Monday, October 12

Remembering Urban Renewal

Almost every community has their own stories from the urban renewal of the 1960's and 1970's, when a combination of federal policies and local action lead to clearing whole neighborhoods of urban fabric in order make room for the modern, motorized city. Charlottesville has Vinegar Hill, which still conjures up deep memories of racial divisions. In this case, not only were hundreds of residents displaced and moved into public housing, but the area chosen for demolition happened to be the heart of the black community.

A couple of researchers have put together a website that explores this history: Vinegar Hill, memoryscape. For this project, a timeline of aerial photos is narrated by newspaper clippings, which give an explanation of the step-by-step process and aftermath of the change. We see how much of the land that was expected to be redeveloped actually sat vacant for over a decade, with only a brand new high-volume roadway cutting straight through. Even today, the majority of the land serves as surface parking lots, something the grand schemes of urban renewal often conveniently left out.

One thing that would be a great addition to these maps and pictures would be audio recordings of stories people have told from living in Vinegar Hill and seeing their community being renewed. I know an archived recording was made in the early 1980's, but I don't know if it's still around anywhere.


jessie ray said...

the recording does exist and as i understand it, the goal is to add them to this timeline. thanks for posting this; i had found it a while back and then forgot how to get there!

jessie ray said...

should have included this last time.

Daniel Nairn said...

Thanks jray. There are tons of resources from that link you posted. Once I have some free time, I'd love to wade into some of those stories.

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