomes highway, it can never go back.

  4. I’ll bet those houses in 1949 looked all different, and unplanned, and icky. That neighborhood was plainly suffering from blight.

  5. The site is blocked here. Can anyone tell me the story in regular words?

    1. Picture from 1949 of living neighborhood with heterogeneous housing.

      Picture from 1963 with every building smaller than a quarter block gone and highway through middle.

      Picture from 1979 with empty land and a few very large buildings.

      That’s 2963 words short…

    2. Urban renewal fail.

      1. Urban renewal fail typical.

  6. There’s a neighborhood around E Capitol St NE & 1st St NE that could use this treatment.

    While not exactly blighted, it is responsible for more economic loss than any other neighborhood in the country.

  7. I’ll bet the negro removal part of it worked.

    1. It always works.

  8. Why is there a job called ‘urban planner’?

    1. cause we cant say “negro removal mgr” duh

  9. The highways and cars were sacrificed for agriculture. I thought that we’d start over, but I guess I was wrong.

  10. Ok, I live in SW DC. It’s a decent place, although it could use a bit more convenience. It’s getting there. (And plenty of black people live there, sheesh.)

    From what I understand, about the 1920s it was a low income neighborhood but decent and had a lot of charm and personality. It’s right behind the capitol and federal buildings and housed menial workers like janitors and the like. I also understand that people shat in outhouses and there were open sewage canals. By the late 1950s it was a total slum. In the 1960s people had enough and they decided to raze the whole fucking wasteland and renew the area. It didn’t turn out the way most hoped. They thought it was going to be similar but newer and nicer. Well, you know how real estate development goes.

    But it’s disingenuous to suggest that it was a nice place before it was demolished. It was a total slum. A real slum.

    At least that’s the story told to me by people who lived in the area for a long time.

  11. From the comments in the article…

    Some buildings should have stayed, like the synagogue, but most of them simply had to go.

    1. Yeah, apparently it was always a slum.

  12. My understanding that it was more than just a standard-issue D.C. slum. We’re talking tin shacks in the alleyways, etc.

    And the Southeast/Southwest Freeway was a worthwhile project–or at least it would have been if I-95 had ever been completed through D.C. Most of it would have used the railroad right-of-way north of Union Station and wouldn’t have resulted in disruption. But alas…

    Apart from the freeway, though, condemning the entire area to benefit a few connected developers was 100% wrong, and obviously par for the course, even today.

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