Pruitt-Igoe Vs. Cabrini-Green

On Friday, September 7 we viewed a documentary on the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis. Before viewing this film unfortunately I had never heard of Pruitt-Igoe. After seeing the film it brought my attention to another notorious housing project, the Cabrini-Green project. I knew very little about the Chicago project and wanted to learn more.

Unlike Pruitt-Igoe the Cabrini-Green settlement did not begin as a housing project. Various groups of immigrants settled there from the mid 1800’s to the mid 1900’s. It was called many things, but the one that stuck the longest was little hell. The location of the neighborhood was near many factories on the North side of Chicago. This brought many immigrants to the area looking to be close to their factory jobs like many other immigrant neighborhoods. According to a WestNorth article the neighborhood changed hands from the Irish, Germans, Swedes, and Sicilians. During the post WWI industrial boom and during WWII many African American’s began moving in looking for these jobs. During this time Cabrini-Green was considered a success in giving quality services to the working poor. In fear of integration Mayor Daley tore down many neighborhoods and built high-rises to deal with the overwhelming immigration of African Americans. The federal Government also lowered income limits and racial barriers. This caused the area to evolve into a very black and poor neighborhood.

The Industrial collapse which came after was the beginning of the long and painful end of Cabrini-Green. According to the same article Chicago lost 350,000 industrial jobs since 1972. During this time many job opportunities were created in the city, but these jobs were for skilled and educated workers. This neglected many of the residence of Cabrini-Green. Also, from 1970 to 1990 the City of Chicago lost one million citizens which led to many areas to lay vacant. Many of these areas were surrounding Cabrini-Green which resulted in the area being isolated from the rest of the city. During this time crime and drug violence grew in the neighborhood.  With the City losing money Cabrini-Green was further isolated. They lost police patrols, schools, and maintenance. This resulted in heightened violence. There were multiple sniper attacks near the neighborhood, one on two policemen (1970) and another on a seven year old boy (1992). I found a news reel covering the police shooting and also a small clip which may shed some light on the decline of the neighborhood.

The 1992 shooting of a seven year old boy on his way to school started the campaign of Mayor Daley’s to redevelop the area. The city received a federal grant to help with their situation and the City decided to demolish most of the neighborhood.   The area is still under reconstruction today and if you would like to learn more you can visit the Cabrini-Green website.

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