My trip up to Central Illinois in mid June took me to all sorts of random surprises, including several new churches and other sights, and that is why I enjoy doing what I do. It is often totally random. But sometimes my totally random path takes me through neighborhoods that tell stories that I don’t think are fair, or at least not ones that I think deserve light treatment. I wrote about this when I explored a wintry Baden several years ago, and I almost never posted the photos because I thought it just made the neighborhood look bad. I ultimately did because I felt I was still being honest.
After I left St. Ann’s, I started driving around looking at the streets of the South Side. Try as I might, I just couldn’t find a street that didn’t have abandoned or severely deteriorated houses on it.
What the heck is going on, I wondered. It was the same story; lost jobs in the mid-Twentieth Century, cheap land to the north where people moved for new housing and absentee slumlords not willing to spend the money to maintain wood frame housing.
I found a couple of articles that were written by Peoria journalists that were surprisingly frank and open about how the city had been leaving the neighborhood behind for decades. The first one is by the editor of the newspaper of record, The Journal Star, and the second covers the challenges faced by its residents.
So I decided to post these photos because this is an honest portrayal of what I saw; just like I randomly found the beautiful and active parish of St. Ann, that same randomness produced these images.
But there are still so many beautiful buildings, such as this high school clearly inspired by the St. Louis firm of Ittner and Milligan.
Though I wish they wouldn’t do that with the windows…
And there is new housing, though I wonder with modern construction how long it will last; there are public housing projects in St. Louis that have to be completely gut rehabbed every thirty years…
But ultimately, there has to be economic opportunity, and not a bunch of abandoned warehouses and factories that remind us of what used to provide jobs for Peoria.