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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Churches of Pruitt-Igoe

In the center of the Pruitt-Igoe Nature Preserve, also known as the undeveloped section of the site of the Pruitt and Igoe housing projects, there is is a central east-west access road running from Jefferson Avenue east, then bending north to Cass Avenue. Another northern spur also leads to Cass. The odd thing is that each view outward down the main path and the view outward down the northern spur are closed by churches, marked on this aerial photograph from the Geo St. Louis website.

Church #1 is True Grace Baptist Church, a storefront-style worship space at 2319 Cass Avenue.

Church #2 is actually one block west from the Pruitt-Igoe site, but there are no intervening buildings to block the view. This is Zion Temple Missionary Baptist Church at 2700 Thomas Avenue.

Church #3 is the famous St. Stanislaus Kostka Church at 1413 N. 20th Street, which pre-dates the construction of Pruitt-Igoe by over a half-century.

The other northern-leading path's view terminates at the rear of the Mullanphy Tenement, visible across the parking lot of the Absorene Company.

The Pruitt-Igoe grounds hold both the history of the failed but once proud housing projects as well as years of dumped debris. The layers of fill and remains have not stopped healthy vegetation, and much of the site resembles a nature preserve. the access roads, which are largely clear, gives the site's wild state a sense of intention. The presence of the three churches closing the long views down these paths adds serenity to the scene. The churches' presence on the margins of the Pruitt-Igoe site call to mind the notion of redemption. In its current state, the Pruitt Igoe site seems to have cleansed its historical wounds and reconciled with nature. The site's current ecological state is wholly new and supportive of new life. Has this tortured land met its redemption?

UPDATE: Reader Bill Michalski sent me a still frame from the film Koyaanisqatsi, where True Grace Baptist Church is evident in footage taken in 1972.


Anonymous said...

How riveting. It makes me want to.......oh sorry I fell asleep in all the serenity. I used to read this blog when there was an outcry. Did you put it on a kite string and get it caught in one of those trees Charlie Brown?

Michael R. Allen said...

Some subjects don't require an outcry, and anger rarely moves the world forward or changes many minds.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, stop looking for a fight and start building up your community.

Anonymous said...

Mine is built. But thanks for the suggestion

Anonymous said...

The Anonymous comment is vague -- what outcry does he or she want?

Outcry against the city hosuing agency for demolishing Pruitt-Igoe?

Outcry against the federal government for building horrible high-rise housing?

Outcry against the city and feds for tearing down a viable neighborhood to build Pruitt-Igoe?

Or maybe outcry against the city for not trying to redevelop the site to create jobs in north city? That's the biggest outrage here.

Anonymous said...

When we left Pruitt Igoe, we left St. Louis. In the early '70s I returned for one visit. We drove by site. What a sad, sad sight for something that had seemed to be a part of the American Deam for many poor families. Now I hear that that land stands still abandon as a monument to a monumental error in government planning and interference. Can this be true. Can St. Louis not follow other communities that are reclaiming urban land with green low cost housing for low income families? I give up.

Anonymous said...

I could not resist. The foundations for all 42 of the former Pruitt Igoe higrises are still there. Until they come out, it will always be Pruitt-Igoe.