Look Back: Pruitt-Igoe housing project
Date: 7/24/2010 Album ID: 1045829
Photos by Post-Dispatch staff photographers
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On July 23, 1953, St. Louis'' first integrated public housing, Igoe, accepted its first four white and three black families. Between it and Pruitt, which housed black families, there were 33 eleven-story buildings for 2868 low-income families, with monthly rent beginning at $20. Pruitt-Igoe was blown up less than 20 years later.
Army Air Forces Capt. Wendell O. Pruitt, namesake of Pruitt Homes, public housing for blacks. Pruitt grew up in St. Louis, graduated from Sumner High School and learned to fly through the Tuskegee Experiment, a program to teach black aviator cadets how to fly combat airplanes during World War II. The program was held at Tuskegee College, now Tuskegee University, in Alabama. At the time, the air corps had no black pilots. Pruitt flew a P-51 Mustang for a fighter group based in North Africa and then Italy. He shot down three German planes and destroyed eight others on the ground. He died in 1945 in a crash at Tuskegee during a training mission. When the city first began planning to build five complexes of high-rise apartments for low-income people, it named the largest of them after Pruitt. The 20-building complex just northwest of downtown, originally built specifically for blacks, was opened to its first tenants on Oct. 10, 1954. Next to Pruitt, the city also built a 13-building complex called Igoe Homes that was to be its first integrated complex. The two complexes eventually were run jointly as Pruitt-Igoe. (Post-Dispatch)
William L. Igoe, former congressman and namesake of Igoe Homes, the city's first officially integrated public-housing complex. When the Housing Authority was building Pruitt and Igoe across the street from each other on Dickson Street, just southeast of Jefferson and Cass avenues, Pruitt was for blacks and Igoe was to be integrated. (The Clinton Peabody Homes south of downtown and John J. Cochran Homes just north of downtown originally were for whites.) Igoe, a son of Irish immigrants, spent his early youth in the old Kerry Patch Irish neighborhood, which straddled Pruitt-Igoe's 57 acres. A Democrat, he served in Congress from 1913 to 1921 and was president of the St. Louis Police Board from 1933 to 1937. He was a leader of the St. Vincent de Paul Society in St. Louis, a Catholic group that helps the poor, and willed the organization one fourth of his estate. He died in April 1953. The city named the housing complex after him a short time later. (Post-Dispatch)
An aerial view of the Pruitt and Igoe housing complexes under construction northwest of downtown in August 1954. The 57-acre complex of 33 buildings, each of 11 stories, provided 2,868 apartments for low-income people. Federal housing appropriations paid most of the $36 million to build them. The city began clearing the old DeSoto-Carr neighborhood in 1952. At the groundbreaking, Mayor Joseph M. Darst said, These two projects are tangible evidence of progress in the continuing war against slums and decay. Many of the residents came from apartments in buildings built during the 19th Century, some of which still lacked running water. At the far left of Pruitt and Igoe is the intersection of Jefferson and Cass avenues. Surrounding the complex are decaying neighborhoods that the city later cleared out. Taking their cue from the big thinking that helped win World War II, federal and local housing planners thought that building high-rise apartment buildings for the poor would give them pleasant new apartments and save on real estate. Time would not bear them out. (William Dyviniak/Post-Dispatch)
One of the first families to move into Pruitt Homes inspects an enclosed play area on an upper floor in the building at 2431 O'Fallon Street in October 1954. In the following July, the first four white and three black families moved into Igoe Homes. Construction was still underway on the two complexes when the first tenants moved in. (Renyold Ferguson/Post-Dispatch)
Igoe Homes on July 23, 1955, when the first families moved in. Its 10 buildings, when all completed, would have apartments for 1,132 families. (Post-Dispatch)
The color guard of Anheuser-Busch American Legion Post 299 stands at attention during the flag-raising on Feb. 26, 1956, at the ceremony dedicating the Igoe Homes. By then, the city's first integrated housing complex was home to about 300 families, with more moving in every week. (Floyd Bowser/Post-Dispatch)
Residents of Igoe Homes and friends at the dedication. (Floyd Bowser/Post-Dispatch)
A view of one of the parking lots and scrubby lawns in between the rows of 11-story buildings at Pruitt-Igoe in October 1965. (David Gulick/Post-Dispatch)
St. Louis police officer Dennis Blackman patrols a hallway of Pruitt-Igoe on Dec. 15, 1965. Rising crime in public-housing complexes, especially Pruitt-Igoe, overwhelmed the Housing Authority's watchmen, and the Police Department ordered officers to patrol Pruitt-Igoe. (Robert Holt Jr./Post-Dispatch)
Etta McCowan relaxes in her apartment in Pruitt-Igoe in April 1967. Despite the crime and the declining reputation of the complex, many residents tried to make do and keep up their apartments. McCowan's was in the building at 2330 Cass Avenue, one of the original Igoe buildings. Her apartment was neat and well-tended, and McCowan had plastic covers on her living-room furniture. Where else could we get four bedrooms, heat and everything else for $59 a month? she asked in explaining why she stayed. (Floyd Bowser/Post-Dispatch)
Police officer Larry Disbennett takes cover behind the door of his vehicle while he plays a floodlight onto one of the buildings at Pruitt-Igoe on Nov. 26, 1967. Snipers occasionally fired shots at officers. (Lloyd Spainhower/Post-Dispatch)
Children who live in Pruitt-Igoe paint one of their playgrounds as an art project for their school on June 6, 1968. The city housing authority donated the paint. (Lynn T. Spence/Post-Dispatch)
Derrick Eiland, 11, and his brother, Martin, 1, warm themselves at the gas stove in their apartment in Pruitt Igoe on Jan. 12, 1970. Pipes that had frozen in vacant apartments during a cold snap burst during the thaw, flooding electrical and heating systems in several buildings. (Lou Phillips/Post-Dispatch)
Ice from water pipes that had during the January 1970 cold wave made icicles on the buildings. (Floyd Bowser/Post-Dispatch)
Zachary Marsh, 3, sitting in a vacant apartment that he and other kids use as a playroom in September 1970. The Housing Authority had just announced plans to close some buildings and consolidate tenants in the remaining ones. The hole in the wall was made by vandals who stole pipe and wires to sell for scrap. (Nicholas Sapieha/Post-Dispatch)
One of the Pruitt-Igoe buildings being brought down by dynamite on April 21, 1972. The first demolition was on March 17, 1972, and TV film from the series of demolitions continues to be a regular feature in any documentary on urban public-housing policies. (Michael J. Baldridge/Post-Dispatch)
Another building comes down by dynamite implosion on April 29, 1972. The series of demolitions attracted spectators, some of whom took their viewing posts with lawn chairs. (Michael J. Baldridge/Post-Dispatch)
Children walk by piles of rubble on Oct. 5, 1972. The slow speed of rubble removal became one of the many sources of anger and conflict for the remaining residents of Pruitt-Igoe. (Renyold Ferguson/Post-Dispatch)
U.S. Rep. William L. Clay, D-St. Louis, and housing authority director Thomas P. Costello examine a rifle they found in a vacant Pruitt-Igoe apartment Oct. 9, 1972. Clay, Costello and three off-duty police officers conducted their own raid and found a substance believed to be heroin. Clay said he had received information that narcotics traffickers were using apartments in some of the remaining vacant buildings. (Post-Dispatch)
A bulldozer operator digs into the rubble of broken concrete and reinforcing steel rods on Oct. 24, 1972. (Jack January/Post-Dispatch)
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