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Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements Doctor of Philosophy For the Degree of -

Blight: The Development of a Contested Concept Title Brian David Robick, BA, BFA, MA, MA Presented byHistory Accepted by the Department of -


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One of the many things that I learned during my graduate career is that a dissertation is never written alone. I am deeply indebted to the many mentors and friends who guided and supported me in this endeavor. I owe a tremendous debt to my dissertation committee. I wish to thank my advisor and committee chair, Joel Tarr, for his wisdom and support. I am grateful for the countless conversations in his office and for the hundreds of messages that traveled over thousands of miles after I moved to Seattle to finish the dissertation. I also would like to thank Caroline Acker for her watchful eye, her sage advice, and for inspiring me to turn words and ideas into action. I owe a debt to Scott Sandage for his guidance throughout the years and for inspiring me to try to be a better writer. Finally, I am very deeply indebted to John Weaver of the McMaster University History Department. He has shown me tremendous generosity and kindness. I value his guidance and his intimate knowledge of Hamilton, both as a scholar and as a member of the community. I also wish to thank the many faculty members at Carnegie Mellon, past and present, that have instructed and inspired me in classrooms and in the halls over the years, including Steven Schlossman, David Hounshell, Tera Hunter, Mary Lindemann, Richard Maddox, John Soluri, Paul Eiss, Lisa Tetrault, David Miller, Kenya Dworkin, Therese Tardio, Bonnie Youngs, and Naum Katz among so many others. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Kate Lynch for her guidance and for encouraging me to pursue the study of history. I also wish to thank the late Richard Schoenwald for his inspiration. Beyond Carnegie Mellon, I benefitted from the selfless advice of Mark Rose of Florida Atlantic University whom I wish to thank for sharing his time and knowledge.

For their kind words, firm reminders, and tireless efforts, I wish to thank Natalie Taylor, Gail Tooks, and the rest of the History Department staff. In particular, I would like to thank Nancy Aronson for her friendship over the years. The support of my colleagues at Carnegie Mellon has been both inspirational and invaluable. I wish to thank the members of my dissertation reading group. Many have passed in and out of that cohort, but I want to specifically express my gratitude to Susan Spellman, Kate Chilton, and Germaine Williams. I owe a special debt of gratitude to Jessie Ramey, who has been so supportive throughout the writing process, even after her graduation. I also want to thank Dave Struthers for his friendship and advice over the years. I owe a debt to the many archivists and others who preserve Pittsburgh's and Hamilton's past. Miriam Meislik and Michael Dabrishus of the University of Pittsburgh Archives Service Center have provided me with invaluable assistance on numerous occasions. Likewise, Lisa Lazar and the rest of the staff at the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania Library and Archives helped me to navigate the their vast collections covering Pittsburgh's Renaissance. Lena Andrews welcomed me into the library of the Pittsburgh Planning Department and Sean Roberts helped me to gain access to records from the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Margaret Houghton of the Local History and Archives Department of the Hamilton Public Library offered generous assistance numerous times for which I am very grateful. Adam Montgomery helped me to retrieve documents in Hamilton when I was unable to travel there. Christina Walters and the rest of the staff at the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton generously shared their resources with me. I wish to thank them and to thank the staff at the National


Records and Archives Administration in College Park, Maryland, for their kind and patient assistance. Researching and writing this dissertation has also taught me a lot about friendship. I am indebted to Carl Bergamini for his support, encouragement, and passion for thinking about the connections between people and urban space. I also wish to thank my friends in Pittsburgh and Seattle for the many ways that they made this dissertation a pleasure. Ignacio Lopez-Vicuna demonstrated that dissertations have conclusions, making it look easy through his skill and artistry. Steven Frantz and Steven Caro have consistently reminded me of the pleasures of reading. Tasha Cronin has shown me the meaning of perseverance and generosity. Tim Talpas, Dave and Bridget Decker, Angela Mercurio, Kathy Miskinis, Dan Fassinger, Lou Anshuetz, Jim McKinney, Barbara Bugosh, and the rest of the team in the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy Departments at Carnegie Mellon kept me happy and somewhat sane during and after my day job in Pittsburgh. Kathleen Taylor, April Williamson, Jennifer Shaw, fellow historian Doug Honig, Sarah Davies, Ritee Parikh, Caitlin Moody, and my many friends and colleagues at the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State filled my days in Seattle with caring, support, and purpose. For these friendships, I am eternally grateful.

I owe a special thank you to Sarah Churng, who through her friendship and her own work has inspired me to pursue elegance in complexity. I doubt that I have reached it, but her example was an invaluable beacon. My family has been a tremendous support to me. I must thank my mother for her encouragement and for accompanying me on many research trips, my brother for his


strength, and my father for his perseverance and for teaching me about life in a steel city. I also must thank Debra, Jose, Rebecca and Adam Tobar for their encouragement and companionship, Roberto Tobar for his kindness and inspiration, and Bertha Tobar and Rene Melgar for their generosity and support. Finally, I owe immeasurable gratitude to my partner, Luis Tobar. He has been an editor, guidance counselor, travel agent, sounding board, and bedrock of support. I could never repay his generosity, patience, and loyalty.


For Luis and for Gram

Abstract Blight: The Development of a Contested Concept Brian David Robick, Ph. D. in History. Carnegie Mellon University, 2011. Chair: Joel A. Tarr From the end of the Second World War through the 1960s and 70s, municipalities in the United States and Canada established urban renewal projects to address declining conditions. They often described these conditions as constituting "blight." While the public policies authorizing renewal provided the resources and authority necessary to physically and socially transform North American cities; they provided little guidance about the nature of urban blight and how to address it. In this dissertation, I investigate the development of the concept of urban blight in the industrial cities of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, from the 1940s through the 1960s. Using three pairs of case studies, I examine how interested parties with varying amounts of power deployed the concept in debates surrounding planning, redevelopment, and renewal projects. The cases explore local understandings of blight before each city's participation in federal renewal programs, and during significant residential and commercial renewal projects. This international approach provides insight into the development of this contested concept in two distinct economic, political, and historical contexts. To provide a foundation for these case studies, I examine blight as a concept in North American professional planning discourse during the first four decades of the twentieth century, using the minutes of international planning conferences and professional journals. In its transformation from technical jargon to a legal and popular term, blight was highly contentious, but its history was not incoherent. I argue that its development had a traceable trajectory throughout the twentieth century. Throughout its development, blight was a dual and contested concept. It lay at the intersection of representation and policy: It was not only a description of declining conditions, but also a legal term that granted access to the power of eminent domain. Conflicts over blight could shape opinions about neighborhoods and potentially speed their decline, alter municipal policies and practices, and threaten planners' professional authority. Blight was not merely the setting, but a powerful force in the history of urban renewal.


Table of Contents Page

Acknowledgements Abstract Table of Contents Chapter 1: Blight as a Dual and Contested Concept Chapter 2: Arrested Development Chapter 3: Theory & Practice: Blight Before Renewal Chapter 4: Reinventing Neighborhoods, Transforming Urban Blight Chapter 5: Questioning the Retail Renaissance: Blight and Commercial Renewal Chapter 6: Conclusion Selected Bibliography

i vi vii 1 36 109 167 261 353 373


1 Chapter 1: Blight as a Dual and Contested Concept

From the end of the Second World War through the 1960s and 70s, municipal governments and redevelopment authorities mobilized massive resources to transform the physical, social, and economic conditions of North American cities. Bulldozers cleared blocks, displacing families and businesses in an effort to rid neighborhoods of urban blight. What were they fighting specifically? In many respects, the question is difficult to answer. Without a standard metric, each finding of blight could redefine the concept. Its flexibility was useful to planners and politicians looking to apply their sense of order, health, and efficiency to landscapes previously shaped by individuals, their interests, and their circumstances. Blight also transcended planning and politics, reaching deep into the daily lives of those living and working in redevelopment areas. It provided a means for businesspersons, homeowners, and tenants to describe their neighborhoods' deficiencies and to find remedies that suited their interests. Disagreements over the definition and identification of blighted conditions pitted neighbors against one another and placed citizens in opposition to planning boards and redevelopment authorities. Blight could potentially serve all sides of debates over redevelopment. Its ubiquity underscores the need to investigate the concept and its use during the era of renewal. In this dissertation, I assert that blight is a contested concept with a dual nature. It lies at the intersection of representation and policy: It was not only a way to describe declining conditions, but also a legal term that provided cities and redevelopment authorities with access to the power of eminent domain. As a controversial concept,

blight did not belong to the planner. Conflicts over blight could shape opinions about neighborhoods, alter municipal policies and practices, and on some occasions, threaten the authority of planners as arbiters of urban health. The history of blight as a concept is rife with conflict, but not incoherent. I assert that its development had a traceable trajectory throughout the twentieth century. Blight began as a primarily residential concept concerned with the preservation of single-family homes and spread during the early twentieth century to cover commercial, industrial, and lower-income residential areas. The term also diffused to new users throughout the century, transitioning from a strictly professional, technical term to an evocative description with wide popular currency. As blight moved from the realm of theory into practice, it entered local debates over the fate of neighborhoods. Each project area had a unique set of characteristics and a different cast of stakeholders. For this reason, I assert that blight is best studied at the local level. Those engaged in local debates promoted understandings of the concept that supported their interests. Specific circumstances and constraints shaped and restricted these understandings, reflecting the geographic, economic, demographic, and legal contexts of the project. Furthermore, local studies of blight examine the concept where it was most tangibly felt. Blight was a theoretical concept for planners and a potential opportunity for redevelopment's supporters but for those living in renewal's condemned neighborhoods, it was an inescapable fact. Their ideas about their environment and their aspirations for the future are necessary to fully understand blight's contested nature.

3 A Dual Concept The strength and significance of blight lies in its dual nature. As a representation of decline, blight influenced how people talked about cities and their function in North American societies. Fundamentally it was a label signifying adverse urban conditions, although its specific details were widely debated. This ambiguity gave the concept the flexibility to apply to local circumstances and interests, while conveying an almost universally understood sense of urgency, pathology, and contagion. For this reason, blight commonly appeared in the media as a term contrasting older cities with the modern ideal of the suburb.1 In 1968, as part of a CBS News documentary entitled "To Build The Future," Walter Cronkite took his viewers on a tour of America's urban landscapes where "a crisis of neglect and decay... has undermined housing, and education and health, has blighted the life and the look of our cities, spoiled the very spirit of the city, turning it from excitement to peril." He asked his audience: "Can this deadly process be reversed?"2 Images of cities in rubble, rife with pollution, decay, and abandonment punctuated his question. While he offered solutions in the form of "new towns" and redevelopment, the footage left viewers with an image of the country's once thriving metropolises as blighted, decayed, and abandoned. Blight was a recurring theme in the

Among those arguing against the twentieth century city as a suitable living environment were Louis Mumford, in many of his works and most graphically in the 1931 film The City, and Clarence Stein in his 1925 Survey Graphic article, "Dinosaur Cities." Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke, The City (American Documentary Films, Inc., 1936) 30 min., 58 sec, from The Internet Archives, MPEG http://www.archive.Org/details/CityTheP1939andhttp://www.archive.org/details/CityTheP1939_2 (accessed November 18, 2010); Clarence S. Stein, "Dinosaur Cities," Survey Graphic 7 (May 1925):134138. Congestion, growth, and decay were all proffered at times to encourage decentralization of residential uses to the suburbs. See Chapter 2 for a discussion of early twentieth century planning and decentralization. For a discussion of the historical problem of multiple and conflicting urban images, see: Sam Bass Warner, Jr., "The Management of Multiple Urban Images," in The Pursuit of Urban History, ed. Derek Fraser and Anthony Sutcliff (Baltimore: Edward Arnold, 1983), 383-394. 2 CBS News, The Cities: To Build the Future, Parts I & II (Bailey Films and Columbia Broadcasting System, 1968) from Motion Picture 207.326 and 207.327, General Records of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Record Group 207, National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

broadcast and in the writings of contemporary urban commentators, such as Jane Jacobs and Louis Mumford.3 Blight also affected the reputations of specific individual cities. Long before Chilean photographer Camilo Jose Vergara's 1995 recommendation to turn downtown Detroit into a ruins park similar to the Roman Forum, blight and its attendant labels of decay and decline had been damaging the reputations of cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Hamilton, and Buffalo.4 From H. L. Mencken's 1927 critique of Pittsburgh's industrial hinterlands, Libido for the Ugly, to the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, icons, images, and concepts that portrayed cities as sick or dying have branded specific municipalities with negative reputations and fueled their decline by deterring visitors and investors.5 Locally, blight shaped a geography of decay, marking neighborhoods, blocks, and streets, as substandard. Conflicting motives and beliefs about healthy cities led to contention over project boundaries. Within those areas, debates raged over the rehabilitation and razing of specific properties. Understandings of blight were intimately connected to these decisions and therefore tied to the fates of shops and homes. The concept also tainted those living in redevelopment areas. In the aftermath of bulldozer renewal schemes, contention arose over the relocation of displaced populations, particularly African-Americans, immigrants, and the impoverished. Some neighborhoods fought to keep relocatees out, arguing that moving residents from blighted areas was tantamount to moving the blight itself. Those losing their homes also wrestled with the

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York, Vintage, 1992); Louis Mumford, The City in History (New York, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1961). 4 Camilo Jose Vergara, "Downtown Detroit: An American Acropolis," Planning 61, No. 8, (August 1995): 18. 5 H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: Sixth Series (New York: A. Knopf, 1927).

relocation process. They demanded but did always receive timely information and resources. They often lost their social and economic networks, and sometimes found themselves living under worse conditions. With few options in segregated real estate markets, many had to resettle into other physically declining minority neighborhoods. In this manner, renewal removed blight from the land, but not from the lives of its residents. Blight as a representation of poor conditions also played a critical role in the triage, diagnosis, and treatment of redevelopment areas. Just as a doctor diagnoses and treats a disorder through an examination of a patient's symptoms, those concerned about blight relied upon their understandings of its nature to determine its causes and remedies. For example, definitions of blight as a contagious disease encouraged large-scale clearances. Other less virulent understandings allowed for the rehabilitation of buildings. Representations of blight were more than just images and opinions. They had ramifications for the form and function of cities and inspired myriad debates over the fate of neighborhoods. This was particularly true when planning bodies certified a specific set of representations as an official statement of the existence of blight. Those representations carried the weight of policy. Blight in the realm of policy was particularly powerful. Findings of blight in plans and certifications transformed representations and observations into official statements about a neighborhood's conditions. They demarcated areas where redevelopment authorities could access government funding for renewal. They also affected property rights. Redevelopment authorities could exercise the power of eminent domain within certified areas. They strengthened developers and fettered owners and tenants. They embodied a legal force.

6 This force made substantive changes to the North American urban landscape throughout the twentieth century. It transformed the appearance of cities. Heavy, gritty brick and stone buildings fell to new structures that better suited the tastes of the times. The clean lines and smooth surfaces of modernism replaced turn-of-the-century styles and construction that, at least in part, typified blighted areas. Supporters of redevelopment and renewal looked to this modern aesthetic to attract new residents and consumers. They also hoped that these physical changes would refashion the public image of the city, attracting new investors, tourists, and conventions. Furthermore, the concept of blight transformed the functional logic of cities. Planners could use zoning to prescribe ideal land use patterns, although more often they used it to ossify current ones. If an area did not match the planner's ideal, the concept of blight could facilitate the clearance of non-conforming uses, shuffling existing functions to assure that each parcel was put to its best and highest use. This enabled planning boards and redevelopment authorities to retroactively manage urban growth, sorting out the tangle of activities that grew out of the decisions of individual stakeholders.6 In this way, blight could transform both the form and function of urban neighborhoods. The power of blight in interaction with public policy also touched individuals' lives. It profoundly affected personal geography by disciplining the use and experience of space.7 For example, many planners considered busy streets and bustling sidewalks serving all manner of traffic to be congested and therefore blighted. As a solution, they moved shoppers to pedestrian malls, through-traffic to arteries, and cars to parking lots

See Alison Isenberg, Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2004), for more on individual agency and its role in the shaping ofAmerican central business districts. 7 For an important early work on personal urban geography and individual perceptions of a city, see: Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1960).

and service roads. Planners also relocated children's games from streets to playgrounds, and neighborly socializing from stoops to the common rooms and hallways of apartment towers. This reserved roads for cars and erased not just blight, but an entire geography of neighborhood interactions. It disciplined not only space, but people as well.8 For these reasons, urban blight lay at the heart of debates about the sanctity of private property, the purpose of urban renewal, and the definition of the public good. It was highly contentious. Not only planners, developers, owners, and tenants, but also visitors, employees, and shoppers, argued about its meaning and use. Their relationships to a potential redevelopment site influenced their interests in its future. Some saw these areas as economic opportunities. Others viewed them as homes, offices, or social outlets. The collision of these various interests generated conflict over the nature of blight. The Development of a Contested Concept Conflicting and alternative definitions of blight make it difficult to distill generalizations about changes in the concept over time. Every planning, redevelopment, and renewal project featured a different set of interested actors, each with their own understandings of blight and its most effective solutions. The large number of variables involved complicates the history of the concept and its use in twentieth-century discourses of contentious urban planning and redevelopment. Through this complexity, however, some patterns emerge. Before blight became a powerful local issue, its influence grew among planning professionals in the United States and Canada. Despite great variation in professional

For examinations of the tensions between space as it is experienced and as it is planned, see: Michel de Certeau, "Walking in the City," in The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 91-110; and Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Maiden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 1991).

opinions, certain trends in the definition and use of the concept are apparent. During the 1910s and 1920s, planners widely associated the concept with unmanaged growth. Blight did not indicate decay or decline so much as capricious growth based on uncoordinated decisions and investments. It was also primarily a residential concept often indicating stagnant or declining housing resale values. While this rhetoric did not disappear entirely, it was generally supplanted by concerns about urban decline as the economies of both the US and Canada faltered throughout the Great Depression. Many cities failed to improve much with the start of the Second World War, and thus, throughout the 1930s and 1940s, planners associated the concept of blight with a much less promising outlook of decay and decline. This more negative association lent additional urgency to the concept. With the end of the Second World War, the first opportunities to use redevelopment to combat blight arose. In the period between peace and the local debut of federally funded renewal projects, planners and their supporters struggled to imprint their ideas about blight upon local planning practice and redevelopment policy. Advocating for enabling acts, certifications, and master plans that demarcated areas of blight and decline, they created not only a record of blight's nature and its local manifestations, but also a set of precedents in each city for identifying and ameliorating it. They imprinted their representations of blight into local policy. Blight as a form representation took on new utility with the start of federal renewal. It aided those who sought to facilitate schemes by generating public support for change while discouraging maintenance and investment in targeted neighborhoods. Growing opportunities arising from federal, provincial, and state assistance encouraged

those with an interest in the future of North America's urban neighborhoods to promote their own representations of blight to further their aspirations. This led to wider fragmentation in and contention over the definition of the concept. Thus, the general development of blight as a concept was a movement from a narrow set of concerns expressed within the confines of a professional community to a wider array of ideas defined by individual interests. In the hands of those in power, it appeared to follow opportunities. In the discourse of neighborhood actors it addressed local needs perceived through the lens of individual and group interests. In all cases, it was contentious and pervaded almost every aspect of twentieth-century urban planning, decline, and renewal. Method and Site Selection To demonstrate the dual and contested nature of blight and its importance to a historical understanding of urban planning, redevelopment, and renewal, this dissertation will examine three pairs of case studies situated in two cities that faced industrial decline throughout the mid-to-late twentieth century: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. As part of a geographical region known today in the United States as the Rust Belt and in Canada as the Golden Horseshoe, Pittsburgh and Hamilton shared a very similar context of deindustrialization, decline, and redevelopment that allows for potentially fruitful comparison. Both known as "steel cities" in their respective countries, Pittsburgh and Hamilton experienced growth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Great Depression interrupted this progression and by the end of the Second World War, both cities were facing dramatic economic changes. With the return of

10 prosperity in the 1940s, Pittsburgh's leaders recognized competition and population loss as problems threatening the city's industrial foundations. In Hamilton, the steel industry grew while other sectors of the economy, such as textiles and manufacturing, withered over the course of the century. It became a one-industry town and the city's two major steel firms had little attachment to Hamilton's role as a cultural and commercial center.9 In addition to internal economic changes, both cities suffered from negative public images as polluted industrial towns. Smoke, grime, odors, and fouled water tainted visitors' impressions of each city and made it difficult to attract and retain whitecollar professionals. Corporate headquarters and other businesses threatened to close or relocate due to these conditions. In response, both cities turned to urban planning, redevelopment, and renewal, drawing upon an internationally shared body of technical knowledge and experience. Professional planners in both the US and Canada attended the same conferences and published in the same journals. Locally, planning bodies in both Pittsburgh and Hamilton sought information, advice, and documentation from each other and from organizations in other industrial cities.10 This shared context of expertise and experience facilitates comparisons between the two cities. The differences between Pittsburgh and Hamilton have comparative utility as well. Although part of the same international economic region, each city had a different national reputation and position in their country's system of cities. Over the course of the

Steven High, Industrial Sunset: The Making ofNorth America's Rust Belt, 1969-1984 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002) presents a comparison of ^industrialization and reactions to it in the United States and Canada. See also John Weaver, Hamilton: An Illustrated History (Toronto: Lorimer & Company, 1982). 10 The records of both government and civic planning organizations in each city contain documents from the other city andfrom a number of comparable industrial municipalities.

11 century, Pittsburgh and its industrial region transformed from "Hell with the lid off' to the "rust belt." In that century its image in the public imagination changed from smoke, grime, industry, and hard work to rust and abandonment. Pittsburgh was losing population and corporations to rival regions and its former greatness was noticeably diminishing. The "rust belt" conjured images of closed factories, rusty fences, abandoned railways, and boarded and derelict storefronts.11 The Golden Horseshoe, by comparison, had a much more favorable image that emphasized the economic might and importance of Canada's industrial heartland. Hamilton struggled to prove that it was more than just a working class lunch-bucket town. Its population was growing in spite of its tenuous hold on corporate headquarters and factories outside of the steel industry. It maintained an important role in the system of major Canadian cities throughout the twentieth century, and Hamiltonians sought recognition of its position. A city's reputation affected more than just civic pride. Public image and representations of strength or decline influenced tourists and investors. A negative reputation could make it difficult for companies to attract a skilled workforce and competition from more favorable locations could entice corporations to relocate. It could also stymie attempts to diversify local economies with new industries. In sum, reputation had a direct effect on the resources that Pittsburgh and Hamilton had at their disposal to solve their problems. When those resources ran short, cities like Pittsburgh and Hamilton looked to upper levels of government for assistance. Each country's urban affairs regulations and
For more on the history of the terms "Rust Belt" and "Golden Horseshoe, " see: Steven High, "The Making of the Rust Belt in the Minds of North Americans, 1969-1984," The Canadian Review ofAmerican Studies 27, no. 1 (1997): 43-75.

12 programs exemplified different, yet related responses to a shared set of concerns. These policies were bound to and filtered through state and provincial laws that enabled cities to participate in federal programs. At the local level, the municipal authorities in Pittsburgh and Hamilton further customized these policies and programs to fit their needs, resulting in a different experience in each city that reflected both local postures toward blight and the influence of upper levels of government. In this way, housing and redevelopment policies betrayed differences in both national and local interests and beliefs. Another striking local difference between the two cities was population and demography. Until the 1990s, Hamilton had fewer residents than Pittsburgh. In 1951, Hamilton's population was 208,351, while in 1950 Pittsburgh's was 676,806.12 By the US Census of 2000 and the Canadian Census of 2001, Hamilton had grown to 490,268 residents, while Pittsburgh had contracted to 334,563. Residents, however, are not the only users of a city's amenities. According to the same census data, Pittsburgh's neighborhoods and infrastructure served a metropolitan population of 2,431,087, compared to Hamilton's 662,401.13 In this regard, Pittsburgh remained a much larger city throughout the twentieth century, although its reputation in the US system of cities declined as its population dwindled. Renewal in Pittsburgh responded to the erosion of

Statistics Canada, Area and Density of Population, For Incorporated Cities, Towns and Villages of 2,500 and Over, 1951, http://datalib.chass.utoronto.ca/cc51/census51.htm (accessed March 7, 2011); U.S. Bureau of the Census, Pittsburgh Census Tracts, United States Census ofPopulation, 1950. (Washington, DC: GPO, 1952), 8. 13 Statistics Canada, Population and Dwelling Counts, for Canada and Census Subdivisions, http://wwwl2.statcan.ca/english/census01/products/standard/popdwell/Table-CSDN.cfm?T=l&SR=1786&SRCH=0 (accessed November 21,2010); Statistics Canada, Population and Dwelling Counts, for Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2001 and 1996 Censuses 100% Data, http://wwwl2.statcan.ca/english/census01/products/standard/popdwell/Table-CMAN.cfm?T=l&SR=l&S=3&0=D (accessed December 4,2010); U. S. Bureau of the Census, Pittsburgh (city) QuickFacts. US Census http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/42/4261000.html (accessed November 21, 2010); U. S. Bureau of the Census, Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009, http://www.census.gov/popest/metro/tables/2009/CBSA-EST2009-01.xls (accessed December 4, 2010).

13 the physical, economic, and demographic foundations of the city. Hamilton, by contrast, remained among the largest Canadian cities and enjoyed a status of some significance as one of the industrially most powerful municipalities in the country. Its renewal efforts countered physical decline, but also sought to manage population growth. The people who comprised those municipal populations were significantly different in each city. These distinctions come into sharp relief when considering local planning history. Urban renewal, particularly in the US, relocated large numbers of people of color. In Pittsburgh, the African-American community bore the brunt of renewal and relocation. Census records show that 9.3% of the city's population was African American in 1940. This rose to 20.2% by 1970.14 Relocation due to renewal activities forced this growing segment of the city's population into a decreasing number of primarily African-American neighborhoods at a time when the city's white population was contracting dramatically. Pittsburgh's African-American populace faced shrinking options as planners labeled their neighborhoods blighted and replaced their homes and businesses with ones they considered more desirable. Most often white consumers and residents were the beneficiaries of these transformations. In Pittsburgh, race and renewal were tightly intertwined. The demographics of mid-century Hamilton were significantly different. The city's population was overwhelmingly white and therefore ethnicity and class played a larger role than race in urban renewal in Hamilton. Census and assessment information shows that from 1931 until 1971, the percentage of those claiming Anglo-Celtic ancestry declined overtime, but remained high overall. In 1931, 91.1% claimed to be born in Canada or the UK with 89.4% claiming Anglo-Celtic heritage. By 1966, the percentage

US Census, respective years.

14 claiming that heritage dropped to 65.5% and by 1971, only 79.6% were born in the UK or Canada. Of this increase in immigration, a large proportion came from Europe, with growing segments of the population claiming Italian, Eastern European, German, and Jewish origins or ancestry.15 Thus, while race was a significant feature in the demography and renewal experience of other cities, ethnicity, along with class, was more significant in Hamilton. The demographic differences between Hamilton and Pittsburgh throw into relief how similar renewal programs operated in dramatically different social contexts. They also enhance the comparison of the various forms of resistance to renewal employed in the two cities. Many protests against urban renewal in Pittsburgh and other US cities were influenced by and contributed to the civil rights movement for racial justice and equality. This connection inspired self-help campaigns, public education efforts, and calls for social and economic, as well as physical change. Resistance in Hamilton, by contrast, was primarily articulated along class lines, with working class neighborhoods defending against the label of blight and middle and upper-class citizens campaigning with petitions and letters to bring more culture and green space into the city. Finally, the demographic differences allow for the exploration of various communities' differing understandings of blighted and healthy cities. Thus, there are a number of benefits to comparing and contrasting the redevelopment and renewal experiences of these two cities. First, the juxtaposition offers insight into differences in national, provincial and state, and local policies surrounding the concept of blight within the context of an internationally shared pool of knowledge

15 Michael Doucet & John Weaver, Housing the North American City (Montreal & Kingston: McGillQueen's University Press, 1991), 335.

15 and experience. It also offers an opportunity to look at blight, decline, and renewal in very different demographic contexts. Finally, it contributes to a vision of American urban history that looks at shared ideas and experiences across national borders. Case Study Selection The case studies in this dissertation offer an opportunity to examine the measures that local actors took to advance their interests at the granular level of the individual neighborhood. Each of the three pairs presents a different physical context and a unique set of interested parties who developed their own understandings of blight and contested those of others. As a foundation for the case studies, chapter two examines blight as a concept in North American professional planning discourse in the first four decades of the twentieth century. Using the minutes of international planning conferences and professional journals, it examines the concept's vague and contentious nature in the years before cities were willing or able to turn planners' dreams into physical realities, placing the cases that follow into an international context of planning knowledge and practice. In chapter three, the first pair of case studies demonstrates blight's role in each city's efforts to address what planners identified as early signs of blight and decline at the end of the Second World War. In Pittsburgh, a public-private partnership of civic and business leaders and the Democrat-led city government redeveloped a downtown neighborhood adjacent to the site of Point State Park. The park and the newly renovated neighborhood formed the postcard image of the city, replacing small buildings and family businesses with Le Corbusier-inspired towers that housed many of the city's major corporations.

16 In Hamilton, planners and their allies chose the pen rather than the wrecking ball as their first step toward addressing blight, unmanaged growth, and a housing shortage. Instead of redevelopment, the city pursued a master plan. The task was not easy, as city council only grudgingly accepted urban planners and their ideas about the needs of the modern industrial metropolis. An unfavorable political climate, ties to a war-weary empire, and a severe housing crisis hampered the creation of a master plan and the zoning by-law that would encode that plan into municipal public policy. In chapter four, a second set of case studies examines the role of blight in residential renewal projects. In Pittsburgh, perhaps the most significant residential effort was the transformation of the Hill District. Creating three distinct renewal areas, planners and the public-private partnership that guided Pittsburgh's post-war program sought to transform an iconic African-American neighborhood into a magnet to attract white suburbanites back to the city. They proposed a new civic center situated in the Lower Hill District with luxury residences, arts institutions, and a civic auditorium. Additional plans expanded university campuses and hospitals in the area. Initially, the prospect of improvement won the approval of some of the neighborhood's elites, but these projects, all intended for a primarily white audience that lived beyond the borders of the Hill, coupled with an inadequate relocation effort, quickly ignited grassroots resistance. Neighborhood activists objected to renewal plans and to official definitions of Hill District blight, which implicated not only buildings but also the African American population that lived, worked, and shopped in them, as factors contributing to urban decline. Their protests led to major changes in the way that Pittsburgh addressed social issues in renewal projects.

17 Hamilton's North End project was also controversial. The North End was a storied and gritty neighborhood near the central business district that housed a number of elderly, working class, and immigrant households. Although residents raised initial objections to the project and to suggestions that the neighborhood was blighted, they fell quickly into a defeated silence. Their concerns resurfaced, however, as academics and social planners provided a means for them to express their reservations about planners' understandings of North End blight and how to address it. The final pair of studies in chapter five details the understandings of blight that circulated in each city's attempts at commercial renewal. Pittsburgh's East Liberty and Hamilton's Civic Square were multi-purpose areas that underwent commercially focused redevelopment schemes in the 1950s and 60s. Public rhetoric about blight inspired these redevelopment areas and generated vociferous debates over how planners should address decline in commercial centers, whom renewal should benefit, and at whose expense. These cases provide an opportunity to study blight at the local, neighborhood level where it was most tangible. As a representation of physical conditions, the concept could discourage individual investment while attracting public funds and large corporate redevelopers. It could change public perceptions and opinions about a neighborhood, discourage upkeep, and push an area teetering on the precipice of decline into a deep state of decay. As a part of public policy, blight could dismantle buildings, reroute streets, and disperse entire communities. In both of its forms, it had great transformative power, not only over the material reality of the city, but also over the personal lives of those who inhabited it. It could denigrate or demolish houses, separate friends and relations, and

18 shutter family businesses and neighborhood shops. It could also inspire activism, selfhelp efforts, public debate, and protests. Blight not only had the power to make victims, it also made fighters. Rare were the decisive victories against redevelopment and renewal plans, but the stories of those who valiantly resisted enrich our understanding of the history of renewal and the development of the concept of blight. It introduces people who had an important stake in their neighborhood but little access to power and capital. It also exposes alternative understandings of urban blight and decline. While some might argue that their neighborhoods were not blighted, others might use the label to denote a different set of problems that, in turn, suggest unique solutions. This dissertation's local approach not only explores the ideas of both the winners and the losers of battles over renewal, it also enables a granular investigation into people's interests and how those interests affected their beliefs about blight. An individual's attachment to place and property is complicated. It is based on a set of relationships that govern one's attitudes about its condition and by extension, one's support or opposition to changing their neighborhood. Bundles of Interests This dissertation is influenced by John Emmaus Davis' call for scholars to consider the "bundle of interests" that motivate actors' positions and attitudes. In his book Contested Ground, Davis suggests that individuals can and usually do have multiple interests in their homes, businesses, and neighborhoods. For example, while residential owner-occupiers may primarily consider their house a dwelling, it could also be an economic investment for future sale, a source of rental income, or even a legacy to leave

19 to children or grandchildren. These economic and use values can simultaneously influence an individual's attitudes and actions in conflicts over redevelopment. While Davis offers this concept as the heart of a model that considers actors' multiple attachments to property and place to explain the origins and functions of local interest groups, the idea of a "bundle of interests" also facilitates the investigation of how individuals and groups understood blight. For example, planners and tenants may have shared concerns about poor plumbing and residential overcrowding, but their other interests, whether economic, social, or emotional, could lead them to very different understandings about the nature of and solutions to these problems. By acknowledging what people valued and what they feared, we gain insight into their definitions of blight. This also helps to explain why some of those who ultimately stood to lose the most from the urban renewal process agreed with claims that their neighborhoods and main streets were blighted. They may have agreed on the term, but defined its nature differently according to their interests. The work of Michel de Certeau is another source of inspiration for this dissertation. In The Practice of Everyday Life, de Certeau discusses how individuals without access to capital and power make choices in the course of their daily lives, often unconsciously, that subvert the strategic decisions of those with power. He calls these choices "tactics." They carve out a space where individuals can live, move, form opinions, and engage others in systems created through the strategic decisions of those in business, government, and other sources of authority. The city is one such space. De Certeau explores it in a chapter entitled "Walking in the City," comparing pedestrian movement to speech acts. In it, he questions whether those who declare a city to be a


"catastrophe" for its failure to achieve their vision of "progress" are necessarily right or if there is another understanding of the city that is possible by looking at the lives of everyday people. While not specifically referring to tactics, this dissertation is informed by de Certeau's question and his attention to the agency of everyday individuals. It details the ways that those opposing renewal appropriated planners' technologies and concepts, both consciously and unconsciously, in an attempt to obtain more advantageous results. In both Pittsburgh and Hamilton, ordinary people used blight to fight for better schools, playgrounds, green spaces, housing, and cultural facilities. An examination of these demands, understood from the perspective of their interests, helps to explain how everyday people in redevelopment areas adopted and adapted blight to suit their needs. Even in the absence of overt conflict, the ways in which local actors navigated the renewal process reveals their interests and agency. Regardless of whether they were successful in changing the overall strategies of renewal, their actions and attitudes illuminate the contested nature of the concept of blight and affect the history of its development. Historiography and Scholarly Literature Blight, decay, and decline are almost omnipresent in scholarly examinations of the twentieth century North American city. Although it is rarely the principle subject of inquiry, it is often the stage upon which the drama of planning, redevelopment, renewal, and resistance unfolds. Because of the pervasive reach of the concept, this dissertation interacts with a number of scholarly conversations about blight, planning, the city, and its residents.

21 Of these various fields of inquiry, this dissertation most directly engages the work of those studying blight and decline. In spite of the frequency of its appearance in urban history, sociology, and anthropology, blight has received relatively little attention as a concept. The few scholars who have examined it have investigated only one side of this dual concept, either representation or policy. None, however, has brought those aspects of blight together. Among the most significant studies of the concept of blight are the writings of Colin Gordon. In his 2004 article "Blighting the Way: Urban Renewal, Economic Development and the Elusive Definition of Blight," Gordon examines blight's role in public policy.16 He traces the concept's origins from Progressive Era concerns about urban conditions through the creation of redevelopment laws that linked blight with eminent domain to the federal urban renewal program and state tax increment financing systems. Arguing that the ambiguous nature of blight facilitates the manipulation of development financing policy, he states that "blight is less an objective condition than it is a legal pretext for various forms of commercial abatement that, in most settings, divert money from schools and county-funded social services."17 American courts have consistently upheld ever-expanding definitions of blight, enabling cities to use urban renewal, eminent domain, and public financing to abet redevelopment for a variety of purposes. In his article, he critiques the expansion of the meaning of blight and argues for changes in its use in tax increment financing laws.18

Colin Gordon, "Blighting the Way: Urban Renewal, Economic Development and the Elusive Definition of Blight," Fordham Law Journal, XXXI, no. 2 (2004): 305-337. Gordon bases his investigation on Jonathan M. Purver, "What Constitutes 'Blighted Area' within Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Statutes", 45 A.L.RJd 1096 2(a) (1972). 11 Ibid, 307. 18 Other notable analyses of TIF policy include: Julie A. Goshorn, "In a TIF: Why Missouri Needs a Tax Increment Financing Reform," Washington University Law Quarterly 919, (1999): 922-926; Catherine


Gordon applied his analysis of blight and its role in public policy to the history of the redevelopment in St. Louis in Mapping Decline}9 It is a pioneering effort, not only for its attention to blight, but also for its use of GIS mapping data and analysis. Collating maps depicting the demography of the Gateway city with others demarcating its renewal efforts, Gordon demonstrates how St. Louis' attempts to reverse blight and decline were inherently racial, focused on attracting a wealthier and whiter population to the city and ignoring the needs of those living there. He again criticizes the opportunistic legal definition of blight that enabled the city to transform most of its primarily AfricanAmerican neighborhoods and the entire downtown area into redevelopment zones. Gordon's investigations into the nature of blight in public policy expose the limitless legal nature of the concept. This approach emphasizes the constraints upon African-American neighborhood interests and obscures their agency. While it is imperative to show how communities of color, the poor, the elderly, and immigrants have paid dearly for planners and redevelopers to recreate the city according to a white, elite vision of urban health for the benefit of wealthy white suburban residents and consumers, it is also important and constructive to document their reactions and resistance. Their alternative understandings of blight, decline, and the possibilities of the mid-twentieth century North American urban neighborhood are easier to see when examining blight as a form of representation. On the other side of blight's duality lies the work of Robert Beauregard. His Voices of Decline was the first and one of the most notable investigations of blight and

Michel, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime: Tax Increment Financing in Indiana," Indiana Law Journal 71, (1996): 457-480. 19 Colin Gordon, Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).


other representations of decline.

He argues that, starting in the 1920s, planners saw

congestion as the principal urban problem and in response they encouraged the dispersal of populations. Urban leaders did not fear the loss of the inner-city residential neighborhoods because there was no viable alternative to Downtown for other critical functions like manufacturing, shopping, and entertainment. This began to change during the 1930s. Residential slums and blighted commercial districts appeared more prominently in planning discourse. During the Depression and the Second World War planners worried over the possibility of decline in formerly booming central business districts. In the immediate post-war period, growing competition from suburbs and declining downtown property values and tax bases troubled municipal leaders. Within this context, Beauregard examines how blight removal became the focus of efforts to revitalize the city in the face of external competition. He found that the term blight in the post-war era was exclusive to commercial areas, and thus discussions of blight focused entirely upon economics.21 This dissertation builds upon his findings by locating multiple understandings of blight in the post-war era, including some that were not economic. Its emphasis on local discourse facilitates the search for blight's alternative meanings. It also exposes conflict. Beauregard incorporates the wave of grassroots resistance that arose over urban renewal in his investigation of race, housing, and discrimination in ghettos during the 1960s and 1970s.22 This, however, was not the first time blight sparked local debate. Beauregard's

Robert Beauregard, Voices Of Decline: The Postwar Fate Of U.S. Cities (New York: Routledge, 2003). Ibid,79. 22 A number of important historical works investigate conflict over urban planning projects in racial minority districts in American cities. Notable among these are: Thomas S. Hines, "Housing, Baseball, And Creeping Socialism: The Battle Of Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles, 1949-1959," Journal of Urban History 8, no. 2 (1982): 123-143; Ronald H. Bayor, Race and the Shaping of Twentieth-Century Atlanta. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); Arnold R. Hirsch, Making the Second Ghetto: Race and


focus on national discourse obscures some of blight's contentious nature at the start of the postwar era. This dissertation complements his pioneering efforts through its inspection of local conflict over blight, both as a representation of decline as a concept in public policy. Inspired by the Beauregard's work, Carlo Rotella examines representations of urban decline and how they influenced literature. In his book October Cities, Rotella establishes the existence of a city of feeling, which is shaped by language, imagination, and ideas, and a city of fact, constructed of capital, materials, and people.23 Most scholars interested in urban decline examine how the city of feeling, as he defines it, shaped the city of fact. Planners, politicians, and businesspersons molded the physical city to match their imagined ideals. So did everyday individuals. For example, a conversation between two homeowners about poor neighborhood conditions could inspire them to forego maintenance or move, thus advancing decline.24 While Rotella recognizes both official and quotidian forms of agency, he is more interested in how the city of fact molded the city of feeling. Specifically, he investigates how the realities of city life, the urban crisis, redevelopment, and renewal, shaped literature set in midcentury American cities. He focuses on representations and how urban conditions affected those who lived in, wrote about, and ultimately, read about cities.

Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Gerald H. Gamm, Urban Exodus: Why The Jews Left Boston And The Catholics Stayed (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999); Charles E. Connerly, The Most Segregated City in America: City Planning and Civil Rights in Birmingham, 1920-1980 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005); and Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996). 23 Carlo Rotella, October Cities: The Redevelopment of Urban Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).

25 This dissertation continues the work of these scholars of blight and decline. It unites the policy and representation aspects of the concept to provide a comprehensive look at its use in debates over urban redevelopment and renewal. Its focus on neighborhoods and local interests will also incorporate new voices and new conflicts in the historical narrative, thus exposing additional understandings of urban problems and their resolutions. In addition to those studying blight specifically, this dissertation interacts with the work of a number of historians that chronicle the ideas surrounding the decline of North American cities. Focusing upon "downtown" as a concept and an urban space, Robert Fogelson's Downtown: Its Rise and Fall, documents the attitudes and beliefs of the economic and technical elites that shaped the American central business district.25 He traced the roots of downtown's real and perceived decline to the wild growth of the 19th century, when the seeds of heavy traffic and residential dispersal first germinated. At the initial signs of congestion, planners and politicians proposed programs that facilitated the creation of bedroom suburban communities. Their suggestions hinged on a belief in what Fogelson calls "spatial harmony," which supposed that the central business district was the natural, logical, and inevitable hub of commercial and industrial activity. While competition from suburban chain stores eventually led to the abandonment of spatial harmony, plans and projects resulting in dispersion continued. Thus, by the start of urban renewal, downtown was no longer "the" business district, but rather, one of many in a metropolitan area. Fogelson focuses exclusively upon the rhetoric and activity of


Robert M. Fogelson, Downtown: Its Rise and Fall, 1880-1950 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).

planners, politician and power brokers; therefore, the role of ordinary people in the history of the central business district remains obscured. By contrast, the power of the individual is readily apparent in Alison Isenberg's Downtown America.26 In it she argues against the presumption that powerful and often unknown forces are responsible for the state of American downtowns. Rather than an invisible market at work, she asserts that the decisions of individuals to act, or not to act, shaped the fates of business districts across the US. Thus, theories of decline that treat cities as ill patients or powerless victims of economic cycles obscure more than they reveal. This dissertation continues her critique. By examining what individuals with varying access to power and capital thought about the city, this study explores the motivations behind the individual decisions that shaped downtown decline and renewal. I am also indebted to Isenberg for her interest in urban representation. A chapter of Downtown America explores the creation of the urban postcards used to attract visitors and consumers to the city. Her examination of these images reveals what chambers of commerce and prominent retailers understood as detrimental a city's public image. This dissertation extends this curiosity beyond the boardroom to city council chambers, press rooms, and kitchen tables, adding additional voices to those that used representation as a means to shape the physical, economic, and social conditions in their neighborhoods. Even in urban planning histories that do not directly examine urban decline, blight is ever present. Sometimes it is a backdrop to the struggles of urban renewal. At other times it is the inspiration for planning efforts. Through this dissertation's examination of the concept, I will build upon the work of those who have detailed the history of the

Alison Isenberg, Downtown America: A History of the Place and the People Who Made It (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).


twentieth century North American planning and renewal by raising new questions about the definitions of and solutions to urban problems. A number of historians have focused upon governments' and planners' approaches to post-war urban problems. M. Christine Boyer, in Dreaming the Rational City, constructs a Foucauldian genealogy of the discipline of planning, claiming that after the Great Depression, planners turned their attention from physical conditions in the city to social planning.27 Once they became alienated from the substantive base of their discipline, disorder and disaster occurred in the form of urban renewal. As a genealogical study of discourse, her analysis leaves little room for individual agency, and its national scope precludes examination of neighborhood resistance. Her study moves ever upward through the technological bureaucracy of planning, laying bare its power. Examining the application of these technologies to the largest cities in the United States, Jon Teaford's The Rough Road to Renaissance, takes a narrative approach to the subject.28 Although he agrees with Boyer in her claim that the object of planning changed from physical to social during the twentieth century, he believes that the transition occurred much later, with the rise of renewal. In his investigation, he looks at individual projects in twelve U. S. cities to show that although planning efforts until the 1980s had been largely in vain, the city did show some signs of recovery. His hopes hinge upon the rising popularity of urban festival marketplaces like those proposed by James Rouse, although his narrative ends before they also started to show signs of failure.

M. Christine Boyer, Dreaming the Rational City: the Myth ofAmerican City Planning (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1986). 28 Jon C. Teaford, The Rough Road to Renaissance: Urban Revitalization in America, 1940-1985 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990).


A number of other scholars have shifted the focus from the planner to those living in redevelopment areas. Their works demonstrate the value of examining an individual's ideas, attitudes, and reactions in the context of their interests. One of the foremost of these studies is sociologist Herbert J. Gans' The Urban Villagers.29 This 1962 investigation of the redevelopment of a "slum" in Boston's West End exposes the disparity between residents' and planners' values and opinions. In it, Gans documents how the poor exterior conditions of houses, which planners interpreted as a sign of apathy and abandonment, masked the sincere attachment that many West End residents had for their neighborhood. Their belief that the city would not clear the slum led to political inaction. In this regard, the experience of Boston mirrored those of Pittsburgh and Hamilton. Through ethnographic research, Gans discovers the West End was not actually a slum, but rather, a low-rent district that housed a working class Italian-American community. He argues that the law should recognize the distinction between the two types of neighborhoods, qualifying a slum as an area that has been "proven to be physically, socially, or emotionally harmful [sic] to their residents or to the larger community."30 This distinction is useful for two reasons. First, it gives weight to the needs of those who live within a proposed redevelopment area. According to Gans, the term slum, as planners and politicians employed it in the 1950s, implied a judgment not

Herbert J. Gans, The Urban Villagers; Group And Class In The Life Of Italian-Americans (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1962). 30 Much earlier, Mabel Walker asserted that low income neighborhoods are distinct from slums and blighted areas, and that they would continue to cost a city more in services than they earn in tax revenue, see: see: Mabel Walker, Urban Blight and Slums: Economic and Legal Factors in Their Origin, Reclamation and Prevention (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938), 68.


29 only of physical conditions but also of the neighborhood's reputation. It did not always reflect needs and desires of those most directly affected by relocation and redevelopment. Second, it accounts for the social and psychological benefits of neighborhoods and the interests of their communities. Life in close proximity coupled with residential stability led to a shared set of values. West End residents found benefits in even the most inconvenient aspects of working-class life. For example, Gans comments that although gas water heaters and oil stoves forced families to heat their own water and provide their own expensive fuel, residents valued their independence from the whims and greed of landlords. They valued this autonomy and the ability that low rents afforded them to sustain their household budgets more than they valued the planner's modernity. By examining the various interests that residents had in their holdings, Gans demonstrates alternative ideas about and attitudes towards decline that profoundly influence this study. Also demonstrating the value of acknowledging local interests, anthropologist Melvin Williams, in two studies of the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Belmar, describes the social and physical conditions of this predominantly African-American area over the course of two decades.31 He uncovers a social network filled with rich personalities that fostered both cooperation and conflict. Differences in class, religion, and sexual orientation created tension in a community that was highly interdependent due to the growing economic pressures of deindustrialization and racism. While Williams does not concentrate specifically on the concept of blight, he does look at the various differences in the ways that black and white Pittsburghers viewed the physical landscape in Belmar. He also explores the myriad social connections that create a neighborhood community

Melvin D. Williams, On The Street Where I Lived (New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1981); Melvin D. Williams, The Human Dilemma: a Decade Later in Belmar (Fort Worth, Tex.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1992).


out of a collection of buildings and individuals. His investigations expose the complex network of interests that neighborhood residents have in their property and their community. These scholarly inquiries, and others in their vein, provide insight into how and why one should explore the values, interests, and attitudes that those with less access to power held regarding their property, their neighborhoods, and their future. These ideas and beliefs affect what homeowners, local businesspersons, and tenants thought about blight and the solutions that planners proposed to remediate it. They form the heart of debates over the fate of residential neighborhoods and commercial strips in North American cities. This dissertation's investigation of conflicts over the nature of blight between government, business, and neighborhood actors also interacts with the literature examining the local planning histories of both Pittsburgh and Hamilton. Urban planning in Pittsburgh is a well-studied subject, but even within this long-established scholarly conversation there is utility in a deeper understanding of blight as a concept. This dissertation compliments the work of historians such as Robert C. Alberts, Michael Weber, Roy Lubove, John Bauman, and Edward Muller, by bringing blight to the foreground and exploring how it ignited protest and facilitated incredible change in the physical and social fabric of the Steel City.32

Robert C. Alberts, The Shaping of the Point: Pittsburgh's Renaissance Park (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980); Michael Weber, Don't Call Me Boss: David L. Lawrence, Pittsburgh's Renaissance Mayor (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1988); Roy Lubove, Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh: Government, Business, and Environmental Change (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995); John F. Bauman and Edward K. Muller, Before Renaissance: Planning in Pittsburgh, 18891943 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006).

31 Some scholars engaged in the study of Pittsburgh have painted a tale of progress from Fort Duquesne through the height of industrialization to the twin Renaissances. The works of Stefan Lorant and Robert C. Alberts, both sponsored by grants from organizations directly involved in Pittsburgh's redevelopment projects, are examples of this vision.33 More critical and nuanced studies include Michael Weber's biography of Mayor David L. Lawrence, an important architect of Pittsburgh's first Renaissance. Weber addresses the deficiencies and inequities of the redevelopment process as well as its successes, offering a satisfying and complex narrative. Also exceptional is the work of Roy Lubove, who demonstrates the challenges that the city faced throughout the twentieth century, as well as the ways in which it succeeded and failed in its efforts to survive deindustrialization. An examination of blight and its role in the renewal process would help to illuminate the metric by which various actors judged these successes and failures. Even the most complete of these histories speaks from the position of the powerful, leaving much of the story untold. Scholars such as Joe Trotter, Jared Day, Laurence Glasco, Melvin Williams, Mindy Fullilove, and others have labored to restore the voices of the city's African American communities to the historical record and provide a much-needed balance to the vision of Pittsburgh's history as a sometimesfaltering march toward progress.34 Notable among these is Joe Trotter and Jared Day's Race and Renaissance, which investigates the fate of the city's African American

Stefan Lorant and Henry Steele Commager, Pittsburgh: The Story OfAn American City (Pittsburgh, Pa.: Esselmont Books, 1999). 34 Joe W. Trotter and Jared N. Day, Race and Renaissance: African Americans in Pittsburgh since World War //(Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010); Laurence Glasco, "Double Burden: The Black Experience in Pittsburgh," in Samuel P. Hays, ed. City at the Point: Essays on the Social History of Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), 385-406; Mindy Fullilove, Rootshock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do About It (New York: One World Books, 2005).


populace after the Second World. Their exploration examines many aspects of AfricanAmerican life in Pittsburgh including the experience of urban renewal and relocation. Regarding blight, they claim that African Americans in Pittsburgh resented their homes being labeled as blighted, regardless of their condition.35 While this dissertation finds protests against the label, it also finds instances where African American individuals and neighborhood associations used the term to their benefit. Many African Americans in the Hill District, East Liberty, and throughout the city of Pittsburgh had a nuanced understanding of the label and recognized both the pain it could cause and the advantages that it could bring. This dissertation will examine their understandings of blight and the beliefs of others affected by redevelopment and renewal shedding light not only on their experiences throughout the transformation, but also on their efforts to steer the renewal process to meet their needs. In this regard, this dissertation is also in conversation with the literature examining contention over redevelopment and renewal in Pittsburgh. A recent example is Gregory Crowley's The Politics of Place?6 Through an investigation of five redevelopment case studies, he questions why some challenges to redevelopment were successful and why others failed. His metric for success is stringent. If redevelopment occurred, it was a failure for those in opposition. While he acknowledges that sometimes neighborhood groups received concessions from the city, he does not examine in detail what it was that they specifically wanted and valued. For example, in examining the Lower Hill district he offers two explanations for why community members and the African American press initially lauded the plans: conditions that were bad enough to

Trotter and Day, 80. Gregory Crowley, The Politics of Place: Contentious Urban Redevelopment in Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005).


make any plan acceptable and a feeling of powerlessness that led to an unwilling acquiescence. He does not question if residents and planners defined poor conditions in the same way and if they expected different results from renewal. This dissertation will contribute to our understanding of what the various parties involved in contentious redevelopment wanted, which in turn will expand upon Crowley's research into the power dynamics of contentious redevelopment. Scholars of Canada's steel city have also generated a body of literature documenting Hamilton's past. Although it is among one of the most studied of Canadian cities, its urban planning efforts have received little attention. Most of the best research on planning in Hamilton examines the history of housing. Michael Doucet and John Weaver's Housing the North American City offers Hamilton shelter history as a means to understand North American city building. It inspires this dissertation not only through its vision of an international American history, but also for its attempt to look both from the "top down" and from the "bottom up." By attempting to capture the positions and actions of those with access to great power as well as those with more limited means, it builds a narrative that describes both policies and systems and how everyday individuals functioned within their boundaries. Furthermore, regarding methodology, it makes the most of the often limited quantity of sources available that reveal the history of everyday families' efforts to shelter themselves while providing an interdisciplinary approach rich with statistical data and narrative depth.37


Other scholars, such as Richard Harris, have also looked at housing and planning, but -with a stronger interest in suburban areas. See: Richard Harris, Creeping Conformity: How Canada Became Suburban, 1900-1960 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004); Richard Harris and Doris Forrester, "The Suburban Origins of Redlining: A Case Study, 1935-54," Urban Studies 40, no. 13 (December 2003): 2661-2686.


Fewer historians have looked at Hamilton's urban planning program than Pittsburgh's. Among them, Nicholas Terpstra provided valuable insight into the early history of urban planning in Hamilton between 1915 and 1930.38 In an article in the Urban History Review, he asserted that scholars must examine political processes as well as planning documents to tell the story of local city planning movements. By demonstrating how Hamilton's Town Planning Board and its visions of a rational and orderly Hamilton had been hampered by the political decisions of the city council, he emphasizes the importance of exploring areas of contention in the politics of the planning process. The work of Nancy Bouchier and Ken Cruikshank brings contention to the foreground while looking for the experiences of everyday Hamiltonians. In a series of articles, they address Hamilton's planning history from an environmental perspective.39 Examining the inter-war destruction of Burlington Bay shanty housing to enhance Hamilton's recreational amenities, Bouchier and Cruikshank detail the process and results of redevelopment, while providing insight into the boathouse community's selfimage. Carefully examining interviews in the Hamilton Spectator, they detail the ways in which a slum can be a community. Their work, although it covers an earlier period in

Nicholas Terpstra, "Local Politics and Local Planning: A Case Study of Hamilton, Ontario, 1915-1930," Urban History Review XIV, no. 2 (October 1985): 115-128. 39 Nancy B. Bouchier and Ken Cruikshank, '"Sportsmen And Pothunters': Environment, Conservation, And Class In The Fishery Of Hamilton Harbour, 1858-1914," Sport History Review 28, no. 1 (1997): 1-18; Ken Cruikshank and Nancy B. Bouchier, "The Heritage Of The People Closed Against Them': Class, Environment, And The Shaping Of Burlington Beach, 1870s-1980s," Urban History Review 30, no. 1 (2001): 40-55; Nancy B. Bouchier and Ken Cruikshank, "The War on the Squatters, 1920-1940: Hamilton's Boathouse Community and the Re-creation of Recreation on Burlington Bay," Labour, no. 51 (2003): 9-46; Ken Cruikshank and Nancy B. Bouchier, "Blighted Areas and Obnoxious Industries: Constructing Environmental Inequality on an Industrial Waterfront, Hamilton, Ontario, 1890-1960," Environmental History 9, no. 3 (2004): 464-496.

35 Hamilton's history, deeply inspires this dissertation, which extends a number of their concerns into later periods of the city's redevelopment history. All of these works study cities and people touched by blight and their struggles and conflicts over potential solutions; however, the need for additional inquiry into blight's nature and development remains. A deeper understanding of this dual and contested concept would incorporate new ideas and conflicts into the historical narrative of urban planning, redevelopment and renewal. It would help to uncover some of the interests and motivations of planners, politicians, and neighborhood activists. It would also examine the opinions and agency of those touched by redevelopment and renewal, while acknowledging the constraints in which they operated. Such a study of blight at the level of the neighborhood would shed light upon the concept where it was most tangibly felt. This dissertation aims towards these goals. To these ends, we begin with an investigation of planners' ideas about blight in the decades leading up to post-war redevelopment and renewal, placing the case studies that follow into the context of an internationally shared body of planning knowledge.

36 Chapter 2: Arrested Development

Blight is a highly versatile concept that appeared frequently in North American English discourse in the first half of the twentieth century. It began as a description of skin inflammation in the mid sixteenth century and grew to encompass both medical and agricultural ailments.1 The concept, with its vivid imagery of rot and decadence, spread literally and figuratively to a variety of other objects as a description of decay and spoilage. By the 1900s, souls, nations, aspirations, and emotions could all be blighted. Blight exhibited two characteristics across all of its many uses. First, it had an overwhelmingly negative connotation. Except for victorious sports teams that blighted the hopes of their opponents, few were pleased to note its appearance. Second, it described a particular process whereby something that was normally healthy and growing fell into decay. Blight thus described was a form of arrested development and this made it particularly useful to planners, politicians and civic leaders participating in early twentieth discourses about urban development and the physical and economic health of North American cities. This chapter will examine the conceptual development and deployment of "blight" in planning discourse from the 1910s until the end of the Second World War. Blight grew in importance throughout North America both as a representation of urban problems and as a technical component of urban public policy during these decades. Its growth, however, was uneven and incomplete. It would not reach its apex of influence

The Oxford Dictionary of English (revised edition), s.v. "blight noun" http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=tl40.e7892 (accessed May 5, 2008).


until after 1945 with the implementation of urban redevelopment and renewal schemes specifically designed to eliminate blight in US and Canadian cities. Blight in the early twentieth century developed in two stages. In the 1910s and 20s, the blighted district slowly became a common concept in professional planning discourse, with little currency outside of the profession. Planners found it difficult to describe precisely, offering numerous explanations of its nature and causes. One characteristic, however, transcended all definitions: Blight arose from unmanaged urban growth. For most planners, growth was natural, but unwieldy. It required stewardship to assure that its benefits did not come at the expense of older sections of cities. As they defined it, blight was a problem tailor-made for the planner to solve. By the 1930s, the nature of blight changed. It no longer appeared exclusively as a problem of unmanaged growth. Blight became a representation of decline. In its new guise, it spread from planning discourse to other professions and began to appear more frequently in newspapers and magazines for mass consumption. Media coverage of public and private efforts to combat the Depression through a war on slum housing and blighted districts made the concept more accessible to the general public. Through the press and through contact with planning professionals, downtown interests seized on the concept of blight and built it into their discourse promoting urban planning for the postwar era with a focus on the health and strength of the central business district. It is also during the Depression and war that urban blight became a primary target for public policy. In the early twentieth century, blight contributed to the motivation for land-use zoning regulation, but did not inspire new programs on its own. After the economic downturn, federal, state, provincial, and local government agencies


investigated blight remediation and slum clearance as a way to resuscitate a failing economy. The first of many policies that directly addressed the issue of blight in the urban core and the near-downtown neighborhoods appeared during the war, at the federal level in Canada and in state legislatures in the US. These policies set the stage for urban redevelopment and renewal. An examination of blight in the early twentieth century places the postwar development of this dual concept into historical perspective and provides context for this investigation of local understandings of blight in Pittsburgh and Hamilton. It is also expands upon the work of historians who have examined blight both directly and indirectly in the course of their research. In the historiography of urban planning, blight is omnipresent as the scenery against which the drama of urban redevelopment and renewal took place, but rarely receives attention as the focus of scholarly inquiry. There are a number of notable exceptions to which this chapter is greatly indebted. Robert Beauregard started the conversation about the discourse of urban decline in his 1993 Voices of Decline. He traced America's antagonistic relationship to its cities throughout the twentieth century, emphasizing the importance that representations of cities and their problems had upon their history. To a large extent it is these representations that inspire and justify both the flight of population from the cities and the government's response to it. He also astutely asserts "the structure and substantive themes of the discourse on postwar urban decline... cannot be separated from the precedents established in the century's first forty-five years."2 Beauregard's argument roots renewal era discourse in its historical context, but

Robert Beauregard, Voices of Decline (London: Routledge, 2002), 28; For a study of the anti-urban rhetoric ofAmerican intellectuals from the eighteenth century to the early twentieth century, see: Morton and Lucia White, The Intellectual Versus the City (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press and the M.I.T. Press, 1962).

39 his broad perspective does not afford him the opportunity to closely follow the development of individual concepts, like blight, through each period of time. This chapter builds upon his work in its close examination of one of the most important components of the discourse on urban decline. It brings the complexity of debates about the causes and nature of blight to the foreground, providing the historical context necessary to understand its role in the discourses of decline in Pittsburgh and Hamilton. In its concentration upon blight, this dissertation also expands upon the work of Robert Fogelson, who dedicates a chapter of Downtown: Its Rise and Fall to "inventing blight."3 He claims that downtown interests and their allies laid the ideological framework to enable the deployment of blight in support of urban redevelopment by the 1930s. By the late 1930s, decentralization motivated business and property owners to use this emerging rhetoric to push for redevelopment legislation on the state and local levels. Fogelson's interest in downtown power brokers and broad chronological scope does not afford him the space to explore how those allies went about creating blight. This chapter will establish that planners in many respects drove the development of the concept and that many professional groups and economic interests positioned themselves later with respect to blight so as to optimize their influence over the growth and development of the city. Downtown business interests were just one of the many groups advancing or reacting to blight as a concept in both the representation of urban problems and public policy. Furthermore, my argument will recognize the international community that "invented" blight and the effects that the concept had on policy regarding and opinions about US and Canadian cities. That story begins in the planning community in the 1910s. Representations of Growth Gone Awry

See Chapter 7: Robert Fogelson, Downtown: Its Rise and Fall (New Haven: Yale, 2001).


In 1912, at the Fourth Annual National Conference on City Planning, J. Randolph Coolidge of the American Institute of Architects presented a paper entitled "The Problem of the Blighted District." Although this was not the first time that a planner uttered the word "blight" in regard to urban conditions, it was a significant event.4 The conference assembled planning luminaries from the United States, Canada and Europe to discuss common problems and share potential solutions with local, national, and international leaders in the fields of urban planning, traffic and civil engineering, architecture, landscape architecture, and economics, among others. Coolidge began his presentation with the question: "What is a blighted district and what has it to do with the subject of city planning?"5 That he asked this to a body of planning professionals is noteworthy and indicates that they may not have shared a universal understanding or concern about blight, although he believed that all in attendance would be able to recognize such a place in their respective hometowns. His presentation and the subsequent discussion indicated that planners were confused as to the causes of blight, how to solve it, and, perhaps more importantly, how it related to their profession. During the discussion, some participants tried to change the subject rather than discuss blight as an economic problem. E. K. Morse, an engineer from Pittsburgh, brought up bad housing, coal smoke, and topography, but did not address blight. Dr. Dana W. Bartlett of Los Angeles called for an investigation into the social causes of blight. His understanding of blight as a social problem made its economic

Robert Fogelson argued that Americans used the word blight to describe slums as early as the turn of the 20th century, but only in the 1910s did it come to describe a specific element of the urban environment. See: Fogelson, 347. Additionally, 1912 is thefirstyear that blight is mentioned in the proceedings of the annual meetings of the National Conference on City Planning. 5 J. Randolph Coolidge, "The Problem of the Blighted District," in Proceedings of the Fourth National Conference on City Planning, Boston, MA, May 27-29, 1912 (Boston, MA: National Conference on City Planning, 1912), 101.

41 components mere side effects. From this short discussion, the plethora of opinions concerning blight highlighted the instability of its definition and its level of importance to planners. During the early twentieth century, when planners were encouraging governments to adopt comprehensive planning and, in the process, accept their expertise as a constraint on the private market, blight presented not only a problem to solve, but a compelling reason to make planning a permanent part of the urban system. Blight was incredibly hard to define with any precision, even within a community of professionals that shared technae, conferences, and journals. A number of conflicting beliefs about the concept and its roots emerged during Coolidge's conference session. The debate in 1912 exemplified the disagreement and confusion surrounding the concept in the years before the Great Depression. Despite this ambiguity, planners' definitions exhibited a number of shared characteristics during this period. Overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, planners, architects, and associated professionals understood blight to be economic, residential, and a symptom of unmanaged urban growth. Most planners understood blight to be an economic problem. Coolidge, for example, defined a blighted district as ".. .one in which land values after a period of increase are stationary or falling."6 He viewed land as a commodity. The business of the city was to stabilize land values and to encourage growth. It was however unlike most businesses in that when a product line failed to sell, a business could discontinue it. The city, he claimed, had no such luxury. It was unable to liquidate its failing assets. The planner's concern was with the city's "inventory" and its exchange value. They believed that the value of urban land should continually increase over time. Urban growth caused these increases in value, and planners expected it to continue unabated in



the 1910s and 1920s. In response to Coolidge's presentation, the Honorable Lawson Purdy expressed this belief, stating: The advance of land value measures the economic utility of the site that advances, and if a city advances in value in a normal way, along lines of main thoroughfares, advances radially from the center, it ought never to go back, for the land nearest the center ought always to be put to a higher economic use than the land farther from the center. If that is not the case, it is the fault of the city authorities.7 Purdy's statement emphasizes two important aspects of planners' beliefs about the nature of healthy cities, and by contrast, of blighted districts. First, cities should expand in a predictable and managed way that consistently situates the "highest" or most economically valuable uses at the center. As the city expands, its core should grow, bringing more land into the area of most intensive and expensive use. Increasing urban population and land area would augment real estate values. Second, planners considered this conceptualization of growth to be "normal" or "natural." Any changes in use patterns or land value that did not follow it were problems in need of solution rather than mere variations in development. By "normalizing" or "naturalizing" one pattern, planners delegitimized others and reduced the burden of justification for their beliefs. Growth was normal making blighted areas potentially manageable aberrations to the natural order of things. If a district that was not increasing in value was blighted, how did planners measure value? One could judge the performance of a parcel against its own price history. Most planners agreed that if a property was losing value it was blighted. However, even stable values could blight an area as both decline and stasis signified the

Purdy in Coolidge, 108.


absence of growth. Coolidge mentioned this in his definition, as did E. P. Goodrich and George B. Ford in a report to the Newark City Plan Committee in 1913, when they divided cities into two categories: "[e]ach older American city has its blighted districts and its growing districts." Others compared the value of structures to the value of land as did Minneapolis City Planning Engineer A.C. Godward, who claimed, "Property adjacent to the congested zone is usually high in land value, but low in value of structures ~ this zone in most cities being known and appearing as a blighted district."9 Additionally, some planners compared a parcel's value to those in other districts, which could be a stricter criterion. C. Earl Morrow and Charles Herrick of the Harvard Graduate School of Landscape Architecture and winners of the 1925 Williams Prize Essay on blight stated that: By a blighted district we mean one in which a normal development has been frustrated. Ordinarily property values are an index of the situation: wherever property values fail to keep pace with the increase in other similar districts in the same city, or have actually decreased, the district may be termed a blighted district.10 By this metric, even increasing property values could mark a blighted area if the rest of the city's growth outpaced it by a sufficiently wide margin. Planners, architects and others would consider districts where property failed to augment in value either absolutely or relative to land values or the values of structures in other neighborhoods to be blighted.11
Coolidge, 101; E. P.Goodrich and George B. Ford, Housing Report to the Newark City Plan Commission, (Newark: Matthias Plum, 1913), 2. 9 A.C. Godward, "The Use of Building Lines in Street Widening," Proceedings of the Sixteenth National Conference on City Planning, Los Angeles, CA, April 7-10, 1924 (Boston: National Conference on City Planning, 1924): 203. 10 C. Earl Morrow and Charles Herrick, "Blighted Districts: Their Cause and Cure. Williams Prize Essay 1925," City Planning 1, no. 3, (October, 1925): 160. 11 Morrow and Herrick, 160; C. Louis Knight, "Blighted Areas and Their Effects upon Urban Land Utilization," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 148 (March 1930): 134.


Physical conditions, however, were not necessarily an indicator of blight. Use values and what they meant to owner-occupiers and tenants rarely entered planners' discussions. Some professionals, including Coolidge, directly refuted the connection between appearance and value. Changes in the housing market could offset structural decay and other material declines, leading to increasing values even for neglected parcels.12 Planning could help protect these values by creating conditions that buffered communities from those who failed to keep up their properties while encouraging owneroccupiers to maintain their assets, ultimately leading to increasing property values. Some of those who did consider the physical and social conditions of blighted districts emphasized their connections to exchange values. John Ihlder, of the New York Housing Authority and later, the US Chamber of Commerce, likened the maintenance of property values as a responsibility to the community. He had little mercy for those who could not afford the burdens of property, stating, "[w]hen the deterioration of a house is due to the owner, even when he can plead poverty as an excuse, there will be comparatively little disposition on the part of the public to back his cause. A man whose inability to manage his business and who injures others should not continue in the business."13 Envisioning home ownership as a business with a responsibility to the greater neighborhood economy, Ihlder transposed physical neglect and declining housing prices onto a breakdown of a social contract. This breakdown depressed property values for the entire community.

Planners saw blight as both relative and absolute decline throughout the Depression as well. See: Asher Achinstein, "Some Economic Characteristics of Blighted Areas," The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics 11, no. 1 (February 1935): 38. 12 Coolidge, 104; A.H.Weinstein in John V. Van Sickle, et al., "Land Economics," The American Economic Review 19, no. 1 (March 1929): 54. 13 John Ihlder, "The Problem of the Old City House," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 51 (January 1914): 94.

Other planners saw blight primarily as a social problem with profound effects on urban organization and economy. Thomas Adams, the City Planning Advisor to the Ottawa Commission of Conservation stated in 1918 that: We need to apply science and intelligence to the development of these communities, so that there shall be no question of blighted districts or lack of proper efficiency in our development. You will never be able to solve the question of blighted districts by merely treating it as an economic and industrial question. It is largely a social problem.14 As an example, he claimed that the economic and efficiency problems of blighted neighborhoods in St. Louis resulted from "a color problem" that would only disappear with education and the improvement of physical conditions in African-American neighborhoods. To solve the economic problems of the city, he and other like-minded commentators challenged planners to apply their science and influence to social issues.15 Most planners, architects, and other city-builders at the time did not make the connection between the social and economic ills of the city, at least not explicitly. Overwhelmingly, they understood blight to be the absence of economic growth. Blighted districts represented the city's stale inventory of real estate, and the nature of that inventory was the second shared characteristic of blight before the Depression. Commentators in the 1910s and 1920s primarily understood urban blight to be a residential problem. In professional journals, planners regularly expressed their concerns about blight in terms of its effect on housing stock. They feared its power to degrade the physical condition and the resale value of housing and made it their mission to protect

Thomas Adams, "City Planning in the Allied Countries During the War," Proceedings of the Tenth National Conference on City Planning, St. Louis, MO, May 27-29, 1918 (Boston: National Conference on City Planning, 1918): 152. 15 Dana Bartlett in Coolidge, 109-110.


46 "quality" residential neighborhoods. Planners, architects, realtors, and the construction industry not only promoted urban growth and increasing property values, but a particular type of residential property: the single-family home. Whether grand or modest, the single-family house represented the heart of a healthy, blight-free city. In 1914, Charles Frederick Puff, Jr., a surveyor and planner in Philadelphia and Newark praised the "small house," meaning a home for a single working-class family, crediting it with instilling morals, a sense of responsibility, and pride, reducing overcrowding, promoting better sanitation and providing more access to sunlight and air.16 He was not alone in his support of the single-family detached dwelling, which was evident in the planning literature at the time.17 Puff claimed that "[v]olumes have been written in extolling the virtues of the small house and it can safely be said that almost every one approves of it."18 Puff placed it at the heart of an urban system, where it connected all of the diverse elements of urban planning including street layout, transportation plans, industrial placement, and park development, as well as a general housing program. He asserted that in this network, the small single-family house was the critical element that controlled even the most remote parts of the urban system.19 Single-family homes made for quality residential neighborhoods. These neighborhoods protected the city from the economic and social ills of blight. But these neighborhoods required protection themselves.

Charles Frederick Puff, Jr., "Relation between the Small House and the Town Plan," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 51 (January 1914): 148-153. v See: Nels Anderson, "Zoning and the Mobility of Urban Population," City Planning 1, no. 3 (October 1925): 159; Alfred Bettman, "The Fact Bases of Zoning," City Planning 1, no. 2 (July 1925): 91; Herbert U. Nelson, "Urban Housing and Land Use," Law and Contemporary Problems 1, no. 2 (March 1934): 164. 18 Puff, 149. 19 Ibid., 148.



Planners thus understood blighted districts to be residential areas that did not contain or did not maintain streets filled with single-family homes. Homogeneity of use and intensity was critically important to the maintenance of both the use and exchange values of residential property as planners and realtors envisioned it. Their beliefs about residential areas rested on a comprehensive view of land use in the urban system. Residential areas should be wholly residential and the core should be the site of all business. This fit well with the idea of "normal growth" as Purdy and others expressed it. With the most intensive, expensive, and bustling uses at the center, the core formed the "natural" heart of the city and it pumped people, goods, and capital along its roads, railroads, utility lines, and economic relationships. Under this system, it was critical to segregate business and residential areas for the well being of both the downtown and the outlying districts. Housing should not interrupt the flow of goods and services, nor should residents be exposed to the dirt, noise and congestion of commerce and industry. Where segregation failed, blight appeared. The sanctity of the single-family home also marked the presence of other types of residential structures as blight. Multi-family housing was inferior and planners credited it with delinquency, disease, disorder, and declining prices.20 The owner-occupier of a single family home, in contrast, benefited from the rights and responsibilities of home ownership. By investing the resident in the neighborhood, these small houses generated social and economic stability for the owner and the community. Not only was a working class homeowner less likely to reject a socio-economic system in which he had a tangible stake, homeownership increased the likelihood that owner-occupiers would maintain their

John Ihlder, "Coordination of Traffic Facilities," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 133 (September 1927): 3; Nelson, 164.


properties physically. This would buffer the entire neighborhood from blight. Without this connection to the neighborhood as a social and economic system, planners saw renters as inferior residents, consumers, and citizens. Because the responsibilities of homeownership required both time and money, blighted and quality neighborhoods each possessed a different kind of resident. Neither leisure nor funds were universally available in an industrial economy. This built a class and often a race bias into the concept of the blighted neighborhood, although most planners avoided direct references to class and race in their arguments.21 Their belief in the sanctity of "quality" neighborhoods and the need to protect them from inferior housing, however, indicated that those who could not afford to buy were also not welcome. The poor had to rent and that required apartments, conversions, or leased houses.22 Since most planners believed that apartments damaged property values, the presence of tenants became a marker of blight. The third shared characteristic of blight was the scope of its effects on a neighborhood. Although some believed that a single decaying property or apartment building could trigger blight, few among planners and their associates associated blight with problems at such a fine granularity in the 1910s and 1920s. They usually mentioned blighted districts rather than blighted homes or blocks. This is significant, because it indicated that the principal process of creating a blighted district was larger than the
Some planners did directly cite the presence of residents of lower economic as a blighting effect. "Report of Conference Committee on 'Best Methods of Land Subdivision'," in Proceedings of the Seventh National Conference on City Planning, Detroit, MI, June 7-9, 1915 (Boston: National Conference on City Planning, 1915), 263. Michael Doucet and John Weaver demonstrate that in Hamilton, most renters across all socioeconomic classes rented houses and not apartments with only slight increases in apartment tenancy. Michael Doucet and John Weaver, Housing the North American City (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991), 379-382. However, perception may have been more significant than statistics in generating concern about apartment invasion. See: Coleman Woodbury, "The Trend of Multi-Family Housing in Cities in the United States," The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics 6, no. 3 (August 1930): 225-234.

decay of a single parcel or block. Some planners went so far as to separate the decline of individual properties and their prices and blight in their rhetoric. Morris Knowles, a Pittsburgh-based engineer, stated in 1923 in support of zoning ordinances that "[e]very dweller in an unzoned city can testify, from his own experience, to striking examples of destruction of property values, of "blighting" of whole residential areas, cutting off light and air, land crowding and many other evils, resulting from the uncontrolled construction of buildings unsuited for their locations."23 That he made a distinction is significant. Blight was rooted in the function of the urban system in its entirety. Growth that was not normal or properly planned and managed could create patches of blight. This shifted the focus from individual unkempt properties to land use patterns in the city as a whole. When regarding the city as a system of interrelated neighborhoods, planners also referred to blight as inefficiency or waste. The blighting of quality neighborhoods represented a wasted investment. According to Coolidge, declining values led to disinvestment, which in turn led to decay. In such a district business cannot thrive, good new housing cannot be provided except by destruction of buildings less good, but not without value; these older buildings become ever more forlorn and a permanent blighting is established until some new impulse from outside transforms and recreates the district.24 Thus, the initial blighting of property values could reinforce and spread decaying conditions throughout the community. Here, blight is a lost investment. As owners stop improvements or abandon buildings that have not yet shed their useful value, they drive

Morris Knowles, "City Planning and the Housing Problem," Journal of Social Forces 1, no. 2. (January 1923), 170. 24 Coolidge, 103.

50 property values down, making it more difficult to obtain a return on their initial investment in the parcel. Blight could also represent waste in the form of opportunity cost. In a roundtable discussion on land economics in 1929, researcher Ernest M. Fischer expressed this concern "by raising the question as to whether some of the 'progress' made in pushing out the urban area and in developing new real estate wants is not effected at a high economic price due to waste of capital invested in improvements that are deserted before their physical life becomes exhausted."25 Although he directly referenced slums in his statement, his argument referred to the processes at work in blighted areas. Some planners even understood blighted areas to be nacent slums.26 Such disinvestment was part and parcel of both slums and blighted areas. Inefficient growth wasted the value of improved property in blighted districts and threatened to expand them as the wealthy moved to the periphery. In these cases, the growth of the city elsewhere came at the cost of the slum and the blighted neighborhood. Although these four characteristics most commonly appeared in contemporary planning discourse blight came in many other guises during the 1910s and 1920s. Some described blighted districts as those filled with economically or physically obsolete structures.27 This view was less common in these years, but would grow more popular in time. Others understood them as areas where the rich have left properties behind in search of more spacious lots in the periphery and the suburbs.28 Social blight existed

Van Sickle, et al., 54. Morrow and Herrick, 160; Williams in Coolidge, 110. 27 Thomas Adams, "The New York Regional Plan: The Making of the Plan," Planning Problems of Town, City, and Region: Papers and Discussions at the International City and Regional Planning Conference (Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Co, 1925): 217. 28 Nelson Cunliff, "Blighted Districts in St. Louis," Proceedings of the Tenth National Conference on City Planning, St. Louis, MO, May 27-29, 1918 (Boston: National Conference on City Planning, 1918): 72.

51 where community problems caused the physical and economic deterioration of districts.29 Many planners who did not specifically mention blight described its processes and connections to economics, race, and the material conditions in the city using other words. "Blight" had not yet become the sole representation for this type of urban problem. Furthermore, the number of subtle differences between understandings of the concept underscored both its uncertain nature and its contested importance to the work of planners, engineers, and others in the first three decades of the century. Blight might have been vague in the 1910s and 1920s, but planners, architects, and others involved in the management of urban development shared an understanding of it at its foundations. At the time, blight best applied to residential neighborhoods where property values failed to increase or keep pace with the growth of the rest of the city resulting in economic inefficiency and wasted capital. It was residential, economic, inefficient, and existed at the neighborhood or district level of urban organization. At its heart, it represented poorly managed or unmanaged growth. However most planners understood haphazard growth as the primary cause of blight and not part of its nature. Building Blight: The Costs of Unmanaged Growth Although planners, engineers, and others had many divergent ideas about the specific causes of blight in the 1910s and 1920, at its foundations most believed that poorly managed or unmanaged urban growth was the primary origin of the problem. Coolidge indicated this at the end of his presentation, stating: "[Blight's] relation to city planning is that it represents the absence or the failure of planning and cries out for

Adams, "City Planning in the Allied Countries During the War," 152; Bartlett in Coolidge, 109.


merliorative (sic) treatment under penalty of discrediting city planning for any but undeveloped areas."30 Frederick Law Olmsted agreed stating: It might be said that if, as we all seemed to agree this morning, the city has a right to collect and should collect the value which the action of the city in making and carrying out its city plans gives to private property, the reverse of that, as suggested by Mr. Coolidge, is perhaps in fairness also true, that when the action of the city has depreciated property, through improper or unwise planning or through the mere accidents of planning which on the whole is good, the city should stand behind that loss in some way, not by paying damages, but by striving to make good the depreciation which has come about from the action or non-action, the fault of the city, as regards that district.31 Expressions like these served as warning both to professional planners and to their potential employers, municipal and regional governments. Blight was a problem that planners could create through miscalculation and oversight. It was also something that cities could avoid by employing qualified professionals to guide their growth. It could be both a challenge and an opportunity. What specifically caused blight? Experts emphasized different forces as potential causes, although most fell into two groups, both dealing with a failure to segregate the city. The first, the mixing of types of uses, was an aberration of commonly understood ideas about the nature of the healthy growth of cities. The mixing of the intensity of use was the second. Both related to the planner's respect of the rationally organized distribution of space for its highest and best use.

30 31

Coolidge, 101. Olmsted in Coolidge, 107.

53 The mixing of uses could be a temporary inconvenience on the path of progress or a dangerous threat to the stability of neighborhoods. In its most benign sense, mixed uses in a residential neighborhood indicated a temporary situation in an area that was on its way to becoming a commercial district. This could happen as part of the process of normal growth when the core started to expand into its neighboring residential districts. The first businesses that entered the area might hurt residential property values, but this was not unexpected. Many experts on the subject recognized that blight was a common characteristic of such areas in transition from one use to another.32 Such conditions were not cause for alarm, particularly when considering that the 1910s and 1920s were decades of urban expansion. Decline would be temporary and replaced in due time with a higher and better use. Some experts, however, remained concerned about residential neighborhood integrity and looked upon such encroachments and the blight that they created as an urgent problem. Zoning expert Alfred Bettman used terms like "invasion" to describe the introduction of new uses to an area.33 He felt that invasions occurred not only because of the expansion of the core, but because planners or city officials allowed commerce and industry to move into places where it did not belong. In these cases, abnormal and unmanaged growth broke down the segregation of land uses that was so critical to the stability of neighborhoods. This segregation protected a neighborhood's use and exchange values. Industrial and commercial nuisances were a serious threat both of these values. Some businesses posed an obvious harm to housing due to the noise and smells

Morrow and Herrick, 164. Alfred Bettman, "Constitutionality of Zoning," Harvard Law Review 37, no. 7. (May 1924): 839. Bettman argued before the Supreme Court of the US in City of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company in 1926, the case that established the constitutionality of land use zoning.

that they produced. Bettman, like most, acknowledged these blighting influences, but his concern went deeper: Experience demonstrates, however, that the advent of the first non-residential structure in a residential neighborhood makes it more unfair and therefore more difficult to prevent the arrival of the second, even though the second be more nearly a nuisance type than was the first; that these nonresidential structures tend to locate themselves in a scattered and spotty manner, thus harming a larger territory than would be affected if they were more compactly situated; that often the neighborhood becomes blighted as a place of habitation, without substantially developing as a business or industrial district.. .34 Not only nuisance industries, but any non-residential use could open the door to the dissolution of a neighborhood. Sometimes planners viewed the houses themselves as a blighting influence. Ihlder saw the old city house as a potential problem for planners and urban homeowners. Such houses became a problem in three ways: they could become physically run-down, the neighborhood might change character and grow less suitable to housing, and cities could raise housing standards past the state of existing stock. All of these situations could result in blight through neglect or poor re-use. Ihlder recommended setting minimum standards guarding the quality of existing housing stock, which would help to prevent all three. He claimed, "[w]hen it is possible to protect a residence district from the intrusion of the business and industry that have so often blighted them, there will not be so many old houses converted to uses for which they are ill-fitted."35 These conversions were a significant source of blight. They provided space for commercial and home-based industrial uses to enter a community. They could also introduce multi-family housing

34 35

Ibid., 837. John Ihlder, "The Problem of the Old City House," 92, 98.

55 and a different class of neighbors to formerly homogeneous districts of single-family homes. This more intensive type of use represented an additional blighting force to the growing city of the 1910s and 1920s. Planners acknowledged the introduction of more intensive residential development as a blighting force. As North American cities grew and foreign immigrants and rural migrants swelled urban populations, the demand for low cost housing rose commensurately. The housing shortage in Canada was particularly intense after the first World War, leading to additional pressures north of the border.36 In addition to population increases, some urban residents even preferred multi-family housing, for its convenience and location.37 In both countries, increasing demand for housing led to the introduction of accommodations that ran counter to contemporary beliefs in the sanctity of the single-family home. Both conversions and new construction increased the intensity of use in residential districts, threatening "quality" neighborhoods in a number of ways. Planners saw the mixing of apartments and houses as economically detrimental, depressing values for area homeowners.38 Others considered multi-family units to be a threat to the enjoyment of property. Ihlder, speaking with disdain about apartments, rooming houses, and conversions stated:

Doucet and Weaver, 112-113; Ken Cruikshank and Nancy B. Bouchier, "Blighted Areas and Obnoxious Industries: Constructing Environmental Inequality on an Industrial Waterfront, Hamilton, Ontario, 18901960," Environmental History 9, no. 3 (July 2004): 464-496; John Sewell, Houses and Homes: Housing for Canadians (Halifax: James Lorimer & Co, 1994), 27. 37 Robert H. Whitten, "The Zoning of Residence Sections," Proceedings of the Tenth National Conference on City Planning, St. Louis, MO, May 27-29, 1918 (Boston: National Conference on City Planning, 1918), 35-36. 38 W. F. H., "Municipal Corporations: Extent to Which the Private Land in a City May Be Zoned in the Exercise of the Police Power," California Law Review 12, no. 5 (July 1924): 428-32. Some also claimed mixing classes of houses was economically detrimental to all owners involved, see: Charles Frederick Puff, Jr., 150.


Multi-family dwellings seem to thrive in locations where one-family dwellings deteriorate into dilapidated rooming houses. To be sure, they also seem to thrive in the midst of one-family dwellings, sponging on their neighbors for light and air and a more attractive environment. Their profit in such locations, however, is apt to be the community's loss, for their presence destroys small house values. So the community, in order to protect itself against the liability of blighted areas, will confine them to their allotted district.39 Here he noted that such dwellings brought about a decline in both use and property values. The apartment's profits came at the expense of the community, which becomes less valuable as an investment and less livable as an abode. Cleveland-based planner Robert Whitten saw apartments as socially dangerous as well. Claiming that the social costs of commercial and apartment invasions into residential areas were more dangerous than their commercial effects, he wrote: One illustration is the immediate decline in the civic spirit and social life of the neighborhood as soon as the neighborhood begins to run down through the blighting influence of unregulated building. From a social and civic point of view, there is nothing more important than the maintenance of the morale of the neighborhood. As soon as the confidence of the home owner in the maintenance of the character of the neighborhood is broken down through the coming of the store or of the apartment, his civic pride and his economic interest in the permanent welfare of the section declines. As the home owner is replaced by the renting class, there is a further decline of civic interest and the neighborhood that once took a live and intelligent interest in all matters affecting its welfare becomes absolutely dead in so far as its civic and social life is concerned.40

John Ihlder, "Coordination of Traffic Facilities," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 133 (September 1927): 3. 40 Robert H. Whitten, "Zoning and Living Conditions," Proceedings of the Thirteenth National Conference on City Planning, Pittsburgh, PA, May 9-11, 1921 (Boston: National Conference on City Planning, 1921): 25.


In this regard the social costs of intensive residential use could hurt both the pocketbooks and the community ties of homeowners. It also introduced an important, and for some, jarring new element into the social fabric of the district: tenants. The introduction of apartments and tenements not only represented an intensification of land uses, but also the introduction of a different kind of neighbor. In Ildher's construction of the quality neighborhood, only owners that could afford to maintain their properties should be "in the business" of owning. At this time, such a statement rather explicitly referred to a certain class of individuals. Not only should those who could not afford to purchase, rent, but they should rent their housing in neighborhoods of lesser quality. Those owner-occupiers who inhabited dwellings of lesser construction than Ildher's "small house" also found themselves excluded from the concept of the stable quality neighborhood.41 Thus, part of planning was the management of population flows. The goal was to explicitly segregate parts of the city by class, and that was not the only form of segregation built into the system. This social separation was to protect quality areas from blight. While most planners made allusions to quality neighborhoods and individuals capable of maintaining their properties and staving off blight, very few spoke openly about what this meant for non-white and non-native-born city residents. One such commentator was Nels Anderson, a research fellow at the University of Chicago. He praised zoning as a potentially useful tool to protect neighborhoods from changes in the


For a study of involving conditions in and attitudes about a neighborhood of builder-occupied shanties, see Ken Cruikshank and Nancy B. Bouchier, "Blighted Areas and Obnoxious Industries: Constructing Environmental Inequality on an Industrial Waterfront, Hamilton, Ontario, 1890-1960, " Environmental History 9, no. 3 (July 2004): 464-496.


type and intensity of their land uses. However, he claimed that zoning as a tool had its limits. He stated that "It [had] no control over social invasions, and after all these are the most vital and the most disturbing."42 He singled out African Americans as the "least assimilable of the many types in the American city."43 Lamenting the end of de jure segregated districts in American cities, he blamed their demise for the dispersal of crime and vice to other parts of the city. Allowing apartment buildings and tenements, and therefore different classes and races of residents, to enter quality neighborhoods invited the introduction of criminal behavior. Without recourse to zoning or any other form of restriction, Anderson claimed that "it's the task of the psychologist, the sociologist and the political scientist to tell us how groups behave and how their behavior may be anticipated and to some extend controlled."44 His comments are unique in their explicit nature, but they reflect biases in the system of "normal urban growth" and planners' efforts to prevent the blighting of quality neighborhoods. The management of property values also included the management of owners and tenants. Anderson was not alone in making an association between slums, blighted districts and minority groups. While he explicitly mentioned African Americans, planners, developers, public health officials and housing advocates commented on the need to educate or remove poor and immigrant residents that might cause a decline in conditions and values.45

Anderson, 157. Ibid., 158. 44 Ibid., 159. 45 Lawrence Veiller, "Housing and Health" Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 37, no. 2 (March 1911): 23; W. R. Lang, "Housing Conditions in Canada," Canadian Medical Association Journal 2, no. 6 (June 1912): 490, 492.

The poor and minorities were not the only blighting intrusions into the lives of owner-occupiers from "quality" neighborhoods due to increasingly intensive land uses. Traffic in the downtown core and along commuting routes due to increased automobile use also contributed to urban blight as the planning profession understood it. Olmsted claimed that it increased the cost of living in a city, because delays and congestion increased the costs of goods for the producer and retailer, who in turn, passed those expenses on to the consumer.46 Congestion on streets and sidewalks could also frustrate consumers, potentially diminishing the strength of downtown retail. In residential areas, increased traffic and larger highways to manage demand could make houses noisy, dirty, and unsafe for raising children. All of these harms could reduce property values, thus engendering blight. These conditions and their attendant economic costs might encourage the well-heeled to leave urban neighborhoods, leaving only less desirable residents in the formerly elegant districts.47 For all of these reasons, traffic was a concern affecting the entire urban system and one that consumed the attention of planners and transportation engineers struggling with mitigating its blighting effects. Many planners blamed automobile traffic and its blighting effects on the skyscraper, an iconic intensive use of land.48 Tall buildings stacked office workers, light industry, and retail on top of each other, increasing the population density of downtown during work hours. Since cities were growing up, rather than out, the size of streets that fed the core was not keeping pace with the increase in square feet available for use.
Frederick Law Olmstead, Pittsburgh: Main Thoroughfares and the Down Town District: Improvements Necessary to Meet the City's Present and Future Needs (Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Civic Commission, 1910), xiii. 47 John Ihlder, "How City Planning Affects Real Estate Values," Planning Problems of Town, City and Region: Papers and Discussions at the Nineteenth National Conference on City Planning. (Philadelphia: Wm. F. Fell Co., 1927): 80. 48 Fogelson, 126-128; George L. Hoxie, "City Taxation and Skyscraper Control," The Journal of Political Economy 23, no. 2 (February 1915): 168.

60 Kansas City developer JC Nichols noted a similar phenomenon occurring in outlying districts as well, referring to "the piling up of population into the air in outlying large apartment house centers."49 This increase in population encouraged businesses to move to the peripheries, which in turn brought traffic to the outlying district and the specter of suburban competition to the core. Others saw the specter of blight in the flow of people, goods, and capital along main routes. Major roads not only knit the nation together in a system of cities at a time when a growing percentage of the American population was becoming urban, they also connected downtowns to city neighborhoods and suburbs. Planners and engineers worried that these streets were too small in size and number to handle the amount of traffic that passed through city neighborhoods.50 This brought the noise, pollution, and inconvenience of slow and stopped traffic to formerly idyllic neighborhoods. It could also endanger children, making a single-family house less useful.51 Poor street layouts not only caused congestion, they also determined lot depth, which in turn could cause blight by making parcels too small to support large buildings. Furthermore, street widening projects were impossible near shallow lots, where owners had little land to spare to make way for larger roads and sidewalks. Thus street plans that were unable to accommodate intensive land uses could lead to blight.

J. C. Nichols, "The Planning and Control of Outlying Shopping Centers," The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics 2, no. 1 (January 1926): 17. 50 Hoxie, 168; Morrow and Herrick, 161; J. C. Nichols, "The Planning and Control of Outlying Shopping Centers," 17; Frederick Law Olmsted, xiii; George F. Swain, "The Attitude of the Engineer Toward City Planning," Proceedings of the Fourth National Conference on City Planning, Boston, MA, May 27-29, 1912 (Boston: National Conference on City Planning, 1912), 33; J.C. Foreman, "The City Planning Powers of Toronto," Proceedings of the Fourth National Conference on City Planning, Boston, MA, May 27-29, 1912 (Boston: National Conference on City Planning, 1912), 144-145. 51 Cunliff, 74.

61 A number of planners also considered the effects of road maintenance on blight. Withholding paving improvements could have a negative effect on property values.52 Paving was expensive and many cities could not afford to maintain their entire road system. Selective paving funneled traffic toward new areas and fostered abandonment in others. This could drive property values down in areas of disinvestment. To be successful, any improvements had to accommodate both municipal budgets and the metropolitan development plan, if it existed. Attempts to address the congestion that intensive use could create might itself lead to unintentional blight. Coolidge claimed that certain transportation improvements could make a road less useful or attractive, such as building an elevated railway over or a subway underneath one.53 Morrow and Herrick noted the additional danger that elevated trains posed to neighborhoods, depressing values along the streets that they passed and unevenly distributing its benefits to the areas immediately surrounding stations.54 Streetcars, which previously brought the promise of pedestrian traffic to nearby businesses, could discourage shoppers in automobiles. Car commuters were rapidly increasing in importance as automobiles and roads grew to be dominant.55 Therefore each mode of transportation deployed to mitigate the blighting effects of congestion could lower property values, potentially creating blighted conditions. Although most understandings of the origin of blight dealt with either the mixing of use types or intensities, commentators credited a wide variety of other forces with the power to blight. Lack of open spaces, poor aesthetics, and poorly planned utility

"Coolidge, 103. 53 Ibid., 103. 54 Morrow and Herrick, 163. 55 Ihlder, "How City Planning Affects Real Estate Values," 79.

62 construction could depress property values.56 Municipal tax structures that forced owners to construct temporary buildings to earn enough money to pay their property taxes also bore some of the responsibility for urban blight.57 Frank Koester, a civil engineer, even went so far as to call Broadway, the "Great Blight Way" because of electrically illuminated signs. Clearly, from the economic to the fantastic, there was a diversity of opinion around the causes of blight. Thus blight, as a representation of decline meant many things in planning discourse, but it could not mean anything or everything. Most understood it to be problem that affected residential districts related to stagnant or declining property values that represented wasted investments or opportunities. Planners attributed its causes to numerous forces, coalescing around the larger problems of mixing land use types and intensities. Thus, a core understanding of blight as a specific urban problem had formed among planners during the 1910s and 1920s; however blight's limited importance to the discourses of other professionals concerned with urban conditions and to the general public would reduce its effects on policy and urban practice. In this regard, the limited diffusion of blight as a representation of urban problems may have been a more significant part of its essence than its actual definition. Blight as a specifically urban concept was primarily the realm of the planner and his or her associates in the 1910s and 1920s. It was planning's early understanding of blight that most directly related to the powerful post-war term so intimately connected to urban renewal. Engineers, architects and others who attended planning conferences and
Morrow and Herrick, 162-164; Charles H. Cheney, "Extension of the Principles of Art Jury Control to the Design of Private Buildings and Arrangements of Lots," Proceedings of the Sixteenth National Conference on City Planning, Los Angeles, CA, April 7-10, 1924 (Boston: National Conference on City Planning, 1924): 137. 57 Cunliff, 72-73.

63 published in planning journals likewise shaped the concept. But, blight was not limited to planning rhetoric, although its definitions and applications outside of the profession indicated the limited role that the concept played in the city building process. Some individuals concerned with real estate and construction attended planning conferences specifically to learn about blight and its solutions. For example, real estate agent F. F. McNeny from Dallas stated at the 1918 National Conference on City Planning

[a]s a real estate man I came to this convention to find a solution of the blighted business district problem. I have been told where they exist but I realize that there are some in every large city. I know also that when these districts become blighted values go down and taxes stay up and rental values go down. A land owner cannot get, therefore, a good class of tenants and there is no incentive for the landlord to improve the property. It is also hard to get any cooperation among the property owners in the district. I realize the limits of the problem but I have not yet discovered how the districts can be reclaimed.58 McNeny's interest in the subject was strictly practical, while others had more academic interests and shared them with the planning community. Kansas City real estate developer, J. C. Nichols exemplifies this group of professionals. In a book review in the Journal of Land and Public Utility Economics, he stated the developer's interest in blight prevention and remediation: The goal of every subdivider and developer should be to sell not only land but to sell and deliver protection. Injured residential areas frequently create a gigantic economic loss and at the same time strike deeply at the very roots of the desire to own a home. Blighted or abandoned residential areas with no compensating use discourage home owning.59

Adams, "City Planning in the Allied Countries During the War," 157. J. C. Nichols, "A Developer's View of Deed Restrictions," The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics 5, no. 2 (May 1929): 134.


64 His statement exemplifies the importance of blight to the real estate industry and how some segments of it were open to working with planners and others to eliminate it. The relationship between these professions was not always comfortable. Real estate interests feared anything that might limit their ability to buy, sell, and develop land, including comprehensive planning, zoning, and other restrictions that planners promoted. This relationship would grow more contentious with the onset of the Great Depression, as both sides hurled accusations at each other for causing the poor state of land economics in North American cities. Throughout the twentieth century, real estate interests participated in the debates about blight. It was part of their professional vocabulary and a problem that agents and developers shared with planners, economists and others. Housing reformers, by contrast, used the word blight in a very different way during the 1910s and 1920s. The term "blighted district" was uncommon in their discourse in the years before the Depression. Commentators vilified tenement housing and living conditions in the slums, but did not generally connect it to the primarily economic concern of blight. In their writings, they used blight primarily as a verb, if at all. Poor conditions may blight a neighborhood, or more often, the lives of those who lived there. This use of blight was more figurative. It intensified the reformers' pleas to clean up the slums. It did not become the focus of their discourse or a specific problem with its own identity. This distinction in the use of the term demonstrated the link between blight and the exchange value of land. Since blight initially had little connection to the utility or beauty of a parcel, unless it influenced its selling price, it was more relevant to planners and real estate operatives than to those interested in housing for its use value.

65 As with housing reformers, there was very little mention of blight in public health discourse before the Depression. This is partially because of their concern with the use value of housing. It was also due to the way in which courts interpreted the police power during this period. Cities were able to regulate certain land uses and quarantine properties through the use of the police power because of nuisance law. Public health officials pressed legislatures to protect and expand their abilities to stop the spread of diseases through urban communities. The plea made economic and social sense. Happy and healthy working classes contributed to the economy and deserved a place in the city, usually in less desirable districts.60 The vitality of these workers also reduced almshouse costs, medical expenses, and the specter of class unrest that filled the middle-class media at the time. Since the ability of public health officials to garner support for their authority and their use of police powers for enforcement hinged upon a discourse centered around the concepts of health and sanitation, rather than the planner's discourse of efficiency, rationality, and growth, they had no need to borrow blight. Frank Williams, a New York City lawyer interested in planning issues, recognized this fact and as a response to Coolidge's presentation in 1912, suggested that planners associate blighted districts with unsanitary areas to gain access to police powers that only public health officials could wield.61 His proposal was practical and would have had widespread effects on the concept of blight had planners adopted it. The association of urban blight with sanitation would have shifted the emphasis from the exchange to the use values of properties. Blight, however, remained economic and not sanitary, which limited its strength in policy and its scope to the planning community.

Anderson, 155. Coolidge, 110-111.

66 That limited influence was perhaps most apparent among downtown business interests in the 1910s and 1920s. Business publications, like Nation's Business and the Wall Street Journal, rarely mentioned the term blight during this period. Their urban concerns centered on parking, traffic congestion and height limits.62 To address these issues, businesspersons and their civic organizations hired planners as consultants and endorsed their incorporation into municipal government bureaucracies. This brought downtown interests into contact with planning discourse, but at this local level planners did not necessarily address blight in their plans and reports. For example, neither Olmsted's 1910 plan for Pittsburgh's roadways and central business district nor W.F. Tye and Noulan Cauchon's 1917 report on transportation conditions in Hamilton referred directly to blight as planners defined it. In other cities, blight made an appearance in reports, but was not generally the raison d'etre for planning efforts.63 Sometimes clients had other interests, however, and even when planners and patrons agreed to look at the efficiency of the city, local circumstances could get in the way. Historian Nicholas Terpstra demonstrated in a 1985 article in Urban History Review that political and bureaucratic differences between cities could hobble or silence planners interested in efficiency regardless of transformations in rhetoric across the profession to the contrary. Not every civic organization working with planners substantially or effectively addressed blight, zoning and comprehensive planning, as was the case in Hamilton where the Town Planning Board supported "scientific" planning but failed to earn the political and public

Fogelson, 340. An example: E. P. Goodrich and George B. Ford, Housing Report to The City Plan Commission of Newark, N.J. (Newark: Matthias Plum, 1913).


67 support afforded to a separate group working toward city beautification. Only after the

first few years of the Great Depression did downtown business interests turn more uniformly toward blight. Once they did, their contribution to its dissemination would be crucial to its role in policy. The general public had even less contact with planning discourse and its understanding of blight than did downtown business owners. It is difficult to determine public sentiment with any degree of accuracy, but it is possible to estimate the amount of exposure to a concept they might have received. Using a sample of four periodicals, Time, the Nation's Business, the Pittsburgh Courier, and the Chicago Defender, I found that the public rarely read about blight as a problem facing North American cities in the years before the Great Depression.65 Blight most often appeared as a description of an agricultural disease and as a figurative device to denote that something was rotting. Most frequently, writers employed it to describe decline in a living thing (a person or a soul) or a nation, region, or body of work (such as a catalogue of musical compositions or a theatrical style). This use of blight was consistent across all four of these publications, including those that served audiences of differing classes, interests, and races. Thus, it is unlikely that most of the general reading public was aware of blight as an urban problem in the absence of personal contact with planners or their associates.

See: Nicholas Terpstra. "Local Politics and Local Planning: A Case Study of Hamilton, Ontario, 19151930." Urban History Review XIV, no. 2 (October 1985): 115-128. 65 In each periodical, I searchedfor words that started with "blight" in articles published between 1910 (or the earliest date indexed thereafter) and 1945, omitting classified advertisements. I sampled only the first appearance of a matching word in each article and classified its use into one of three categories: biological, allegorical, and urban. Biological instances included those referring to agricultural or medical contexts (e.g. "chestnut tree blight"). Allegorical instances were those that mapped biological blight onto non-urban objects, both tangible and intangible (e.g. "blighted chances ofsuccess"). Urban instances included those that mapped biological blight onto urban objects and those that refer to "urban blight" as a distinct phenomenon (e.g. "the elevated train was a blight on the neighborhood's fortunes" and "blighted districts. ") The results show an increase in the publication of "blight" as an urban concept in the 1930s.

68 Blight only very occasionally represented urban problems in the press in the 1910s and 1920s. In those cases, it usually appeared as a verb, rather than a noun. When printed as a noun, it was often in reference to a specific urban irritant rather than a direct reference to the decline of property values (e.g. a blight of pollution). It was more likely to surface in communities where zoning and comprehensive planning became controversial issues for public debate.66 The New York Times first used the term "blighted district" as early as 1921; however, it only printed the term ten times between 1915 and 1930.67 With New York providing the first instance of a comprehensive zoning ordinance in the US in 1916, the appearance of blight in papers is unsurprising. However, the frequency of figurative uses greatly outnumbered its appearance in planning applications. Therefore, even those with some exposure to the concept would likely have only a limited understanding of its meanings and usage in planning discourse, restricting its scope and explanatory power as a specific representation of urban decline. During the 1910s and 1920s, blight played a restricted, but expanding role in planning discourse. Through internal debates and trade publications, the profession and its allied crafts sought solutions to the problem of declining residential property values. Outside of this group of technicians, blight was far less significant as a representation of urban woes. Other groups with interests in shaping the city were either disinterested in the concept because of its strictly economic connotations or had access to power through
An excellent example of this is the New York City zoning ordinance of 1916, which was the first comprehensive zoning scheme in the country. Several New York Times articles refer to "the factory blight", the "car blight", the blight of congestion, and several other blights distinctfrom the problem of declining property values. By 1919, the paper mentioned the spreading blight of declining selling prices of real estate. However this use is arguably related to the previous statements rather than to blighted districts as planners understood them. 67 Statistic based on a June 1, 2008 query for ("blighted district") AND PDN(> 1/1/1915) AND PDN(<1/1/1946) in the ProQuest "Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851 - 2004)" database. The database automatically appends a Kleene star to the end of the search term, thus, returning both "blighted district" and "blighted districts. " " Urban blight" would not appear until 193 7.


rival representations. This circumscribed scope of influence hampered its utility as a lever for greater planning participation in public policy; however, as planners began to develop a voice in municipal government through zoning and comprehensive planning the concept of urban blight would benefit from the exposureand later, from economic crisis. Blight and Public Policy Before the Depression From 1910 until 1930, blight held far more power as a representation of urban problems than as a policy tool. Those with the most power to change the material city did so without deploying the concept. For planners, and other professionals concerned with land as a commodity such as realtors and developers, the blighted district was a problem, but not one compelling enough to inspire government programs and funding to address it specifically. This does not mean that blight did not have a policy aspect in the years before the Depression. Planners pushed for two tools to aid them in their fight against declining property values: comprehensive zoning and planning. Zoning was and is the practice of segregating types and intensities of land uses and building heights in a city. Although the process varied in each municipality, it generally started with a map dividing neighborhoods into classes of land uses. Most commonly there were three main classes, residential, commercial, and industrial, with many ordinances specifying grades of quality or intensity for each class (e.g. first-class residential).68 Within a zoned neighborhood, all new construction had to conform to the standards of the area's class


The number and type of classes led to debate about the potential ofzoning to foster blight through being either too permissive or too inflexible. See: Knight, 136.


and grade. Any developer interested in deviating from the zoning plan would have to apply for a variance, or an exception, to the ordinance. When addressing blight, planners during this period spoke primarily of applying zoning to residential neighborhoods. It was superior to nuisance legislation because of its impartiality. According to Bettman, nuisance laws made it difficult to eliminate industry from residential areas because they could allow unobjectionable businesses into a residential area, opening the door to further intrusions and weakening the justification for restricting them. Zoning, however, would eliminate that threat to property values before it could cause any damage. Similarly, it would allow the city to develop along rational lines that planners felt were most efficient. The highest value land use would be concentrated at the core, while single and multi-family housing would exist in separate neighborhoods. While comprehensive zoning was catching on in popularity among planners in the United States, it did not spread as quickly in Canada. Urban affairs scholar J. Barry Cullingworth credited the slow adoption of zoning plans to Canada's less aggressive population and urban development growth. 9 Eventually every province drafted a zoning law; however, individual municipalities, including Hamilton, were not quick to adopt them.70 When they did, they deployed the same reasoning that US planners did: the protection of residential property from the intrusion of incompatible uses that might lower property values.71 This is unsurprising. Canadian and US planners were members of many of the same organizations and spoke to each other at conferences. J.C. Forman, a


J. Bany Cullingworth, Urban and Regional Planning in Canada (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1987), 100. 70 Terpstra, 120. 71 Walter Van Nus, "Towards the City Efficient: The Theory and Practice of Zoning 1919-1939," in A. F. J. Artibise and G. A. Stelter, eds., The Useable Urban Past: Planning and Politics in the Modern Canadian City (New York: Macmillan, 1979), 237.

71 Toronto city planner, outlined the city planning powers of his home city at the 1912 National Conference on City Planning.72 Two years later, the conference was held in Toronto. By attending, actively participating, and presenting papers, Canadian planners both learned from their US counterparts and contributed to a shared body of technae.73 Zoning and other forms of functional and social segregation were just part of the proposed set of solutions. Although the zoning map covered an entire municipality and was more effective than the spot treatment of blight, it did not affect neighboring territories and it only regulated a few of the recognized causes of the problem. To combat this, planners supported comprehensive planning. These programs could rationally regulate and optimize all aspects of municipal, and in some cases, regional development. Planners could coordinate street layouts to handle zoned uses and prevent transportation improvements from blighting the land between stops. However, comprehensive planning also required governments to provide planners with the money and authority necessary to bring their ideas to fruition, and that required political will that was not always sufficiently available. Comprehensive planning made some modest inroads in certain states, provinces, and municipalities. As early as 1912, J.C. Forman, an assessment commissioner and member of the board of trade, boasted that planners in Toronto had the power not only to gain official provincial approval of city plans, but that those plans

See: J. C. Forman, "The City Planning Powers of Toronto," 100-115. Canada's connection to England also provided an additional source of inspiration, which influenced planning law in the Dominion. Thomas Adams, the founder of the Town Planning Institute of Canada was also the founder of the Royal Town Planning Institute of Britain and a founder of the American City Planning Institute. Restrictions on land use were permissive in England and this flexibility inspired Ontario's planning laws at the time. See: Cullingworth, Urban and Regional Planning in Canada, 102-3 and M. T. van Hecke, "Zoning Ordinances and Restrictions in Deeds," The Yale Law Journal 37, No. 4 (February 1928): 424. European planning trends affected North American practice more generally through the exchange of information during conferences and city tours. Planners throughout the western world looked to protect residential investments, but adopted policies to that effect when and if the pace of their urbanization demanded it.



could extend five miles beyond the city's border.74 This would help to prevent damage to one city's plans by a neighboring municipality. It also reinforced the importance of comprehensive planning. Forman also claimed that Toronto had the power to forbid apartments in areas named at the discretion of city council. This would give them some control over a feared source of blight. But, while Forman could boast of his city's planning powers, they were not universally shared among North American cities, and when they existed they did not necessarily find their inspiration in solving the problem of blight. Through the push for zoning laws and comprehensive planning programs, blight had an indirect association with land use policy. It was as a representation of urban problems, however, that blight was most significant. Yet even among its most enthusiastic champions, urban planners, it was not objectified as the primary evil facing the city, rather, it stood among a host of other irritants to municipal growth. Planners presented their concerns about slowing and stagnating land values to the realtors and developers who would be most concerned about them, yet those professions continued to be wary of relinquishing their sovereignty over development. Housing reformers and public health officials had little need of the concept because of their focus on the use value of land and their access to police power to enforce health and safety violations. Legislative and legal opinion on blight was not likely to change as long as the general public was largely unaware of the concept, or the existence of a problem in general. From about 1910 until 1929, blight had not yet become a dual concept. Its representational

J. C. Forman, 143. Ontario law actually gave most of the final control over municipal planning to the Ontario Railways and Municipal Board, later renamed the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The OMB had the final say over plans and could require amendments to proposed planning schemes.


aspects were far stronger than its policy implications, but both were only a shadow of what they would become. Picking Up the Pieces: Blight, the Depression, and the War The stock market crashes in Toronto, New York, Montreal, and around the world in October 1929, punctuated the start of almost a decade of economic downturn, with crop failure in the Midwest, West, and the Prairies, and high unemployment in every community. Although the financial crisis symbolized the start of the Great Depression in both countries, a number of planners noted structural problems in the economy in the months and years before the fall. That growth could continue unarrested forever if properly managed began to appear less self-evident in the late 1920s. The stream of poor migrants to working class neighborhoods began to slow, failing to replace the population of residents who moved on to better housing. This made blighted areas less useful and profitable for owners. It introduced a connection between obsolescence and blight. By the late 1930s, suburban competition, decentralization, and disinvestment threatened the core. A number of planners, architects, and others identified increasing urban blight as a harbinger of recession. From the onset of the Depression, politicians, business interests, and others began to search for a way out of the crisis. As decentralization became a more important problem for planners and downtown interests, blight grew more powerful as a representation of urban conditions. It could justify policy to address urban depopulation, decline, and obsolescence. Slum clearance and blight remediation was also an opportunity to kick-start the economy and reduce unemployment, making it appealing to an even wider audience. As a result, blight played multiple roles in the economy and society in the United States and Canada during the Great Depression and the Second


World War, both as a representation of urban problems and as an emerging concept in Depression era policy. During the 1930s and early 1940s, the concept's definition, origins, and scope of usage changed. With this came the beginnings of its powerful post-war influence on urban public policy. As a form of representation, blight no longer signified unmanaged growth. With the declining economic conditions of the Depression, it gained new ties to decay and obsolescence. The causes of blight changed from poor or non-existent planning to the reduced economic utility of near-Downtown neighborhoods, and later to decentralization. Additionally, blight changed in the scope of its use. During the Depression, blight spread from the planning profession and its associated trades to public housing and public health advocates, business interests, and the general public. Due to its newly expanded scope and representational power, it began to make its first steps toward becoming the powerful influence over public policy that it was to be in the post-war era. Development Arrested: Blight as a Representation ofDecline Not everything about blight changed with the economic downturn. Blight was still often economic in nature. Many planners also continued to deploy it as a representation of problems in residential neighborhoods. The invasion of businesses and apartments into neighborhoods remained an important cause of blight and the people that those industries, stores, and rental units brought into formerly "quality" near-downtown neighborhoods were not the patrons and consumers that planners, downtown interests, and real estate brokers had hoped would surround the central business district. Thus, blight retained some of its former characteristics; however, under pressure from a faltering economy even those aspects changed.


The economic aspects of blight grew predictably bleaker. Most planners and economists believed that areas in transition from one use to another would understandably pass through a stage of obsolescence.75 This formed the core of a "stage" theory of urban growth that was popular during the 1930s and 1940s.76 Blight occurred when an area failed to successfully pass from one stage of use to another. This was most visible in near-downtown residential neighborhoods under pressure from an expanding downtown core in the 1910s and 1920s. As commerce and industry encroached upon a residential area, it had to either defend its integrity or fully transform into a commercial or industrial neighborhood. Any partial transformation resulted in mixed uses that, according to contemporary planning wisdom, invited decay and blight. With the Depression arresting hopes for economic and physical expansion in the core, the potential for these "temporary" declines in property value to become permanent grew. As before, these areas represented a lost investment. H. M. Propper wrote in Nation's Business in 1940, each blighted area "...represents investment and value losses of millions of dollars, tax losses to the municipal government of millions more and a day by day burdening of normal business operations with increased costs."77 With the downturn, the number of investors suffering under the weight of declining property values increased and many stopped maintaining their properties to reduce expenses. Others sought ways to make their properties pay for the taxes that cities collected on them. Commentators referred to these expedient uses, like parking lots, as "taxpayers." They introduced mixed uses into transitional neighborhoods, further solidifying blight.

C. Louis Knight, 136; Weinstein in Van Sickle, et al., "Land Economics," 54. Beauregard, 58-59. H M Propper, "Saving Our Blighted Downtown Areas," Nation's Business 28, no. 5 (May 1940): 20.

76 Propper's comment also suggested another economic aspect of blight: blighted areas burdened municipalities. They not only represented a loss for the individual investor, but for the community at large. By 1938, Adams defined blighted districts based on this factor alone, stating: A blighted area is an area which is structurally, economically, and socially deteriorated to the point where it has ceased temporarily or permanently to be able to attract the capital necessary for its proper maintenance or renewal; and therefore has become a financial liability to the community. Slum areas are the most diseased parts of blighted areas.78 He emphasized the inability of neighborhoods to recreate themselves, economically and physically. His statement underscored concerns about neighborhoods failing to transition to new and better uses and addressed the possibility of decay. Such decay could affect the entire urban system. He stated: "In all countries the modern city is failing to re-build its blighted areas, and therefore to re-create itself on a healthful and efficient basis."79 The health of the city as a whole suffered when the disease of decay attacked its parts. Blighted areas also burdened municipalities because they had to continue to provide services with restricted taxation powers. Before the Depression and in its early years, state, provincial, and federal governments took little direct action into municipal social and economic problems. The loss of tax assessments or increases in the costs associated with the provision of social services and utilities represented critical problems for municipalities. Federal and state and provincial governments over the course of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries gradually reserved all taxation powers for

Thomas Adams, "Problems in Re-Building of Cities" Planner's Journal 4, no. 3 (1938): 70. Ibid, 70.

77 themselves, save one: property tax assessments.80 Income, stocks, bonds, real estate transactions, and other forms of taxation were off-limits to cities in the early and midtwentieth century, much to the chagrin of those in the real estate profession. Relegated to solving their problems using property tax alone, municipalities actively worried about their neighborhoods' ability to be self-sufficient. If a neighborhood failed to produce enough income to offset the needs of its residents, cities faced a struggle to make up for the shortfall. This put pressure on cities and their residents at a time when the economy was already suffering under the weight of stagnation and unemployment. Because of this, neighborhoods that could not pull their weight constituted a particularly important problem for municipal governments and many planners, economists and housing experts claimed that financial dependency was a hallmark of blight.81 John Ihlder and Maurice Brooks in an 1938 article in The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics claimed of blighted areas that: "These decadent areas are so numerous and so large, the community expenditures they necessitate are so great, that they have become a threat to municipal solvency."82 During the financial crisis of the 1930s, areas that used to represent lost opportunities or mere uneven growth now appeared to be capable of bankrupting entire cities. Some among the commentators that recognized the increased economic burden of blighted areas upon city coffers disagreed with the equation of dependency and blight. One the most powerful of these voices was tax expert and economist Mabel Walker. In

John H. Taylor, "Urban Autonomy in Canada: Its Evolution and Decline," in Gilbert A. Stetler and Alan F. J. Artibise, Eds., The Canadian City (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1984), 485. 81 Cleveland Metro Housing Authority and Architects Club of Chicago in Mabel Walker, Urban Blight and Slums: Economic and Legal Factors in Their Origin, Reclamation and Prevention (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938), 4. 82 John Ihlder and Maurice V. Brooks, "Use of the Power of Eminent Domain in Slum Reclamation," The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics 12, no. 4 (November 1936): 357.


her magisterial volume, Urban Blight and Slums, Walker stated that blight was more of an economic than a social problem, although social factors could contribute to economic conditions of blight.83 Dependency did not factor into her definition of blight. "Decadent areas lack economic vitality themselves and they serve as a weight upon the more healthy sections of the city. They impair real estate values in adjoining areas and they cost the city more in services than they render in taxes."84 She points out, however, that this could be a characteristic of any area, blighted or not, where the poor live. Lower income households would always require more in social and municipal services than wealthier areas and this would surely continue even if massive slum clearance projects changed the economic and physical landscape of the city. According to Walker, dependency was a factor of poverty, not blight. Other planners and economists concerned with the self-sufficiency of blighted areas made specific mention of the negative economic role that these blighted districts played in the urban system. In 1932, Harland Bartholomew emphasized that the economic dependency of blighted neighborhoods was another manifestation of the problems of decentralized urban expansion. Along with central business districts, high quality residential neighborhoods with single-family, owner-occupied houses provided cities with a stable and steady source of income. However, these neighborhoods were expensive to establish, due to the installation of municipal services such as sewers and water lines. As the wealthy abandoned the territory adjacent to downtown districts for the periphery, cities had to undertake the expensive work of extending services. This had a compound effect on blighted areas. Not only did these near-downtown neighborhoods

Walker, Urban Blight and Slums, 5. Ibid., 68.

79 require more in social and municipal services than they generated in taxes, but the pool of money available to municipalities diminished as governments dedicated more of their resources toward outward expansion.85 In other words, cities had to pay for the establishment of new high-quality housing on the periphery with money generated from a decreasingly valuable core. In this liminal period, cities could find themselves without a high-value neighborhood to support their expansion and renovation. Thus blight represented not only a burden to owners of decaying property and their immediate neighbors, but also to more prosperous areas on the peripheries and cities as a whole. Blight not only began to affect the entire urban system economically but it also began to apply directly to non-residential areas. Propper wrote that "...there are business and industrial slums as well as residential slumsusually pretty close neighbors."86 Not only through proximity but through the structural changes that such decay made to the urban system, one type of blight could encourage another to form. According to George Herrold, a St. Paul city planning engineer, blighted residential districts represented a loss of wealthy consumers as they abandon the core. This, in turn, could entice quality businesses to move to the periphery.87 In this way, blight could touch all parts of the urban system. The connection between blight and residential land did not diminish as decay spread both literally and figuratively across land uses. It remained connected to housing conditions, and grew more important as housing advocates gained more power politically. Previously, its almost exclusive connection to property values made a
Harland Bartholomew, "A Program to Prevent Economic Disintegration in American Cities," Planning Problems of Town, City and Region: Papers and Discussions (New York: National Conference on City Planning, 1932), 14-15. 86 H M Propper, 20. 87 George H. Herrold, "Obsolescence in Cities," Planner's Journal (November/December 1935): 73.


connection between blight and physical conditions incidental. Coolidge felt property might appear, but not actually be, economically blighted.88 Others believed that under some circumstances, market conditions could make up for any physical failings in a property and maintain or even augment its value.89 Before the Depression, planners worried less about physical conditions than property values, unless the former began to depress the latter. This would change as housing advocates grew more powerful in the late 1930s and 1940s. With the rise of public housing and slum clearance, the materiality of blighted areas grew more important to planners and others looking for opportunities to insert themselves into the city rebuilding process. Those concerned about these areas began to describe them as proto-slums. This idea was not entirely new. Morrow and Herrick identified it within the planning discourse of the 1910s and 1920s.90 It gained even more currency with the revision of housing legislation in the US in the 1930s, which expanded the possibility to clear slums using government resources. This provided a powerful incentive to link blight and slums. It represented a continuity with William's 1912 suggestion to link blight and unsanitary districts to access the police powers afforded to public health officials and demonstrated a tendency in planning to gravitate toward sources of power that could enable them to rebuild the city according to their image of efficiency and rationality. Those who reinforced the connection between blight and the slum deployed one representation of urban problems in the hopes of addressing a very different issue. They linked blight to the physical to promote the economy and reinforced the connection between blight and residential areas.

Coolidge, 104. Weinstein in Van Sickle, et al., 54. 90 Morrow and Herrick, 160.

81 The connection of blight to slums also highlighted the social dangers of both. The Institute of Juvenile Research claimed that the highest rate of juvenile delinquency occurred in the areas of transition between downtown districts and the large industrial areas. Crime-ridden neighborhoods not only injured society, but cost municipalities more to protect. Physical deterioration, decreasing population and a disintegration of the conventional neighborhood culture and organization characterized these areas.91 Physical conditions not only provided a backdrop for crime, delinquency, and disease, they bred them. In this way, the physical, social, and economic health of the community was tied to the physical health of the neighborhood. Many planners saw physical defects as the root of these issues and defined blight in terms of material decay. James Ford, in Slums and Housing, defined a blighted district as "[a]ny area of deteriorated housing in which there is poor upkeep of houses and premises..."92 Edith Elmer Wood began her influential report on slums and blighted areas by defining them both as manifestations of the same phenomenon, but to differing degrees: "A slum is most simply defined as housing (on whatever scale) so inadequate or so deteriorated as to endanger the health, safety, or morals of its inhabitants. A blighted residential area is one on the down grade, which has not reached the slum stage." The link with slums associated blight with poor physical conditions and degraded utility to residents.


Clarence A. Perry in Tracy B. Augur, "Planning Programs for Small Cities and What They May Accomplish," Planning Problems of Town, City and Region: Papers and Discussions (New York: National Conference on City Planning, 1931), 192. 92 James Ford, Slums and Housing: With Special Reference to New York City (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936), 11. Harland Bartholomew recognized problems in both tax structures and physical use values. See: Harland Bartholomew, "A Program to Prevent Economic Disintegration in American Cities," 1, 14. 93 Edith Elmer Wood, Slums and Blighted Areas in the United States (Washington DC: Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, 1935), 3.


Not every commentator who linked blight to residences saw it as a defect or a problem. Among most aggressive of advocates for the benefits of blight was Philip V. I. Darling, who defended it in the 1943-1944 edition of the Planner's Journal. In his article, Darling asserted that the cause of blight is poverty.94 Since blighted districts contained inadequate housing, no one would live in them if circumstances did not force them to do so. He critiqued many arguments about the causes of blight and its problems, claiming that it could actually be positive for cities. Primarily, the benefit was for the poor. Normally, houses must age physically and decline in value enough for them to become available to low-income families. With the onset of blight, the turnover process would accelerate. The net result was that lower income families got more and better housing options without restructuring the real estate market. The more blight that existed, the faster the transition could occur.95 Interestingly, Darling also claimed that only two real problems existed with blight. It did not provide enough housing to keep up with demand and individual owners rather than city residents at large bore the burdens of decreasing property values. He also claimed that efforts to contain and control blight could be harmful. He likened it to racial segregation, which inflated rental rates for African-American tenants by constricting them to an area, constraining competition among landlords. With limited options, consumers would willingly pay more to get something as undeniably necessary as housing. By constraining blight, cities would effectively create segregated zones for

Darling, of the National Housing Agency, directly cited and criticized Walker's statements separating blight and poverty See: Philip V.I. Darling, "Some Notes on Blighted Areas," Journal of the American Institute of Planners (Planner's Journal) 9/10 (1943-1944): 9-18. 95 Ibid., 15.


lower income families where the same process could occur again.96 According to Darling, the problem was not blight. It was poverty and land use planning could only make the problem worse. In his explanation of the benefits of blight, Darling described a process whereby housing becomes obsolete in the purview of the wealthy, which makes it accessible to those of more modest means. In this case, obsolescence is a benefit. However to most planners the obsolescence of buildings and districts became one of the most urgent urban problems, a motor of decentralization, and the essence of what it meant to be "blighted." Where Darling saw utility in blight, A.H. Weinstein participating in a 1929 "land economics" round table discussion transcribed in the American Economic Review, cautioned his audience: These facts lead to the question of the future of the "blighted district." It seems that eventually they will be used as public parks, playgrounds and for other public and semi-public uses. But the period of waiting for such changes will certainly be long and the expenses of holding the land will be heavy. A brief consideration of this condition suggests that it is necessary to discard the old notion of ever rising values and to admit the possibility of obsolescence in urban land.97 This connection between blight and obsolescence was early and significant. Before the Depression, this term was more the province of the accountant than the planner. It appeared primarily in economic journals in articles concerned about depreciation. When physical obsolescence did appear in academic and trade journals, it was often not about decay, but about building methods or systems that had failed to keep

Van Sickle, et al., 54.

up with advances in technology, regardless of how well their owners maintained them. Weinstein however referred to blighted areas as obsolete land, indicating that not only buildings but locations within the urban system could become old and unnecessary. This problem was not easily solved and grew more urgent as the economy slipped into decline With the Depression, blight and obsolescence grew increasingly connected, with significant ramifications for blighted areas. Slowly, the blighted district changed from a patient to the cancer itselffrom territory infected with mixed use and decay, to a contagion that threatened to disintegrate the entire urban system. The strategy for handling them likewise transitioned from protection to quarantine and elimination. As a representation of both obsolescence and a proto-slum, blight would prove to be a powerful tool for planners, downtown interests, and their allies in their quest to reshape the city. For all of its causes and effects, the primary shared characteristic across all of the definitions that planners, economists, and their associates offered was that blight was a representation of urban decline. It was a way to describe the problem. Edwin S. Burdell, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was one of the few to directly acknowledge the representational aspects of urban blight. In a discussion forum about obsolescence in cities in the November/December 1935 issue of the Planner's Journal, Burdell accused the discussants of ignoring the true nature of the problem. He stated that, "[o]ne does not object to living next to Italians if they are in the importing business, go to the opera, and send their children to the best private schools. What we do object to is the caricature of


/ verified this with a sample of articles generated by a full-text search of the JSTOR academic journal archive on the term "obsolescence" across all journals limited by publication date from 1900 to 1929.1 also searchedfor "obsole " (to account for obsolescence and obsolete) in the Conference Proceedings of the National Conference on City Planning and in the journal, City Planning.


the Italian as a pushcart peddler or ditch digger." He argued that the physical condition of an area is less important than opinions about it. To a great extent, this is true because one's representation of a problem affects one's perceptions of potential solutions. It influences a person's course of action. As a social scientist, Burdell suggested that planners should invest resources into the sociological study of urban structures, claiming that "...to ascribe to exploiters, to fictitious land values, or to jerry-building the cause of our urban decay and blight is merely pointing out effects and ignoring causes which lie deep in the social patterns, the economic folkways, and the legal structure which tie human beings into a complex interacting society."99 Burdell saw blight as a representation of deeper structural problems in the urban system. While planners claimed to be interested in such questions, they rarely influenced professional practice. Their concerns remained with the organization of the material and economic order of the city. This posture shaped their understandings of blight, and their proposed solutions were related not only to those understandings, but also to blight's purported causes. Treatment followed diagnosis. Many of the same factors that experts credited with causing blight in the 1910s and 1920s continued to appear in planning rhetoric. The invasion of incompatible use types continued to be a problem in the eyes of planners, even as Depression slowed the growth of the city.100 These concerns dissipated early however, and by 1935 had even generated some criticism. Roy J. Burroughs released the results of a study of mortgage delinquency in the Journal of Land and Public Utility Economics in which he claimed

Edwin S. Burdell in Herrold, 78. E.M.B., "Minor Violations in Greater New York," City Planning 6, no. 1 (January 1930): 51; E.M.B., "Zoning Roundtable: Boundary Lines of Districts," City Planning 7, no. 4 (October 1931): 267; Mrs. Albion Fellows Bacon, "The Relation of Housing to City Planning and Zoning," City Planning 8, no. 2 (April 1932): 79.

that invasions of residential areas by commercial uses "put a blight on the remaining residential locations. Nevertheless, the remaining residential properties gained in speculative value, and consequently even residential mortgages within the area were well maintained."101 While recognizing that invasions blighted properties in an unspecified way, his study of mortgage delinquency divorced blight from its most common meaning in the 1910s and 20s: declining property values. It actually reversed the relationship between invasions and land prices, weakening the argument that mixed uses caused blight in its economic sense. By the late 1930s, mixed uses appeared less frequently as a cause of blight in planning discourse and it was not alone in its decline. Along with mixed-use invasion, one of its causes, bad zoning ordinances and enforcement, also diminished in professional discourse as a factor generating blight. It persisted in the first few years of the Depression. Citing premature zoning of residential land for business as a blighting force, a 1931 roundtable on zoning in City Planning promoted both bad zoning and business invasion as potential causes.102 Bartholomew criticized planners who zoned too much urban land for commercial use, stating that it blighted a sizeable quantity of land on major roads.103 Other planners continued their pre-Depression criticism of poor zoning decisions that led to increased intensity of use. Civil engineer Frederic A. Delano commented on the effects of allowing tall structures in cities, stating: It explains, too, why our American cities have such large blighted areas. These areas are often near high-priced property, but are retarded because the high buildings on the
Roy J. Burroughs, "Urban Real Estate Mortgage Delinquency," The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics 11, no. 4. (November 1935): 364. 102 E.M.B., "Zoning Roundtable: Boundary Lines of Districts," 267. 103 Harland Bartholomew, "Business Zoning," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 155, part 2 (May 1931): 101.


more favored locality satisfy the demand and leave the more restricted area unimproved. Zoning for high buildings is, in effect, zoning for the benefit of the few already well located, at the expense of the many.104 He felt that more stringent zoning would involve more investors and therefore more parcels of land in satisfying the demand for real estate. This would benefit the city as a whole and avoid blight. Others concerned about height limits blamed the current state of planning practice for urban problems. Richmond Moot observed that zoning and planning procedures had not properly addressed the implications of building height: City planning is in two dimensions. The use of the plan under zoning is in three dimensions, and unless bulk and density are limited to what the city plan can accommodate efficiently, we must expect real estate booms and panics, the flower and decay of large districts in our cities as one part of the street system after another fails under the crushing burden of excess bulk and density of population.105 As with Delano, the blighting force at work was less the buildings themselves than the plans and planners meant to keep the ambitions of developers in check. Skyscrapers themselves, however, remained a blighting force in planning discourse, at least in the first half of the 1930s. As an intensive use of land in the urban core, not only did they satisfy demand for space that might have been spread over a larger land area, but they created congestion on streets and blocked light and air. Robert Kohn of the American Institute of Architects saw skyscraper construction as an inherently speculative act aimed at keeping property values unreasonably high in and around the

Frederic A. Delano, "Zoning Laws and Their Relation to Taxation," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 155, part 2 (May 1931): 42. 105 Richmond Moot, "The Third Dimension," City Planning 6, no. 2 (April 1930): 94.


central business district.

Planners widely believed that such speculation led owners to

neglect maintenance on their properties because they expected to sell them in a transition to a better and higher use type.107 Additionally, as large and expensive structures, skyscrapers were difficult to renovate, replace, or remove when they became obsolete. Thus, as their popularity increased, these structures represented a threat to zoning ordinances and to the blight-susceptible areas they protected. Planners also continued to demonize multi-family housing as a source of blight. Before the Depression, planners often deployed "invasion" rhetoric to describe the construction of multi-family dwellings in single-family neighborhoods. They also disapproved of the conversion of single-family, owner-occupied homes into duplexes or other intensive forms of residential use. However, the economic conditions of the 1930s and 1940s made apartment dwellings more common. Philip Cornicle of the National Institute of Public Administration complained in 1931 that city councils and planning departments were constantly under pressure to expand the amount of zoned space available for business and apartment districts.109 Furthermore, Colman Woodbury's 1930 study of apartment construction demonstrated an increasing trend toward the production of multi-family housing. In his investigation, he asserted that while nearly all apartment

Robert D. Kohn, "What Next in Housing? The Opportunity," Planning Problems of Town, City and Region: Papers and Discussions (New York: National Conference on City Planning, 1932), 26. 107 City Planning Committee of Hamilton and Town Planning Consultants, LTD, Report on Existing Conditions Prepared As Base Material For Planning (Hamilton: City of Hamilton, 1945), 21; Burroughs, 364; George H. Herrold, 73; Robert Whitten, "The Prevention of Blight in Residential Areas Adjacent to Expressways," Planning Problems of Town, City and Region: Papers and Discussions. (New York: National Conference on City Planning, 1931): 157, 175; C.E.A Winslow, "The post-war city, "American Journal of Public Health 33 (December 1943): 1412. 108 John Ihlder, "Rehabilitation of Blighted Areas: The Part of City Planning," City Planning 6, no. 2 (April 1930): 116. 109 Philip H. Cornick, "The Relation of City Planning to Special Assessments," Planning Problems of Town, City and Region: Papers and Discussions (New York: National Conference on City Planning, 1931), 135.


districts had become blighted in the past, that zoning, public education, and other policy solutions could stem obsolescence and resultant blight.110 All of these beliefs about the causes of blight were rooted in the larger understanding of blight as poorly managed or unmanaged growth. While growth was arrested in the 1930s, the idea of bad planning as a blighting force continued. Zoning and other land use controls were one way to influence and contain the pressures of the real estate market; however, planners now worried about the potential for faulty planning due to zoning maps and ordinances that were not comprehensive and accurate. Lax land use zoning could result in blight by allowing business and industrial uses into residential areas. Planners also held that allotting too much area to non-residential uses would result in blight from speculation.111 Others were concerned that zoning regulations, deed restrictions, and other controls on land use could be too inflexible and might result in blight by restricting the free hand of the real estate market to foster the growth of the city.112 These conflicting beliefs about land use zoning made it difficult for planners to gauge how much space should be allotted to each segregated use and how strictly their borders should be guarded. It is this difficulty that historian Walter Van Nus credits for the lack of stringent comprehensive planning in Canada in the interwar period.113 The challenge was too daunting to surmount. While faulty planning continued to appear in planning rhetoric into the war years, the most influential understandings of blight's origins came from a belief that structural problems existed throughout the entire urban system that were decentralizing the North
Coleman Woodbury, 226. Bartholomew, "A Program to Prevent Economic Disintegration in American Cities," 13. 112 Knight, 136-7; Harry H. Culver, "A Realtor's Viewpoint on Zoning, Present and Future," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 155 (May 1931): 207. 113 Walter Van Nus, 226-227.
111 110

90 American city. Planning played a role in creating these defects, but it was not the only factor at work. Both downtowns and their adjacent residential and mixed-use neighborhoods were losing their central status and populations in North American metropolises while their peripheries were extending at the expense of the core. Commentators struggled with explaining the phenomenon in a number of ways that combined blight with their own professional interests, such as rational planning, lowering taxes, and attracting higher income residents back to the city. A.H. Weinstein identified this structural problem in residential land use that threatened planners' beliefs in consistently increasing property values. Like many other planners, he noted that under normal market operations, the movement of wealthy individuals to new developments could be economically beneficial. Not only did the real estate industry benefit from urban growth at the periphery, but working class families, immigrants, and rural migrants to the cities could move to the neighborhoods that the wealthy left behind. This might also be a boon to landlord as well as tenant, for often older properties would generate even more profit in their second or third use as apartments or other multi-family dwellings. It was this belief that drove many planners in the early twentieth century to support transportation and building programs aimed at reducing congestion at the core while developing new, wealthy communities in the peripheries of cities. The problem was that the cycle of use and re-use was being arrested. Weinstein noted that this was happening in US cities for a number of demographic reasons. Immigration laws were reducing the influx to the cities. Formerly, new arrivals would take the place of more established immigrants who had managed to move out of the

91 cities' lowest rent districts. This would guarantee that the single-family houses that owners converted into duplexes and apartments would remain full and generating revenue. Without the influx of immigrants into the cities, these inexpensive neighborhoods experienced a decline in occupancy. Modern demographic trends toward a smaller family size further exacerbated the problem. This led Weinstein to claim that there used to be a purpose for 'blighted districts,' but no longer. Their exchange values were declining because of decreased demand for their use value, resulting in hollow spaces in the city. Weinstein and others defended decentralization while the land at the center was still in demand as a tonic for congestion and other urban ills. Not everyone did. Bartholomew warned the National Conference on City Planning in 1931: "Let us not be deluded by the false prophets of decentralization. " 1 H It is significant that in both 1931 and 1932, he pleaded with his colleagues in his keynote addresses at the National City Planning Conference to recognize the dangers that decentralization posed to the center city.115 That he felt the need to do so indicated the divided opinions of planners on the subject. By the late 1930s, business leaders recognized the dangers that planners had previously foreseen.116 Propper in the May 1940 edition of Nation's Business contrasted a city in this position to a tree: "Our cities, too, have grown on the periphery but usually at the expense of the core, leaving centers of decay and dilapidation."117 More influentially,

Harland Bartholomew, "Is City Planning Effectively Controlling City Growth in the United States?" Planning Problems of Town, City and Region: Papers and Discussions (New York: National Conference on City Planning, 1931), 6. 115 See: Harland Bartholomew, "Is City Planning Effectively Controlling City Growth in the United States?"; Harland Bartholomew, "A Program to Prevent Economic Disintegration in American Cities." 116 Fogelson, 342-343. 117 H.M. Propper, 21-22.


in the same year, the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a research institute born of the National Association of Real Estate Boards, published a pamphlet entitled "Decentralization: What Is It Doing To Our Cities?" that linked decentralization, blight, and the fate of the city. It conflated decentralization and blight, severing the historic connection of the latter with declining or stagnant property values: Areas close to the business districts, once populated with well-paid white-collar people and middle-class residents having good purchasing power, have steadily lost population and are becoming blighted. (A blighted area is one where owners permit their properties to deteriorate and where no reconstruction takes place.) In some cities blighted sections cover many square miles, and the vast public investment in the utilities and services in them shows an increasingly great loss in proportion to tax receipts from such areas.118 The ULI also appeared to conflate decentralization and blight when describing the causes of decentralization. Many of the causal statements referred to blight without mentioning decentralization. They listed tall buildings and intensive land uses, rigid tax systems, restrictive building codes, and speculatively high land values as causes of blight. Ribbon development along highways, crime, pollution, and bad schools caused decentralization. Bad planning and zoning could cause both. The pamphlet linked the two, but not in a causal relationship. Blight and decentralization became fraternal twins, not identical but inextricably linked and both representations became powerful tools in the hands of those interested in using public policy and funds to reshape the city. Blight and Policy: Rebuilding the City The role of urban blight in Canadian and US public policy during the Depression and the Second World War expanded. During the early twentieth century, planners and
Urban Land Institute, Decentralization: What Is It Doing To Our Cities? (Chicago: Urban Land Institute, 1940): 1.


city building advocates called for land use zoning and comprehensive planning to prevent the creation of blighted areas. Even with the expansion of these programs throughout North America, endogenous and exogenous factors accelerated the decentralization of cities, leaving a depressed and depopulated ring around urban cores from coast to coast. From the late 1920s through the next fifteen years of depression and war, approaches to the problems of urban blight began a long and slow shift from prevention to elimination, rehabilitation, and replacement. In the United States, the Great Depression piqued the federal government's interest in blight. Early twentieth century studies from the Russell Sage Foundation, Jacob Riis, and others concerned about living conditions for the poor focused almost exclusively on slums. With the onset of economic decline in the 1930s, the federal government began to include blighted areas in its research on slums. The Hoover Administration investigated blighted areas through the President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership in 1931. In its report on "Slums, Large-Scale Housing and Decentralization," the Conference defined blighted areas as economic liabilities to their communities and precursors to slums. It recommended preventative measures and rehabilitation for the former and clearance for the latter.119 These measures included the reconditioning of physical structures and the replanning of neighborhoods, which could entail demolition. The Hoover administration expected private enterprise to refurbish blighted neighborhoods in accordance with updated municipal plans. Private investors therefore were to decide which problems would receive attention and in what order.120

President's Conference on Home Building and Home Ownership, Home Ownership, Income and Types of Dwellings (Washington DC: National Capitol Press, 1932), 1.


Another significant study appeared as a 1935 bulletin from the Housing Division of the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works entitled "Slums and Blighted Areas in the United States," by Edith Elmer Wood. The study presented data from 64 cities of various sizes on conditions in residential areas. In the foreword to the study, Horatio Hackett, the Director of the Housing Division, stated that the goal of the study and of the Housing Division was to further the President Roosevelt's policies for "rehabilitating the nation."121 As part of this mission, the US would have to rebuild segments of its cities. Initially, the government had hoped to achieve this using private funds, such as through limited-dividend corporations, but the task had turned out to be too arduous without direct governmental assistance. This study tried to demonstrate that direct federal intervention would not only be effective, but economical. By including blighted areas, Wood did not shift attention away from slums, but rather, treated blight as a harbinger of slum conditions. Her primary interests lay in housing and her goal was to get the government into the business of providing it for the poor. Thus, her main target was the slum, but by positioning blight as a precursor to slums, she drew a solid connection between the two; making it possible for others to argue later that blight remediation was a reasonable part of slum clearance. Across the border, the growing urban slum problem in Toronto, Canada's second most populous city, prompted the creation of the Report of the Lieutenant-Governor's Committee on Housing Conditions. Although slums were smaller in Canadian cities, they caused no less fear of infecting neighboring areas with decline, which coupled with a housing shortage and economic depression, spurred the government into action. Known as the Bruce Report after the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, the document stated the

Wood, ix.


case for slum clearance and rehousing from the perspective of its social problems, similar to Wood's work in the US. Although the report did not mention blight directly, it described many of the same characteristics that planners previously associated with blight: speculative land prices and lot sizes that invited the invasion of commercial properties into residential areas, making areas too expensive and unfit for poorer families.122 While none of this was new to planners in 1934, the interest of government in poor urban conditions foreshadowed the federal government's early and active involvement in the search for a solution to slums and blighted areas. In its recommendations, the report called upon the federal government to address urban conditions. It would do so a year later. In both countries, the inclusion of blighted districts and blight-like conditions in these and other official research efforts brought them into the realm of what the government could address via policy. In the early years of the Depression, however, blight did not yet play a prominent role in legislation. Its definition was ambiguous, making it difficult to build policy to specifically address it. Instead, collections of policies appeared in both countries that addressed various characteristics of its causes and symptoms as policy writers understood them. Consistent with the Hoover Presidential Conference's approach to the real estate market, US housing policy and legislation in the early 1930s were aimed at facilitating the functioning of private initiatives. The National Housing Act of 1934 established the Federal Housing Administration and created a system of mortgage insurance that made it safer to lend money for mortgages in an increasingly unstable economic time. It also established the practice of redlining in the


Report of the Lieutenant-Governor's Committee on Housing Conditions in Toronto (Toronto: Ontario, 1934), 58-60.

96 US, referring to the areas marked on mortgage insurance brokers' maps that represented a higher potential risk of mortgage default. The publication and use of these maps discouraged lending in poorer and minority neighborhoods. This led to an increase in segregation and hardship for African Americans in particular.123 It also built in a bias against the poor. Insuring loans and encouraging longer amortization periods should have encouraged more lending to lower income home buyers, but redlining diminished its effects. Regardless of its negative results, this act demonstrated a new willingness on the part of the federal government to interfere in the functioning of the private housing finance market in hope of expanding its customer base and therefore stimulating home construction and sales. It did not, however, represent a direct offensive against blight. In Canada, the Dominion Housing Act of 1935 took a similar position on the private lending market, but attempted to bolster the industry by a different set of means. The act changed the rules for private mortgages, allowing them to be amortized over twenty years instead of the more customary three to five. It also supplemented the amount of money that one could lend to a prospective home or apartment builder. By law, a lender could only provide 60% of the cost of a mortgage, with the rest coming out of the pockets of the borrower.124 This steep amount, coupled with a short time frame made mortgages expensive and put home ownership out of the hands of many. The Dominion Housing Act looked to change this by allowing the federal government to enter the mortgage market by supplementing the 60% that could come from private lenders
The association between redlining and race, while powerful in the United States, is not as apparent in Canada. Canadian scholars have argued that the more significant association is between poverty and redlining, as the practice first appeared there in undesirable suburbs. See: Richard Harris and Doris Forrester, "The Suburban Origins of Redlining: A Canadian Case Study, 1935-54," Urban Studies 40, no. 13 (December 2003): 2661-2686. 124 In some areas, such as Montreal, it was customary for lenders to provide only 50%. See: John C. Bacher, Keeping to the Marketplace (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1993), 86-87; John Belec, "Dominion Housing Act," Urban History Review 25, no. 3 (March 1997): 53-63.

97 with an additional 20% from the government. Although this certainly helped those interested in buying a house during the Depression, the size of that population was small. According to geographer Jon Belec, the act mostly helped the wealthiest Canadians finance their home purchases.125 It did little to address the physical and economic conditions of residential areas that planners most commonly associated with blight. In 1937 Parliament indirectly addressed these conditions through the Home Improvement Loans Guarantee Act. As described in its title, the act authorized the government to guarantee home improvement loans of up to $2,000 for single-family structures and $1,000 per family unit plus $1,000 more for multi-family structures. Although planners were wary of multi-family residences as blighting influences on residential areas, the government permitted owners to use these loans to convert singlefamily houses into apartments, flats, and duplexes. Rather than confronting blight with this act, Parliament attempted to solve two more pressing problems: the long-term housing shortage across Canada and a sluggish economy. By making it safer to lend, the federal government hoped to inspire borrowers to create more work for the building industry. To achieve those goals, it indirectly addressed blighted conditions and through its encouragement of apartments, possibly fostered additional blight according to commonly accepted planning standards. The next major piece of federal legislation to affect the physical and economic conditions of the city was the United States Housing Act of 1937 (USHA). The result of intense lobbying efforts and compromise on behalf of two camps, housing reformers & real estate interests, the act authorized capital grants for the construction of public housing, but required the removal of an equivalent amount of substandard or slum

Belec, 53-63.


residences. The USHA also enabled the government to lend funds for public housing and slum clearance, but without the requirement that the borrower must attempt both. Like the home improvement loans legislation in Canada, the act never mentioned blight, yet addressed conditions that affected the development and distribution of it in American cities. The act did however describe slums, and many planners considered blighted and slum districts to exhibit the same characteristics to differing degrees of magnitude. It defined a slum as "...any area where dwellings predominate which, by reason of dilapidation overcrowding, faulty arrangement or design, lack of ventilation, light or sanitation facilities, or any combination of these factors, are detrimental to safety, health, or morals."126 Those who identified blight as a physical or social problem would recognize its characteristics in this definition. The vast majority of planners defined blight as an economic problem, which lay outside of the scope of the act. If they were to wait for federal action on their concerns, they would be left without remedy until 1949. The Canadian federal government was more active during the 1930s and early 1940s in revising its housing legislation. Parliament replaced the Dominion Housing Act of 1935 with a National Housing Act in 1938 that specifically addressed the need to build low-income housing and to encourage low-income rental housing. It permitted the federal government to lend money to local public housing bodies that entered into a contract with the Finance Minister to provide low-cost housing in their communities. As with all of the housing laws of the 1930s, blight did not appear in the text. The act required that the Minister assure that an area slated for public housing under the act be properly planned and zoned "to assure the suitability of the area for such houses throughout the term of the

United States Housing Act, Public Law 93-383, 88 U.S. Statutes at Large (1937), 888.


loan and to provide reasonable safeguards for the security of the investment ..."127 In this manner the policy indirectly addressed the concerns of those who saw slums and blighted areas as both physical and economic problems. The federal government went one step further, instituting its urban renewal program as early as 1944, through a revision of the National Housing Act. It was the first national law in North America to directly address blighted areas, stating: In order to assist in the clearance, replanning, rehabilitation and modernization of slum areas or blighted or substandard areas in any municipality, the Minister, with the approval of the Governor in Council, may make grants to a municipality in order to assist in defraying the cost to such municipality of acquiring and clearing, whether by condemnation proceedings or otherwise, an area of land suitable as a location for a low cost or moderate cost rental housing project.128 This was a first step toward urban redevelopment and renewal in Canada, but it placed a number of restrictions on the process that potentially made it less attractive to downtown business interests and planners interested in improving and protecting the central business district. Most importantly, it required that blighted areas and slums be replaced with public housing projects. This was not the population that downtown interests hoped would inhabit the areas within walking distance of their retail districts. Furthermore, by upgrading the physical infrastructure in areas that had passed from single-family middleclass housing to lower income accommodations, it added permanence to this use of the land. The law also ossified the new land use pattern by assuring that it was part of an official municipal plan before work could begin. Even in this restricted form, the clearance provisions of the act opened the door to the use of condemnation for the
127 128

National Housing Act, Statutes of Canada 1938, c.49, s. 13. National Housing Act, Statutes of Canada 1944, c.46, s. 12.

purpose of blight remediation. Additional revisions to the law would loosen and eventually cut the ties between urban renewal and public housing, leading to even more freedom in the use of its provisions. In the United States, those who saw blight as an economic problem were left with little recourse through the provisions of the two Depression era housing acts. During the war years, they would look to the states, where local efforts led to the passage of urban redevelopment laws that empowered cities, planning bodies, and redevelopment authorities to direct and facilitate the replacement of blighted areas with neighborhoods planned to bolster property values. By the end of the Second World War, twenty states passed laws that addressed urban redevelopment and renewal.129 This was part of a vibrant post-war planning movement intended to protect the cities and the economy during the inevitable transition to a peace-time economy. As chronicled in The American City, a planning magazine, planners and civic and business leaders worked hard at the local level to build the consensus, political will, and public policy necessary to accomplish urban redevelopment. Not only did local actors prefer local action but so did the federal government. In 1941, the National Association of Real Estate Boards, Economists Guy Greer and Alvin Hansen of Harvard, and the Federal Housing Authority separately introduced three competing proposals to provide federal funding for urban redevelopment. These had little chance for implementation as the US entered the war. In 1943, the same year that

Congress disbanded the federal agency most concerned with urban problems, the National Resources Planning Board, two separate bills to start redevelopment programs

Fogelson, 364. Ibid., 371.

died in committee.1 ' Redevelopment before renewal in the US was the province of the municipality and the state, and it was at that level that blight played its most significant role in policy. The American Institute of Planners' Committee of Legislation recognized this fact in 1943, claiming that laws that would advance money to cities and authorize planning agencies to address the redevelopment of blighted areas were the most urgently needed urban legislation.132 In Canada, even with federal renewal legislation appearing during the Second World War, the importance of local decision making was critical to the implementation of urban redevelopment and renewal. Historian Nicholas Terpstra made an important point when he cautioned planning historians against disregarding the local in favor of national trends. His examination of the politics of planning in Hamilton determined that structural and attitudinal resistance worked against the transition from City Beautiful planning techniques and ideas, like building parks and civic spaces, to more modern techniques, such as zoning or comprehensive planning. Thus, even when national governments and professional conferences supported a trend toward the goal of efficiency in urban planning, individual cities did not necessarily follow. The real action was local. As the role of urban blight gradually increased in public policy during the late 1930s and early 1940s, a number of housing and public health professionals paid more attention to the concept. Among public housing advocates and administrators, policy

M. Christine Boyer, Dreaming the Rational City (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983), 265-266; Sherie R. Mershon, "Corporate Social Responsibility and Urban Revitalization: The Allegheny Conference on Community Development, 19431968," (PhD diss., Carnegie Mellon University, 2000), 148; Fogelson, 371-372. 132 Committee on Legislation, "Planning Legislation: Review and Recommendations," The Planners' Journal 9, no. 1 (January-March 1943): 3-4.


innovations generated mixed reactions. Primarily, there was a debate as to whether slum clearance and urban redevelopment had to contain a low-income housing component at all. Realtors and other economic stakeholders saw land as a commodity and defended the free functioning of the private real estate market against governmental interference at all levels. Even regulations intended to stabilize property values generated suspicion and lukewarm acceptance from realtors.133 Housing and poverty advocates, on the other hand, computed the value of land through its utility for those living on it. They sought to regulate and repair a private real estate system that they believed was unable, or unwilling, to provide adequate housing for lower income families. Yet even among public housing supporters, not all agreed that housing should be coupled with slum clearance. Notable among this group of dissenters was Carol Aronovici who as early as 1934 expressed her resentment that cities were using housing funds from the Works Progress Administration to solve problems that they should have solved through sound policy decades earlier.134 She felt that slum clearance benefitted those who created the slums while drawing resources away from housing. Another champion of housing legislation and eventual housing administrator for the US government under the USHA, Catherine Bauer, also did not favor slum clearance because she felt that it exacerbated housing shortages and rewarded slumlords by paying them inflated rates for properties that they did not properly maintain. In both Canada and the US, policy at the federal level evolved toward a compromise. Legislation from the early 1930s sought to facilitate the functioning of the
See: Culver, "A Realtor's Viewpoint on Zoning, Present and Future." Carol Aronovici, "Housing the Poor: Mirage or Reality," Law and Contemporary Problems 1, no. 2 (March 1934): 148. 135 D. Bradford Hunt, "Was the 1937 U.S. Housing Act a Pyrrhic Victory?" Journal of Planning History 4, no. 3 (August 2005): 198.
134 133

private market through loans and guarantees. Later, as more interventionist methods of providing additional housing and promoting economic growth became desirable, both countries expanded their influence over the market while continuing their policies of guaranteeing mortgages, promoting zoning and planning, and in Canada, facilitating home improvement. Through compromises over time, each would increasingly cede concessions to downtown interests in favor of blight remediation, eventually replacing both housing and slum clearance with blight-focused urban redevelopment and renewal. Public housing supporters only lost this ground, however, in the years after the war in both countries. During the 1940s, federal public policy tied slums, housing, and in the case of the National Housing Act of 1944, blight, together in ways that made the coming hegemony of urban blight increasingly apparent to all stakeholders, which in turn made it more prominent in their discourse. Some individuals who bridged the gap between planning, housing, and business interests, such as Ihlder, worked among planners and addressed the issues of blight and housing together before the Depression and war. Aronovici recognized blight as a problem that cities could solve through zoning to insure continuity and homogeneity of development as early as 1931.136 Additionally, some working at the local level, such as Ernest J. Bohn of Cleveland, Ohio, mentioned blight in their calls for public housing reform in the early 1930s. Thus, blight was not absent from housing reform discourse in the early 1930s, but its role was minor. Planners' increased attention to blight as the Depression and the war continued generated interesting responses among housing advocates. Philip Darling's defense of blight as a means to better and more housing for

Carol Aronovici, "Zoning and the Home," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 155 (May, 1931): 147.

104 the poor was certainly a response to the lobby for blight remediation.137 Catherine Bauer and her supporters unsuccessfully fought to remove the provision that public housing built under the USHA must be coupled with slum clearance of equal amounts. She alternatively recommended that public housing projects on vacant land, in slum areas, or blighted districts all qualify for funding. Although this created a possibility for redeveloping blighted areas, her ultimate goal was to decouple demolition and construction. She felt that vacant land on the fringes of cities would be advantageous to all stakeholders, eventually reducing congestion at the core and fighting the inflation of land values in the slums.138 Once housing advocates found a place at the table to negotiate federal legislation, they found themselves at the nexus of numerous streams of discourse about slums, blight, and public housing and had to compromise to achieve their ultimate goals. Unlike planners and downtown interests, who paired blight with decentralization as a representation of particular forms of urban decay in order to inspire favorable public policy, housing advocates took a defensive posture toward blight to advance their goals of housing over demolition. In contrast they primarily invoked the slum as a form of representation to generate policy. Public health officials also reacted to the expanding role of blight in public policy. Their access to police powers of condemnation formerly set them apart from planners and others who primarily held preventative powers. However, with the advent of urban redevelopment policies came competing forces that could change the shape and function of neighborhoods without the assistance of public health professionals. This put some practitioners on the defensive. In a presentation to the American Public Health

Darling, 15-16. Hunt, 197-198.

105 Association in 1943, C. E. A. Winslow promoted the role of public health officials in the practice of modern city planning. In doing so, he represented blight as a disease, alluding to the need for medical attention: Our cities today are sick; they suffer from the chronic and progressive slum disease. It is no mere figure of speech when we talk of'blighted areas.' 'Blight' in a city is like blight in a plant or cancer in the human body. It spreads from its center year by year...Our cities are decaying at the core; and, in a vicious circle, the taxable values which are needed for rehabilitation are escaping to governmental areas outside the municipal limits. The situation is serious; and the treatment must be radical.139 He also touted the contributions of his profession toward policies and practices that addressed slums and blighted areas, citing its work on creating and promoting housing and sanitation standards and appraisal metrics.140 He further claimed that there was more work for public health practitioners to do, for the public would have to make decisions about the future of their cities and they would need expert advice. He claimed that the public health professional must be one of these expert voices, "for the basic ideals involved in city planning are health ideas, if we think of health in its broader sense."141 Thus while housing advocates struggled with the growing strength of planners and downtown business interests at the moment when a national public housing policy became a possibility, public health officials strove to defend their role in the city building process. Blight was among the urban problems that they claimed the expertise to address, entering their discourse as both a representation of urban problems and as a component of the policy intended to solve them.

C.E.A Winslow, 1409. Ibid., 1408-1409. Ibid., 1413.

106 Thus, planners, politicians, economists, realtors, sociologists, housing advocates, public health practitioners, and other city builders deployed blight in their professional discourse with increasing frequency and complexity in the 1930s and 1940s. What about the general public? Did the increased role that the concept of urban blight played in professional and political circles result in its entry into public discourse on the city? Using popular newspapers and magazines as a guide, it appears to be the case. In jurisdictions that debated urban redevelopment laws, blighted areas played a tremendous role in the justification and motivation for those policies. National publications, such as the Saturday Evening Post, discussed the urban redevelopment policies of states like New York, citing their ability to remove slums and blight and replace them with neighborhoods planned to withstand future blight. Urban blight also appeared in AfricanAmerican newspapers. The Chicago Defender used it only 4 times from 1930 to 1945 and the city edition of the Pittsburgh Courier printed it 22 times during the same period. The appearance of blight in the mass media, however, was nowhere near as frequent as it would be in the late 1940s and 1950s. Urban blight was likely not yet part of the public's everyday vocabulary except in cities and states considering urban redevelopment laws. Its use, however, was growing more common and would continue to do so as federal urban renewal grew in both countries and shed its association with public housing. Conclusion Urban blight, from its earliest appearances in twentieth century planning literature, was difficult to define precisely, although many definitions shared some common characteristics. Before the Great Depression, most planners and economists saw blight as an economic problem related to declining or stagnant residential property

values. They primarily blamed poorly planned growth for its appearance and pressed for zoning laws and comprehensive city planning as a preventative measure. Their efforts met with only limited success. Blight was only one urban problem among many and became neither the primary representation of the city's woes nor a significant factor in the creation of public policy. With the onset of the Great Depression and the Second World War, planners and downtown business interests faced the possibility of stagnation and decay in all parts of the city. Near downtown residential areas in transition represented a particular threat to the central business district as well as to the welfare of the poor who lived there. Public policies intended to reanimate depressed economies and house the poor also represented an opportunity to eliminate these troublesome inner-ring neighborhoods. Blight was not yet conceptually mature enough to inspire public policy on its own until the impending end of the war necessitated economic, urban, and housing planning to avert another depression. Governments addressed blight's characteristics through housing legislation while planners, downtown interests, and others framed blighted areas as incipient slums. Towards the end of the war, at the federal level in Canada and at the state and local level in the US, blight began to play a role in public policy. However, in both countries, it was at the local level that communities most effectively shaped and deployed the concept. In cities, blight as both representation and policy would have a palpable effect on individual lives. The remainder of this dissertation will examine the roles that blight, both as a form of representation and as an element of public policy, played in the discourses surrounding redevelopment and renewal projects in Pittsburgh and Hamilton. I will focus

108 primarily on local actors and their opinions. Although politicians, city builders, and community stakeholders could and often did avail themselves of national resources and legislation, their understandings of blight and its relations to their communities were intensely local. A study of how communities shaped blight and how blight, in turn, shaped communities therefore must necessarily be local. Contacts between citizens groups, local governments, and planning professionals early in the 20th century introduced concepts like blight to local debates that planners, housing advocates, and public health professionals had been discussing as part of an international discourse about how to fix community problems. Blight may have been born internationally, but its most powerful effects on communities and the built environment were local.

Chapter 3: Theory & Practice: Blight Before Renewal

In both Pittsburgh and Hamilton, the use of the concept of blight in local development discourse expanded beyond the representation of urban problems and became part of public policy during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Each city's understandings of its problems affected public and political attitudes toward planning in general and about blight, which in turn shaped the concept's debut into local planning policy. In Pittsburgh a bold experiment in urban redevelopment utilized blight as a representation of urban decline and entrenched the concept in local planning and development policy and discourse. Spurred by the specter of declining population and the potential loss of key industries, Pittsburgh's pro-redevelopment interests saw the city's negative image as the root cause of its ills. Blight was a particularly useful representation of this problem as it granted planners and redevelopers access to the power of eminent domain under Pennsylvania law to facilitate land assembly and ultimately, the redevelopment of downtown Pittsburgh and its image. Their creative use of blight also established a constitutional precedent in the Commonwealth and served as a successful example of how planners and their allies could expand the definition of blight to address a wide range of urban problems. By contrast, Hamilton's halting and qualified acceptance of professional planning and its assessments of urban problems during the construction of a master plan diminished the importance of blight in local planning discourse even though the federal government had already enshrined it in national housing legislation. Unlike Pittsburgh, Hamilton experienced population growth exceeding its housing supply, prompting

110 concern over the recruitment and retention of laborers to support local industrial needs. This problem overshadowed the declining state of the city's physical infrastructure and promoted a public and political discourse concerned with the problems of unmanaged growth, in contrast with Pittsburgh's rhetoric of decline. Contemporary planning practice and its emphasis on segregating land uses to prevent blight and decline failed to represent and address the city's most pressing problem, diminishing the importance of blight in local discourse. In this chapter I will compare how understandings of urban conditions in each city affected the adoption of blight as a representation of local problems and its role in local redevelopment policy. First, I will examine the precedent-setting Gateway Center redevelopment in downtown Pittsburgh and its innovative use of blight in planning discourse and policy. I will then contrast it to planners' efforts to create Hamilton's first master plan and comprehensive zoning ordinance. Finally, I will examine the differences in local understandings of urban problems in both cities and analyze their effects on the use of blight in local planning discourse. Both Hamilton's theoretical exercise of identifying declining areas in a master plan and Pittsburgh's redevelopment practice demonstrated the effects that local conditions and opinions had on this contested concept. Pittsburgh: Starting a Renaissance Pennsylvania's legislature gave blight a prominent role in the Commonwealth's postwar planning program through the Urban Redevelopment Law of 1945. This law allowed municipalities and counties to create redevelopment authorities with access to the power of eminent domain to take blighted land for the public good. Before an authority could take property, a municipal planning body had to certify it as blighted. The

Ill law identified several characteristics of blighted areas, including "the unsafe, unsanitary, inadequate or over-crowded condition of the dwellings therein, or ... inadequate planning of the area, or excessive land coverage by the buildings thereon, or the lack of proper light and air and open space, or because of the defective design and arrangement of the buildings thereon, or faulty street or lot layout, or economically or socially undesirable land uses."1 Early state redevelopment acts perpetuated a Progressive-era notion of blight and this early law was no exception, drawing inspiration from antiquated ideas of medical and moral health, particularly in its demands for light and air.2 The law also reflected newer national trends in the postwar planning movement in its inclusion of faulty design and inadequate planning as evidence of blight and in the amount of power that it granted to planning bodies.3 A neighborhood had to meet only one of these criteria for certification, granting planning departments much discretion over what specifically constituted a blighted area. This flexibility made the law appealing to groups interested in transforming postwar Pittsburgh. Perhaps the most influential of these groups was the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD). In the mid-1940s, this planning organization composed of Pittsburgh's most influential businessmen fostered programs to improve Pittsburgh's physical condition and public image. The ACCD and the city formed a powerful public-private partnership that sponsored planning studies, recruited private developers and generated the capital and consensus necessary to complete large-scale projects. One of its greatest achievements

'35P.S. 1702. Colin Gordon, "Blighting the Way: Urban Renewal, Economic Development and the Elusive Definition of Blight," Fordham Law Journal, XXXI, no. 2 (2004): 308. 3 The postwar planning movement of first half of the 1940s provides a national context for the Pennsylvania legislature's support of urban planning. See Sherie R. Mershon, "Corporate Social Responsibility and Urban Revitalization: The Allegheny Conference on Community Development, 19431968," (PhD diss., Carnegie Mellon University, 2000): 143-145.

was the transformation of 36 acres of industrial land at the western tip of the Golden Triangle, the city's central business district, into Point State Park. The ACCD's Point Park Committee managed the operation, successfully acquiring all of the land necessary for the park from 36 different owners without recourse to lawsuits or condemnation.4 The area adjacent to the Point Park site, the Lower Triangle, was a mixed-use neighborhood that supported light manufacturing, warehouses, and railroad terminals, as well as retail shops, offices, restaurants, bars, schools, and charitable institutions. Part of the central business district, it was a functioning retail, industrial, and residential hub that was well integrated into the vibrant fabric of downtown life. Its appearance, however, betrayed the soot and scars of the industrial cityscape. For those living and working downtown, life took place against a gritty and aging backdrop. Shops and offices operating at street-level might have concealed manufacturing activities occurring above, but the sounds and smells of these workshops probably reached the sidewalks. Traffic filled the narrow streets and cars crammed into parking garages and lots. The sootcovered walls, noise, smoke, and outmoded architecture of the Lower Triangle demonstrated the city's past role as the nation's foundry and not its future prospects as a modern home for corporate headquarters. On March 22, 1946, a fire in the Lower Triangle decimated the Wabash Train Station and damaged eleven warehouses that formed a significant part of the neighborhood. This event destroyed the track, station, and equipment that represented the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Railway's financial interests in the Lower Triangle and amplified the area's aesthetic problems. According to Park H. Martin, the executive director of the ACCD, the fire was the inspiration for the Conference's interest in

Mershon, 400-402.

113 redeveloping the Lower Triangle in addition to the park.5 However, evidence exists that the Conference had considered it earlier. Historian Robert C. Alberts observed that Conference members reacted to the fire with elation.6 "Wallace Richards called Ralph Griswold early next morning in a state of high excitement to convey the good news. 'You won't believe what has happened!' he began. 'The Wabash Station has burned down! They will be blaming us for it for sure!'"7 Richards, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association, led the Point Park Committee. Griswold was a landscape architect and the principal designer of the Park. Conference members were concerned that the park might not succeed without modernizing the Lower Triangle properties adjacent to it. Therefore, on June 3, 1946, they chartered the Point Redevelopment Study Committee to examine options for this 23acre area. On July 8, ACCD representatives traveled to New York City and opened negotiations with the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States to replace the Lower Triangle with modern skyscrapers. An announcement in the Allegheny Conference Digest stated that, "The objective of the program is to convert a commercial slum area of twenty-three acres into land uses required for the modern needs of the community. The redevelopment of the area adjacent to the Point Park envisages the replacement of dilapidated buildings with modern office and civic buildings and apartments."8 While the Conference targeted obsolescent structures in this statement, other descriptions of the area betrayed additional concerns about the area's function.

Park H. Martin, "Narrative of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Pittsburgh Renaissance, 1943-1958", (Unpublished, circa 1964), p. 13 in Records of Park H. Martin, 1935-1958, AIS 71:16, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh. 6 Robert C. Alberts, The Shaping of the Point: Pittsburgh's Renaissance Park (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980), 86. Alberts wrote under commission from the ACCD, local charitable foundations, and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. 7 Ibid., 86. 8 Marshall Stalley, "The Point Redevelopment Program," Allegheny Conference Digest, September 1946, 8.

Lawyer Ralph Demmler served as legal counsel for Equitable Life. He remembered the neighborhood as being blighted in his unpublished history of his former law firm. Demmler claimed that it contained a train shed and warehouses, some damaged in the Wabash fire, "some relatively run-down shops and stores," and "some boarding houses and some hotels to which male patrons made short visits."9 This unflattering portrait betrayed not only economic obsolescence but also physical decay and social unseemliness. Demmler's description, however, also hints at some of the controversy that surrounded the certification of the neighborhood. He listed other Lower Triangle amenities such as "a hotel which had once been occupied by the Pittsburgh Club," a relatively new professional building with medical offices, the Congress of Women's clubs in a rehabilitated home, and a number of substantial mercantile buildings.10 The Lower Triangle was a patchwork of conditions, with sturdy and serviceable structures interspersed amongst decaying properties. This patchwork created several problems for the ACCD. The first was logistical. There were numerous owners and tenants with interests in the Lower Triangle. Negotiating with each stakeholder would render the assembly of these properties into a large parcel for redevelopment virtually impossible. Furthermore, the presence of sound structures would have made such dealings difficult and costly. Bleak estimates of Pittsburgh's future rendered a slow and piecemeal approach impossible. The city's demographic and economic quandaries demanded swift action.

Ralph Demmler, The First Century of an Institution: Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay (Pittsburgh: Ralph Demmler, 1977), 165. w Ibid, 165.

115 By the 1940s, Pittsburgh's image problem was immense. For several decades, the region had attracted criticism. In the more prosperous 1920s, H. L. Mencken described Pittsburgh in unflattering terms, writing: I am not speaking of mere filth. One expects steel towns to be dirty. What I allude to is the unbroken and agonizing ugliness, the sheer revolting monstrousness, of every house in sight. From East Liberty to Greensburg, a distance of twenty-five miles, there was not one in sight from the train that did not insult and lacerate the eye.*' This description was one of many that, since the rise of industry in the region, forged a negative image of the city in the minds of the public. The blemishes of industry remained as growth slowed. In 1944, the Wall Street Journal reported on a study of population trends by Philip M. Hauser of the U.S. Census Bureau that rated Pittsburgh a Class D city with very little hope for recovery and future growth.12 Its dingy skies and dirty rivers further threatened its future. The smoky city was unappealing to many and downright ugly to others. As a result, several Pittsburgh companies considered moving their headquarters. Frank Magee of the Aluminum Corporation of America (ALCOA) claimed that the city's image made it difficult to recruit top executive and engineering talent to the city since prospective employees resisted moving their families to a dirty, smoky environment.13 Park H. Martin later claimed that "there were some who predicted a largescale movement of the basic steel industry out of Pittsburgh," primarily because of its

H L Mencken, Prejudices Sixth Series (New York A Knopf, 1927) Philip M Hauser, "Probable Post-War Population Shifts," The American City 58 (Feb 1943) 57-59, "Where We Live," The Wall Street Journal (June 4, 1944) 1, 6 13 In fact ALCOA had purchased land in Manhattan during the war as part of apian to relocate and it was not the only company that considered abandoning the city Alberts, 58, Frank Magee interview by Nancy Mason, 1972, The Stanton Belfour Oral History Collection, AIS OH 73 24, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh


declining physical and economic conditions. Thus, improving the city's public image would be critical to protecting its future as a site for industry and corporate headquarters. The Lower Triangle's patchwork quality threatened to undermine the modern image that Point Park would create. The typical "postcard" image of the city situated the new park site in the foreground with the Lower Triangle just behind it. From this perspective, the Lower Triangle framed the new park site with an aging, industrial backdrop. Redevelopment would provide a modern setting for the park and veneer the area behind it. Photographs of Pittsburgh would then portray a younger city poised for growth, with evidence of successful private investment. Thus, for the conference and its supporters, decay in the Lower Triangle represented many things. It involved form and function. Dilapidated and soot-covered structures lowered the area's economic and aesthetic value. Its institutions and businesses mixed classes of uses and people, breaking with prevailing tastes for rationally planned spaces and harboring undesirable uses such as brothels, boardinghouses and saloons. These conditions inspired the Conference's efforts and empowered them to take effective action. The Urban Redevelopment Law of 1945 would allow the ACCD and the city to use Lower Triangle blight to their advantage, but the Conference was aware that the new law and its use in the Gateway Center project would be controversial and prepared itself for a legal battle.15 In 1946, the ACCD commissioned housing consultant Max Nurnberg to study state redevelopment and housing laws. He recommended three changes to the
Park H. Martin, '"Role of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development in Pittsburgh's Community Development Program', Address, meeting of the North Michigan Avenue Association, November 17, 1949, Chicago, IL," in Records of Park H. Martin, 1935-1958, AIS 71:16, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh: 1949). 15 Mershon, 412-413.

Urban Redevelopment Law to avert costly legal delays in projects such as Gateway Center. First, he recommended permitting the use of eminent domain in the purchase of land and buildings in good condition, but lying within or adjacent to redevelopment areas, since they might reduce the value of the redeveloped parcels. This provision would address a tension inherent in the Gateway Center project. Furthermore, he suggested that scattered and unplanned land ownership should qualify an area for redevelopment, clarifying planning's primacy over market forces. Finally, he recommended that any suboptimal use of land preventing an area from "reaching full usefulness" qualify as blighted.16 The ACCD's interest in this report highlights the ambiguous nature of the legal definition of blight and the need to ensure developers that legal action would not interfere with their projects. The ACCD stressed to city council the necessity of an authority with the power to study potential redevelopment sites, issue bonds, manage redevelopment projects, and use eminent domain to acquire and clear land that the city's Planning Commission certified as "blighted." On November 18, 1946, the council created the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) under the provisions of the Commonwealth's Urban Redevelopment Law. The fledgling URA quickly requested a certification study for the Lower Triangle, which the Pittsburgh Planning Commission completed on March 25, 1947. The city's planners found many factors of blight in the Lower Triangle. Turning its attention to Lower Triangle real estate, the Commission claimed that out of 111 parcels, seventy-one were not adjacent to a lot held by the same owner. It claimed that
Max Nurnberg, "Review of Pennsylvania Legislation on Urban Redevelopment and Housing," October 30,1946 in Records of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, AIS 73:4, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.

forty-seven of these isolated lots were too small to support modern economic development. With excessive land coverage, they limited access to light and air, hampered deliveries to buildings, and prohibited off-street parking. The Commission also argued that the neighborhood's small sidewalks hindered window shopping and decreased pedestrian traffic. Since the street and sidewalk widening necessary to support increased traffic from Point Park would further diminish the size of these parcels, the

current street and lot layout would render the remaining lots useless. Preferring rationally ordered and segregated use patterns, it argued that industrial buildings and residences were unsuitable uses for land in a central business district. Warehouses and lodging in the upper floors of buildings "probably has occurred as a purely expedient use of a building's otherwise unneeded space in order to carry a part of the cost of what may be in truth an economically unprofitable structure, ~ a nonresidential equivalent of a residential slum."18 Citing these uses as a hindrance to the property improvement and maintenance, the Commission was only able to identify eight construction permit applications for the area in the past twenty-five years. It also compared the reduction in value of the land (excluding buildings) in the neighborhood to the rest of the city from 1933 to 1945, noting that the Lower Triangle lost 47.86% of its value while the city as a whole lost only 26.5%.19 The Commission emphasized lack of planning as a characteristic of blight, disparaging the unsupervised division and sale of lots, stating

17 City Planning Commission, An Analysis of the Point Area, Westwardly ofStanwix and Ferry Streets (Pittsburgh, 1947), 3-4. 18 Ibid, 5. 19 Ibid, 6. The Commission did not provide comparative data for the rest of downtown.

The haphazard process is obsolete, \emphasis theirs] Essentially it is a disintegrating process because it does not involve planning the subdivision of a block according to a concept of the whole block and of the aggregation of buildings which will represent the full development of the block. The patterns resulting from the haphazard process are from the beginning headed toward the obsolescence prevailing in the area under consideration; and obsolescence itself is a factor of blight.20 Thus, it held that unplanned land inherently leads to blight, fulfilling a criterion listed in the law and reinforcing planners' professional status. If obsolete street and lot layouts and lack of improvements did not blight the neighborhood, its lack of planning would condemn it to a blighted future. The certification of blight empowered the URA to start acquiring property, but it did not shield the project from the possibility of legal challenge. As a protective measure, the URA and the Equitable commissioned the architectural firm of Ludgate and Lear to survey the project area. This effort would facilitate demolition before any legal test of for-profit use of the redevelopment law, producing further evidence of blighted conditions and blueprints and photographs for reconstruction if the courts demanded it.21 The survey included the estimated age and replacement value of every structure surveyed. The average age of the buildings in the survey for which data exists was 58.73 years. The consultants estimated that the newest structure was 22 years old while the eldest was approximately 125. Approximate replacement values for these two buildings in 1950 were $1,207,071.68 and $180,233.30 respectively. The conditions of the

In its evaluation, Ludgate and Lear examined a number of architectural features including the conditions of the exterior walls, frame, floor, ceiling, roof and windows. For each criterion they issued a rating from excellent to poor and occasionally offered a few specific details. These records do not lend themselves to a strict statistical analysis of the area because of the subjective nature of the rating system and because the appraisers did not consistently apply all of the criteria to each structure. However, some generalizations are possible.

structures varied widely depending upon age and use, with the interiors generally in better condition than the exteriors. Substandard roofs and exterior walls gave the neighborhood an appearance of decay.22 Interestingly, the character of the survey changed as it progressed. Early entries focused on the old age and dilapidated conditions of the buildings, but after the ACCD won victories in the state and federal courts defending the Urban Redevelopment Law, they grew less precise and offered suggestions for adaptive reuse. This is significant in that it may indicate that the contractors, and possibly the developers, were considering retaining some of the original structures in the project area, even if only temporarily. It also suggests a utilitarian attitude toward blight and its dual nature. The URA and ACCD had to defend the certification of blight to maintain their access to the power of eminent domain. However, in doing so they risked representing any remaining buildings as bad investments. Thus, the survey was both a legal exhibit and a strategic document capable of defending the project in the courts of law and public opinion. The latter was not trivial, for the management of public opinion would be critical to success. Since Gateway Center was potentially controversial as the first project in the United States to use eminent domain to transfer private property to new owners for forprofit commercial development, its supporters had to educate the public about the dangers of blight and the value of their proposed remedy.23 To begin, they needed information about neighborhood stakeholders. Therefore, the city and the developers commissioned a series of "personality reports" to document each owner's and tenant's feelings about the project and to assess the likelihood that they might interfere with its

Ludgate and Lear, "Survey Report." in Records of Gateway Center (Pittsburgh, Pa.), 1950-1951, MSS# 130, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. 23 Alberts, 99-107.

progress. Agents recorded the reactions of everyone they contacted throughout the acquisition process, including owners and tenants of record, their families, employees, and friends. These reports and testimony at public hearings demonstrate the diversity of opinion about the neighborhood conditions and the project. Some of the stakeholders were supportive even though they faced eviction. They saw the area as declining and believed that the project was important to the future viability of the city. Other supporters worried that legal challenges would halt progress. Albert W. Schenck, a supportive building owner, agreed to sue the city, state, URA, and Equitable Life to test the legal status of the law. To speed the litigation process, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (SCOPA) took original jurisdiction in the case and ruled in favor of the defendants on January 11, 1950, stating that it would not question the certification of blight or the use of eminent domain in the absence of evidence of bad faith. Additionally, the justices affirmed that the Planning Commission based its findings on the criteria listed in the law.24 This ruling protected both the Gateway Center project and future initiatives. It established the constitutionality of the use of the 1945 Redevelopment Law in for-profit commercial projects and set a precedent that gave planning commissions throughout the state a free hand in defining urban blight. Not all neighborhood stakeholders favored this ruling or the project. The personality reports and public hearings demonstrated that some supported the idea of progress, but disparaged the neighborhood's blight certification. Jack Weiner, a building owner, suggested at during a January 3 public hearing that the project could spare existing buildings and businesses by using vacant land. This would allow neighborhood stakeholders to benefit from the project. During the meeting, Thomas E. Killgalen,

Schenck v. Pittsburgh et al., 364 Pa. 31, 70 A.2d 612 (1950).

122 president of the city council, charged that local business owners failed to maintain their properties. In response, Weiner claimed that owners cooperated with improvement plans by cleaning and painting their buildings. He further stated that the city failed to give area stakeholders an opportunity to dispute the findings of blight in the neighborhood before the council.25 The law, however, did not provide for a grievance process against the Planning Commission for its findings. It only mandated a public hearing before City Council could take action on the redevelopment contract. One week after the hearings, on January 10, the city approved Equitable's plan for Gateway Center, which would replace the Lower Triangle with several LeCorbusier-inspired office towers in a park-like setting. In a Valentine's Day ceremony, the URA and the Equitable signed the approved redevelopment contract, clearing the way for the start of demolition on May 18. Opposition against the project continued. Some demonstrated their belief that the Lower Triangle was not blighted through their investment decisions. August Wunderly moved his art gallery to the neighborhood due to the improvements that were underway before the announcement of Gateway Center. In an article in the Pittsburgh SunTelegraph he said, "Our idea of coming down here was the fact that this area had a futurethere was going to be a park built, and the government was spending millions to build dams to eliminate the flood hazard."26 Even after the redevelopment plan went public, he resisted leaving downtown. He and three other local businessmen searched in vain for a location to combine their related businesses into a single "arts" center.


Pittsburgh City Council, Proceedings: Special Meeting of City Council (January 3, 1950), 43, in Records of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (Pittsburgh, Pa.), MSS#285, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. 26 Mina Wetzig, "Mournful Note at PointWith Eviction Day Near," Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, May 7, 1950.

Eventually, Wunderly settled amicably with the Authority, although he did not agree that the Lower Triangle was a blighted area worthy of the wrecking ball. One of Wunderly's colleagues actively fought the neighborhood's fate. Interior designer and building owner Andrew Gamble served as the president of the Property Owners and Tenants Protective Committee. This organization represented an anonymous group of stakeholders in its efforts to stop the project. In an effort to sway public opinion, the organization placed a full-page advertisement in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on May 8, 1950, entitled, "Here's a Pittsburgh Example of How You Can Throw a Going Business Into the Street." It stated that the Lower Triangle was "an area shown by a recent impartial national survey to have a retail trading value index of 80%... only 20% percent less than the corner of Fifth and Smithfield."27 It argued that the URA wrongly declared the area blighted and that the neighborhood was home to a number of "good profitable businesses and modern buildings." Under the heading, "Of Course, If You Don't Get In The Way, You Don't Get Hurt," it critiqued the ambiguous definition of blight. The developers scheduled demolition in stages, avoiding buildings for which planners had no immediate use. According to the Protective Committee, one of the first to be demolished, the Professional Building, was "one of the highest-priced-per-square-foot modern buildings in town." It housed mostly doctors, rather than nuisance industries. Additionally the Committee cited a number of buildings slated for destruction that it counted as fully modern. It accused the developers of declaring them blighted merely because they got in

Property Owners and Tenants Protective Committee, "Here's a Pittsburgh Example of How You Can Throw a Going Business into the Street," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 8, 1950. It did not mention the source of this claim. Fifth and Smithfield was home to Kaufmann 's, a large and popular Downtown department store.


124 the way of Gateway Center's towers and their views of the Point Park that the city was constructing nearby. Another group of owners hired attorney Gilbert E. Morecroft to represent them in a series of lawsuits aimed at overturning the certification.28 Speaking before the Pittsburgh Real Estate Board after losing appeals in the state and federal courts, Morecroft stated that, "We don't believe this area is blighted. We ask for a chance to prove it."29 Reacting to the SCOPA ruling, he stated that the courts' unwillingness to question the certification of blight "denies for the first time in a case of this kind the right of citizens to obtain a judicial review of an administrative action alleged to be arbitrary and capricious."30 He also accused the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a newspaper supportive of the project, of manipulating public opinion by illustrating "blighted" conditions in the neighborhood with a photograph of city-owned buildings that did not require eminent domain for demolition and another that depicted buildings that investors had planned to replace with a new bus terminal, but abandoned when the Planning Commission certified the neighborhood as blighted.31 Thus, the city contributed to the alleged blight in two ways. First it neglected its properties, although it likely obtained them in poor condition from tax delinquent owners. Additionally, its certification of blight fostered disinvestment and discouraged improvements through existing private real estate market


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Gateway Plan Facing New Legal Hurdle" April 12, 1950. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Point Area Development Called Unjust," May 10 1950. 30 Ibid. 31 The newspaper did not mention that the blighted structures were municipal property. His argument is in reference to: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Many Property Owners Not Protesting Development Plan in Lower Triangle," May 9, 1950. The article was a rebuttal of the Protective Committee's advertisement.

125 mechanisms. The Post-Gazette's coverage obscured the city's role in the development of blighted conditions in the Lower Triangle. Other newspapers supported the project while recognizing its social and economic opportunity costs. In a series of articles in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, Mina Wetzig described the Lower Triangle as a community asset, rather than an eyesore. Emphasizing loss in the face of progress, she stated "skyscrapers will rise, the Lower Triangle will become a glittering Gateway Center for a Proud Pittsburgh, but the colorful atmospherethe stuff that seems to cling to dark corners of dark buildingswill be gone."32 She highlighted neighborhood social investments through histories of the families that founded area businesses. She also documented the stories of employees and shoppersstakeholders with interests, but no legal claim. Although these individuals never mentioned blight specifically, their social investments in the neighborhood demonstrated the vitality of its community. The Green Mill Restaurant is a good example of this sentiment. The waitresses knew most of their local customers by name. In return, the clientele credited them with creating a sense of community through the establishment, stating that "[tjhose girls built this place up. They've made it kind of a club."33 The personality reports indicate that the owners did not realize until too late the inevitability of eviction. They were immigrant businessmen who did not believe that the URA would forcibly close their successful venture. The Green Mill was not the only resource in the neighborhood. The Lower Triangle was home to the only rooftop dining establishment in the city and the region's last United Cigar Store. A torch outside the store lit the cigars of the men who met there
Mina Wetzig, "Romance Faces Eviction! Colorful Triangle Fades Before Progress," Pittsburgh SunTelegraph, April 2, 1950. 33 Ibid.

to share the news of the day. The closing of the store extinguished the flame and eliminated a functioning social space. Rather than decaying and abandoned, these establishments attracted a clientele to the streets of downtown. The extent of these social networks led Wetzig to claim, "the Lower Triangle is a neighborhood in a way that isn't found in any other part of downtown."34 Less commercial in nature, a number of social and fraternal organizations had meeting spaces in the area, attracting visitors from throughout the region. The PostGazette reported on galas at the Elks lodge.35 The Congress of Clubs and Club Women owned a renovated building in the Lower Triangle that it used for social gatherings and as headquarters for its charitable efforts throughout the region. Mrs. Ira Marshall, president of the Congress, stated at a public hearing that approximately two hundred regional women's organizations used it for regular meetings. She further claimed that the organization benefitted downtown economically, stating that women from surrounding communities "come to Pittsburgh to shop and spend their money in our Pittsburgh department stores and often stay over for evening dinner and go to our theatres. There is no other club in the Pittsburgh vicinity that offers these women the privileges and conveniences that is offered them by the Congress of Clubs and Club Women."36 She argued that the project left no room for women and their valuable work in the community and that the blight certification and plans for its removal did not take into account the valuable community resources that would disappear.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Elks' Official Visits Here," December 15, 1949. Pittsburgh City Council, Proceedings: Special Meeting of City Council, 17-18. 37 Planned Parenthood, the Association for the Improvement of the Poor, and the Women's Industrial Exchange were among the non-profits in the neighborhood.


Project supporters knew that the Lower Triangle remained appealing for many Pittsburghers despite its age and worn conditions. They feared that community ties or sympathy with stakeholders might sway opinion against the project. They viewed public apathy as a guarantee of future stasis, if not decline. Arthur Van Buskirk, chairman of the ACCD's Point Park committee, claimed that Pittsburgh suffered from "the smoke, the floods and the lack of faith of the community."38 Park H. Martin bemoaned the apathy of the public, even when faced with issues that directly affected its health and quality of life.39 According to these leaders, the negative image of Pittsburgh had become ingrained in its people, thereby perpetuating both a physical and a social blight. Their efforts to emphasize the dangers of blight demonstrate the role of the concept as a consensusbuilding public relations tool. Some ACCD members fought apathy and resistance with their capital and influence. Pittsburgh-based Kaufmann's Department Stores published a pamphlet outlining the causes of blight, its dangers, and the bright prospects Pittsburgh could have with public support for redevelopment. Entitled Pittsburgh In Progress, the publication claimed that blight was inevitable for a city as dynamic as Pittsburgh. Growing too quickly and without the benefit of proper urban planning, it had become unwieldy. The pamphlet stated: "since the city grew 'like a weed,' there came to be a blight upon many of the city's communities. Such blight, a cancerous growth, caused further decay of the older and ever more desperately neglected areas within the city, and tended to infect the

Arthur Van Buskirk, interview by Nancy Mason and Nancy Caruso, 1972, The Stanton Belfour Oral History Collection, AIS OH 73:24, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh. 39 Park H. Martin, '"Pittsburgh Moves Ahead', Address, ninth annual meeting of Friends of the Land, September 8,1949, Pittsburgh, PA," in Records of Park H. Martin, 1935-1958, AIS 71:16, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.

younger communities." This medical metaphor typified both public and professional discourse about blight. It emphasized the need for surgery. The pamphlet accentuated social and public health problems to motivate support. It associated tuberculosis with urban blight, claiming that sixty people contracted the disease in blighted areas for every forty cases elsewhere. It also stated that blighted areas housed fifty percent of all disease. Furthermore, it attributed social ills to urban decay, claiming that over half of juvenile delinquents in the United States come from blighted areas.41 To its authors, blight was not only an economic condition but also a disease eating at the heart of the community. Kaufmann's pamphlet exemplified efforts to generate support through fostering a fear of blight. For the Allegheny Conference and other pro-redevelopment interests, blight as a representation of decline had detrimental physical, economic, and social aspects. The physical decay in the urban core led to a negative image of the city, making it difficult to attract corporations, or even good employees to the region.42 In turn, this negative image decreased interest in investment and encouraged corporations currently in the city to seek headquarters elsewhere, damaging its physical and financial future. At the same time, supporters saw the public as complacently accepting blighted conditions as the price of its prosperity while remaining unaware that blight was simultaneously eroding the source of its jobs and wealth. Supporters also recognized the utility of blight as a legal concept. They used it to establish the Lower Triangle as a redevelopment area. However, without the benefit of

Kaufmann's Department Stores, Pittsburgh in Progress (Pittsburgh: Kaufmann's Department Stores, 1947) in Records of Park H. Martin, 1935-1958, AIS 71:16, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh. 41 Ibid. 42 Magee, interview.

129 precedent, they could not be sure that their understanding of the concept was legally acceptable. The ACCD and the URA worked both in the legislature and in the courts to defend their position. In this struggle, they received the support of the city, the state, the legal system and a number of local stakeholders. Those in support of preserving aspects of the Lower Triangle did not recognize it as blighted and demonstrated their opinions through protest and investment. They defended the image of their neighborhood at public hearings and in the press, rejecting its blighted status. Some owners challenged the certification and the use of eminent domain in court, rejecting any representation of their neighborhood as blighted and any legal use of the term to aid in its removal. Thus, the Gateway Center redevelopment project and community reaction to it exemplified the dual and contested nature of urban blight and the various important roles that the concept played in Pittsburgh's redevelopment process before the start of federal urban renewal. As an important representation of decline, it affected not only perceptions of urban problems but also understandings of how to solve them. Its connection to decline made it particularly applicable to the city's post-war woes and political and public understandings of Pittsburgh's present conditions and future challenges. As a legal term, newly enshrined in Commonwealth law, it enabled the use of eminent domain to rebuild the Lower Triangle and rehabilitate the city's public image. Close cooperation with planners and the applicability of the concept to local understandings of urban problems facilitated blight's roles in pre-renewal redevelopment and firmly entrenched its position in local policy. This was not the case in Hamilton, where local conditions and attitudes about planning reduced blight's importance in the creation of a master plan.

Hamilton: The Rough Road to a Master Plan The history of urban planning in Hamilton during the first half of the century ran counter to the experiences of Pittsburgh and many other North American cities. In the early twentieth century, the city maintained an active interest in parks and city beautification while rejecting trends in the planning profession toward scientific efficiency, safety, and rationality.43 Even as the federal and provincial legislatures began to embrace scientific planning practice through housing and development policy in the 1940s, Hamilton resisted and at times decisively rejected the diagnoses and treatments promoted by professional planners and their supporters. A consequence of this rejection was the diminished role of blight in local planning discourse by the 1930s. Blight had strong roots in professional planning theory and practice. Throughout the early twentieth century, it became a primary representation of urban ills in planning circles denoting a wide variety of problems. It was not the only available concept, just as planners were not the only experts interested in reforming and rebuilding the city. Blight coexisted with and competed against the ideas and representations of public health professionals and housing reformers, as well as the aesthetic concerns of those who supported the city beautiful movement. Many of these approaches directly addressed local understandings of Hamilton's challenges resulting in greater interest in overcrowding, slums, and aesthetics than in blight. Although Hamilton's resistance to the concerns of professional planners diminished and complicated blight's place among local representations of urban ills and the policy solutions adopted to solve them, the concept did not disappear. External forces in the
For an argument regarding Hamilton's shift from beatification to scientific efficiency, see: Nicholas Terpstra, "Local Politics and Local Planning: A Case Study of Hamilton, Ontario, 1915-1930," Urban History Review XIV, no. 2 (October 1985): 115.

131 form of public policy in the 1940s made a scientific approach to planning more appealing, sustaining the concept in local discourse despite resistance. The National Housing Act of 1944 was the first federal housing policy in North America to directly address blight. The legislation was Canada's first step toward urban renewal and a powerful motivation for planning. It offered partial funding to enable municipalities to replace slums, and blighted and sub-standard areas with new housing. To qualify for a grant, a city needed a master plan to guide development and authorization from provincial authorities to purchase land in slums and blighted areas.44 In Ontario, this permission came from the Planning Act, which required that municipalities apply to the provincial Minister of Planning and Development to establish a "planning area." This application enabled the creation of a master plan and a permanent municipal planning board. Once the local planning board, the city council, and the provincial planning minister approved the master plan, a municipality could acquire, clear, and convert land for the purpose of implementing the plan.45 Therefore, cities interested in tapping into federal resources to convert slums and blighted areas into modern housing had to invest in comprehensive town planning. Hamilton had many reasons to seek help. The Great Depression halted the construction and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure. Decay and overcrowding plagued the city, particularly in the North End neighborhood adjacent to the city's core.46 The dearth of adequate housing was a particular concern, hurting not only those forced into overcrowded conditions, but also industries hungry for labor.

National Housing Act, Statutes of Canada 1944, c.46, s. 12. Planning Act, Statutes of Ontario 1946, c.71, s. 2-3, 14-15, 18. 46 John C. Weaver, Hamilton: An Illustrated History (Toronto: Lorimer, 1982), 141-142.

132 Hamilton's city council was well aware of these problems and others facing the municipality and on September 20, 1944, it debated how to address them. A number of aldermen and Mayor Samuel Lawrence promoted the use of outside experts. For this they looked to Town Planning Consultants, Ltd. (TPC) of Toronto, which outlined a two-stage process starting with an investigation of the city's problems and culminating in a formal master plan to address them. This proposal inspired mixed reactions from the council. Some members advocated using city employees to study the challenges facing the city. Unlike Pittsburgh, however, Hamilton did not yet have an official planning body charged with the task and all city employees capable of such work were otherwise occupied. T. B. McQuesten, a highly respected former member of the city's Parks Board and a recent provincial Minister of Highways, suggested an alternative solution that would address the city's shortage of planning staff. He supported the use of experts but questioned the need to have them document problems that were already well known to everyone. Rather he recommended that the city present those issues directly to experts for their opinions.47 Both of these suggestions betrayed mixed feelings about the planning process, the primacy of professional planners, and the need to scientifically document the city's problems before attempting to solve them. Ultimately the council hired TPC to undertake the first stage of planning at a cost of $3,480.48 The lingering misgivings about professional planning, its methods, and its value would not diminish as the process progressed, with ramifications for TPC and the concepts that it used to represent and analyze Hamilton's problems, including blight.


Hamilton Spectator, "Town Planning Scheme Approved by City Council," September 21, 1944.

133 As in Pittsburgh, the task of town planning in Hamilton was a collaborative effort. Hungarian-born and Italian-educated planner Eugenio G. Faludi led the process on behalf of TPC. He fled fascist Italy in 1939, leaving Milan and settling in Canada where he served as a lecturer at the University of Toronto and at McGill. He founded TPC in 1944 with a university colleague and eventually worked on plans for Sault Ste. Marie, Regina, Toronto, and a number of smaller Ontario cities. Faludi was active in the community of North American professional planners, attending conferences and publishing in journals. Like many of his colleagues, the concept of blight suffused his writings about cities and many of his plans. As a solution, he promoted building clearance and rehabilitation, as well as reducing population densities, presaging the work of later planners laboring under the rubric of urban renewal. 9 To work with Dr. Faludi and TPC, Hamilton City Council appointed a Town Planning Committee consisting of municipal politicians and civic leaders including representatives of the construction industry, labor unions, academia, women's groups, and local planning and engineering experts.50 Faludi, the Committee, and an administrative staff labored for approximately five months. The final report was due at the expiration of the city's contract with TPC at the end of January 1945; however, housing data collection delayed the project, forcing the Committee to request additional funds from city council to keep its office open for another month. The request exacerbated the extant ill will between TPC and some members of council. Alderman Herbert L. Smye argued that the council should not spend more


John Sewell, The Shape of the City: Toronto Struggles with Modern Planning (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), 54-55, 60. 50 Globe & Mail, "Board of Control Choose Representative Citizens," October 4,1944.

money when it had not seen evidence of the quality of TPC's work. Controller David A. Clarke also expressed misgivings, but was more amenable to the value of professional planning: Personally, I am somewhat sceptical (sic) of the usefulness of planning by professional men along idealistic lines, but we may get something of value from the expenditure of this additional $500 and as a taxpayer I would be willing to gamble that we will get value for the money.52 Ultimately the council approved the expenditure after persuasive arguments in favor of the project including a plea from Alderman Helen Anderson, a member of the Planning Committee, asserting that the city should be willing to spend the money on a housing survey as the shortage of dwellings was perhaps the greatest problem facing the city. This success came at a price. The delay raised concerns among some aldermen about TPC's professionalism and skill.53 Their arguments spread to the general public through reports on council sessions published in the Hamilton Spectator that exposed their misgivings and potentially prejudiced TPC's wider audience. This had the potential to damage the report's credibility and make the public resistant to its diagnosis of the city's ills. The nature of the project itself complicated the task. Entitled "Report on Existing Conditions Prepared as Base Materials for Planning," the publication exposed the unseemly side of Hamilton. In doing so, it overlaid blighted areas and other blemishes upon a familiar municipal map. It represented familiar homes and streets as sickly liabilities, tainting the personal geographies of councilors and their constituents with
51 Hamilton Spectator, "Council Extends Town Planners' Contract Terms," January 26,1945. This was TPC's first major project and the organization had intended to use it as a marketing tool for future clients. Hamilton Spectator, "Council Decides to Drop Town Planning Consultants," February 28, 1945. 52 "Council Extends Town Planners' Contract Terms." 53 Concerns among council members over TPC's performance led to a splinter group traveling to Toronto to meet with the provincial planning department for advice. After this meeting, some of those initially opposed to TPC changed positions on the issue.

135 professional findings of decay and obsolescence. The "discovery" that Hamilton was blighted came as a surprise to some in government and in the general public, creating a potential for conflict between doctor and patient. The report's approach to blight reflected its authors' planning experience. In line with professional planners' use of blight throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the report framed it as a residential problem. It did not, however, limit its use of the concept to its most common economic form: stagnation or decline of property values.54 It took a wider view, incorporating economic, physical, and social conditions into its evaluations of the soundness of a neighborhood, resulting in a more holistic understanding of the problems facing the city. It had the potential to be more descriptive of actual conditions at a time when property values might bear the influence of years of war, materials and labor shortages, and inadequate housing.55 Faludi and the Committee overlaid the concept of blight onto Hamilton's map by classifying neighborhoods into three categories: sound, declining, and blighted.56 This tripartite division indicated that blight was distinctly worse than mere decline. It represented property that had strayed so far from planning ideals as to be rendered useless and potentially dangerous to adjacent parcels and the city at large. Only the scalpel could

For an early example at an attempt to define blight: J. Randolph Coolidge, "The Problem of the Blighted District," in Proceedings of the Fourth National Conference on City Planning, Boston, MA, May 27-29, 1912 (Boston, MA: National Conference on City Planning, 1912), 101. 5; 'Although Hamilton possessed relatively healthy housing stock in comparison to the rest of the country, local officials were concerned about housing conditions. By the mid 1940s, they became concerned with the supply of housing and the dearth of building materials. For examples of local concern, see "Council Extends Town Planners' Contract Terms;" Hamilton Spectator, "Town Planning Committee Will Decide Future Plans," March 1, 1945; For information on housing conditions, see Michael Doucet and John Weaver, Housing the North American City (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991). 56 City Planning Committee of Hamilton and Town Planning Consultants Limited, Report on Existing Conditions Prepared as Base Materialfor Planning (Hamilton: City Planning Committee and Town Planning Consultants Limited. 1945), Existing Conditions3.

excise the rot and allow the city to heal. Declining properties, by contrast, were salvageable although at risk of becoming blighted. The authors claimed that 48.6% of Hamilton neighborhoods were declining.57 Social, physical, and economic features betrayed these decadent areas. Neighborhoods marred with obsolete design and low-quality, poorly maintained houses fell into this category. Excessive land coverage by structures could also mark a property as declining, as this condition reduced space for children to play and provided residents with less light and reduced airflow. Decline could even strike properties in serviceable condition. A scarcity of residential amenities, including garages, side driveways, and modern and easily accessible parks and schools, characterized declining areas. Traffic-choked streets and overpopulated dwellings did as well. Thus, the report portrayed the health of a neighborhood holistically, emphasizing modern, clean, and well-maintained houses, as well as community institutions and accessible public resources. Another 25.8% of neighborhoods had declined to the point of becoming blighted.58 Faludi understood blight and decline to be similar, differing mainly in intensity. The report listed "actual physical deterioration and delapidation (sic) of dwellings," the existence of "numerous derelict properties," and excessive land coverage as physical characteristics of blight. Each of these factors existed to some extent in declining neighborhoods. As with decline, the conditions of community institutions and resources contributed to blight. A lack of "reasonable recreational, cultural and social facilities" marked neighborhoods as blighted. Public health concerns were another shared characteristic. Both blighted and declining neighborhoods hosted high-density

Ibid., Existing Conditions~6. Ibid., Existing Conditions--?.

populations, although the report indicated that houses in blighted areas often lacked sufficient modern sanitation facilities to support the health and well-being of their residents.5 Following well-established planning conventions, the authors claimed that the intrusion of incompatible uses marked declining and blighted areas. Declining areas experienced only isolated intrusions from small shops and factories while blighted areas were more fully affected. Not only did unwanted commerce and industry hurt residential areas as nuisances, but the traffic they produced did as well. Traffic passing through neighborhoods to adjacent commercial and industrial areas could blight areas through noise, pollution, and reduced safety for neighborhood children. In these ways, the extensive mixing of land uses both signified and degraded blighted neighborhoods. Blight and decline were similar, but not exactly the same. Not only did the states differ in intensity, but blight also possessed some unique symptoms. Poor economic conditions denoted blighted areas exclusively. Although declining property values in these areas most directly diminished the owner's investment, the report emphasized their effects on municipal coffers. Many blighted areas exhibited "high assessed values coupled with [an] inability to earn high taxes on an economic basis, resulting in a total reduction in tax revenues."60 This was particularly salient to city councils, which felt the squeeze of provincial limitations on the sources of municipal revenues in the immediate post-war era. By representing blight as an economic problem, Faludi and the Committee could potentially motivate City Council to both address blighted areas and halt decay in declining areas.

59 60

Ibid., Existing Conditions~6-7. Ibid., Existing Conditions--?.

138 Thus, blight differed from decline by severity and through blight's association with municipal economic hardship. The combination of these factors led to the report's conclusion that Hamilton could salvage its declining areas, but must raze and redevelop its blighted neighborhoods anew. These prescriptions related not only to the symptoms of blight and decline but also to their causes. For this reason, the authors of the report elaborated upon the origins of Hamilton's blight in support of their recommended cure. In the report, Faludi and the Town Planning Committee promoted disinvestment as the primary cause of Hamilton's blight. Blight came from "...a marked instability of attachment to a given area exhibited by families in the middle income bracket," according to the document.61 This was both a conservative and a somewhat innovative statement. Planners throughout the twentieth century had long attributed blight and decay to the presence of the wrong "sort" of people. Some, such as Asher Achinstein, connected blight with the presence of non-white and immigrant communities.62 Others, such as George Herrold, focused upon class, character, or "desirability."63 Still others scrutinized buildings and their occupants, such as Charles Frederick Puff, Jr., who claimed that builders experiencing losses related to blight were learning that "'blighting' a high-class neighborhood with houses entirely out of its class is poor business." 4 The wrong class of house likely indicated the wrong class of resident. The claim that middle-class disinvestment was the root cause of blight was also somewhat innovative. Many early twentieth-century planners presented middle and

Report on Existing Conditions, Existing Conditions11. Asher Achinstein, "Some Economic Characteristics of Blighted Areas," The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics 11, no. 1. (February 1935): 46. Also, George H. Herrold, "Obsolescence in Cities," Planner's Journal, (November/December 1935): 73, 75. 63 Herrold, "Obsolescence in Cities," 73. 64 Charles Frederick Puff, Jr., "Relation between the Small House and the Town Plan," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 51 (January 1914): 150.

139 upper-middle-class homeowners as besieged and beleaguered defenders of fixed investments. John Ihlder, for example, claimed that homeowners demanded protection for their investments.65 His primary concern was not that homeowners would relocate, but that they would stop maintaining their property. By the 1940s, as decentralization first appeared to be more of a demon than a savior to North America's old urban centers, planners began to represent these homeowners not as victims, but as consumers. Homer Hoyt in 1943, for example, claimed that better planned suburban communities were attracting higher and middle-income groups away from cities.66 With its claim that middle class Hamiltonians had to be convinced to stay in the city's older and established residential neighborhoods through good planning and amenities, the report built upon the anti-decentralization phenomenon. It gave middle class homeowners agency, but not responsibility for preventing or permitting the appearance blight. The blame for blight rested upon the city that did not properly attract and retain this desirable class of residents. As the root cause of blight, middle-class disinvestment had its own contributing factors. In their report, Faludi and the Committee stressed that middle class attachment to a neighborhood hinged upon the presence of sufficient modern amenities. Poorly placed or deficient parks and schools could inspire disinvestment and make suburbs more attractive. Additionally, the poorly maintained structures in declining areas could reduce the motivation of other neighborhood property owners to maintain their houses.


John Ihlder, "How City Planning Affects Real Estate Values," Planning Problems of Town, City and Region: Papers and Discussions at the Nineteenth National Conference on City Planning. (Philadelphia: Wm. F. Fell Co., 1927): 79. 66 Homer Hoyt, "Rebuilding American Cities after the War," The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics 19, no. 3. (August 1943): 365.

140 The resulting disinvestment of middle class residents facilitated the introduction of additional blighting factors, many of which had a strong presence in early twentieth century planning literature. Some of these also appeared as symptoms of blight in the report. They both indicated and entrenched its presence. The intrusion of commerce and industry into residential neighborhoods appeared in the report and figured prominently among the blighting influences with roots in the early twentieth-century writings of planners like Bartholomew, Ihlder, Bettman and others.67 Incompatible land uses hampered the resident's ability to enjoy his or her property according to the middle-class standards that planners promoted and fostered blight through nuisances, traffic, pollution, and danger to children and pedestrians. It both encouraged disinvestment and through abandonment, created a vacuum for additional incompatible uses to fill. The report also listed high-density populations as a characteristic of both blighted and declining areas. These conditions could arise with middle-class abandonment. High densities and overcrowding encouraged the conversion of houses into multi-unit dwellings which absentee homeowners could find highly profitable. As owners shed some of their interests in their property, formerly grand single-family homes became primarily financial investments that generated profits and higher population densities. This, in turn, fostered blight. Not everything about blight in the report was bleak. Blighted areas were also a potential solution for the city's housing crisis. Among their recommendations, Faludi and

Harlan Bartholomew, "The Prevention of Economic Waste by City Planning," The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics 1, no. 1. (January 1925): 83 - 88; John Ihlder, "Rehabilitation of Blighted Areas: The Part of City Planning," City Planning 6, no. 2 (April 1930): 109; Alfred Bettman, "The Fact Bases of Zoning," City Planning 1, no. 2, (July 1925): 90.


141 the Committee suggested that the city avail itself of the slum clearance provisions of the National Housing Act of 1944.68 Doing so would allow the city to replace its economic and physical ailments with sorely needed affordable housing developments. In order to gain access to financial assistance from the federal government, the city needed a master plan to guide development, restrictive zoning to protect investments in housing, and permission from provincial authorities to purchase the land. This in turn required the adoption of a master plan and the creation of a planning board under the Ontario Planning Act. Thus, this solution to blight would simultaneously legitimate the act of planning by the authority of federal and provincial law. Additionally, it would potentially eliminate substandard living conditions, fill city coffers with federal slum clearance funds and engrossed tax rolls, address the housing crisis, and embed planning into the functions of municipal government. At its core, the solution was to raze and replace blighted housing. Just as a doctor treats a disease based on an understanding of its symptoms, Faludi and the Committee recommended slum clearance as a result of their understandings of the concept of blight and nature of a healthy urban neighborhood. Their report stated that "it must be realized that every neighbourhood community in the City was once sound and a satisfactory residential area."69 Thus, the life span of a neighborhood was primarily spent in conflict against forces of decline, with sound neighborhoods successfully defending themselves against the loss of social and economic values. Those that could not do so sunk into decay and blight. The government could provide assistance to arrest decline, but ultimately had to replace areas that fell too far.

Report on Existing Conditions, Conclusion~3. Ibid., Existing Conditions10.

142 This vision of the city's life cycle was decidedly middle-class. It overlooked the experiences of the individuals in closest contact with declining and blighted areasthe working classes and the poor.70 A number of historians have demonstrated that some North American working class neighborhoods began as self-built shack communities.71 This was true of a few of the enclaves that formed during the First World War along Hamilton's harbor, which started as colonies of sheds and boathouses.72 Residents in neighborhoods like these valued the hunting, fishing, and recreation opportunities that their communities provided over the planner's vision of order. Other more common forms of working class shelter, like rooms in boarding houses, multi-family dwellings converted from single-family homes, and small houses, suited the needs and budgets of laboring households but did not necessarily meet middle-class expectations of a sound neighborhood. Faludi's understanding of a healthy city excluded these communities, coding the laborers' attempts to shelter and feed a family as factors of decay rather than as forms of growth. Based on this concept of urban growth and decay, the report either ignored working class community investments or presented them as signs of middle class disinvestmentthe root cause of blight. Thus the report presented a relatively conservative depiction of blight rooted in early twentieth century planners' understandings of the concept. It was primarily residential and threatened the use and investment value of housing as opposed to the

Historians Ken Cruikshank and Nancy Bouchier took Faludi to task for this omission. They assert that his report ignored the needs of the working classes by quarantining their communities. Rather than elevate conditions in them, he recommended eliminating them, assuming that they were beyond repair and without value. See Ken Cruikshank and Nancy B. Bouchier, "Blighted Areas and Obnoxious Industries: Constructing Environmental Inequality on an Industrial Waterfront, Hamilton, Ontario, 1890-1960," Environmental History 9, no. 3 (July 2004): 464-496. 71 See/Andrew Weise, Places of Their Own (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004); Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia (New York: Vintage Books, 2003). 72 Cruikshank & Bouchier, 481.


143 commercial and industrial threat that it posed in Pittsburgh. In both cities, however, blight and decline served as the planners' primary representations of urban ills, labeling the distance between current conditions and planners' ideals. While planning interests in Pittsburgh put these ideals into practice through reshaping the Lower Triangle, those in Hamilton suggested establishing a foundation for slum clearance and redevelopment through further planning and public policy. The report offered a number of initial recommendations to alleviate Hamilton's ailments. The suggestions covered a wide range of topics, from industry and transportation to welfare and recreation. Regarding residential areas, Faludi advised the rehabilitation of declining areas and the replacement of blighted ones with communities planned according to middle-class standards. To achieve this, the city needed a master plan and a comprehensive zoning by-law. The plan would describe a future Hamilton forged according to middle-class values. The by-law would then overlay and enforce the geography of these values onto the city map. Finally, clearance would replace the regions of blight exposed in the report. Put another way, the master plan represented an ideal Hamilton, while zoning and clearance provided the policy framework to create and protect it. All of these steps combined were necessary to achieve Faludi's vision. To enact the program, Faludi and the Committee had to garner the support of city council for a number of key assertions. This task was more arduous in Hamilton than in Pittsburgh. First, the aldermen had to accept both the report's assessment of the city's problems and its use of "decline" and "blight" as compelling representations of those ills. Then, they had to support those representations as justification for the report's recommendations. All of these assertions had roots in one critical and controversial

144 proposition: that planners were the correct authority to diagnose and treat Hamilton's ailments. Along the rough road to the city's first master plan, support for each of these assertions would falter at one time or another, damaging the power of blight as a representation of the city's urban problems and reducing its importance in municipal rhetoric and policy. By contrast, not only did Pittsburgh's redevelopment interests look to planners for guidance and assistance, but Pennsylvania law required their professional assessment of blighted conditions. This elevated the importance of both planners and blight in the city's redevelopment efforts and accelerated the transformation of the Lower Triangle. Hamilton's resistance to professional opinion ultimately weakened enough to allow for the creation of a plan and a comprehensive zoning by-law, but not without struggle. One of the keys to winning this support was a careful public relations campaign. The Committee conducted a series of nine meetings with community organizations while drafting its report.73 At each, it met with different sectors of Hamilton society, including organized labor, management and finance, the professions, those interested in recreation issues, welfare organizations, cultural institutions, public utilities, transportation interests, and the councils of adjacent municipalities. There it explained the goals of the planning project and listened to various opinions about the future of the city. From these meetings, Faludi and the Committee claimed to have public approval across income lines, quoting expressions of support from each interest group in their report. Although they attempted to engage a broad array of urban interests, their efforts failed to address two of the most important constituencies: the City Council and the media.

Report on Existing Conditions, Public Opinion Survey1.

145 The local newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator, digested both the contents of the report and the proceedings of city council for the general public. Its coverage exposed the unseemly side of the city and the planning process. Before the release of the report, the paper relayed the doubts of city council members as to the value of TPC's work, complicating public reception of the findings. Upon the report's publication, the Spectator noted that it contained observations and recommendations that might shock the average reader.74 Blight appeared in this article, but a typographical error omitted the word from a digest of the report's findings, relegating it solely to the summary of recommendations. The paper's delicate approach to divulging the planner's evaluation of urban conditions in Hamilton hinted at an audience potentially caught unaware. Confirmation of this came the next day when the Spectator published an editorial that encouraged citizens to read the report and to make an informed decision about the future of the city. It promoted the utility of the bad news, stating that "[fjew would have suspected that tendencies are so unfavourable; but forewarned is forearmedand, happily, degeneration has not yet reached that stage, in the majority of cases, where it is beyond redemption."75 It encouraged its readers not to reject the report because it painted the city in an unfavorable light. It is idle, and dangerous, to live in a fool's paradise, to close one's eyes to what is unflattering and unpleasant. When citizens are told, as they are in this report, that the greater part of the city is steadily deteriorating, the reaction, on the part of property-owners especially, may be expected to be prompt and aggressive. That is the first requirement for effective action, in accordance with well-directed
74 75

Hamilton Spectator, "Master Program Advocated For Civic Improvement," February 8, 1945. Editorial, "Town Planning," Hamilton Spectator, February 9, 1945.

planning. To promote the dissemination of the findings, it published summaries consisting mainly of direct quotations, including the report's descriptions of the causes and nature of residential blight.77 The paper's appeal to the public to consider the report and its efforts at dissemination should not be read as an endorsement of urban planning. The Spectator was far less supportive of planning efforts than the papers in Pittsburgh. Just a few days after TPC valiantly attempted to convince city council to make the Town Planning Committee a permanent part of municipal government, the Spectator issued an editorial reiterating a warning from the provincial deputy minister of the Department of Municipal Affairs, A. J. B. Gray, to advocate only "'wise' planning, instead of reckless commitments which cannot fail to produce future trouble."78 It is likely that both Gray, a deputy minister in a Progressive Conservative government, and the Spectator had concerns rooted in local and provincial political developments, connecting planning with the ascendancy of the left-wing Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party in Hamilton and across the country. The CCF, during its first convention, held in Regina in 1933, adopted the Regina Declaration, which ended with the statement: "No C C F . Government will rest content until it has eradicated capitalism and put into operation the full programme of socialized planning which will lead to the establishment in Canada of the Cooperative

"Master Program Advocated For Civic Improvement." Editorial, "Municipalities Warned," Hamilton Spectator, February 20, 1945.

147 Commonwealth." 79 Planning was the cornerstone of this movement and served as the first policy goal of the party: "The establishment of a planned, socialized economic order, in order to make possible the most efficient development of the national resources and the most equitable distribution of the national income."80 Furthermore, this planning was to be done, "not by a small group of capitalist magnates in their own interests, but by public servants acting in the public interest and responsible to the people as a whole."81 This proposition struck fear in the hearts of conservatives, industrialists, businesspersons, and their supporters, including the Spectator. CCF programs could lead to the restriction and eventual eradication of the market economy. In Hamilton, concerns over the party were intensified by victories at the polls. Mayor Samuel Lawrence had previously served as a CCF MPP and Hamilton's delegation to Queens Park during the 1940s was predominantly CCF. With diminished control over local politics, Hamilton's conservatives faced the possibility that TPC and its work, even with its emphasis on the positive influence of the middle class, might interfere with the real estate market and open the door to more widespread economic planning. Amid unfavorable media coverage and political opposition, TPC temporarily lost its bid to complete the second phase of its planning project. Some aldermen objected to the use of consultants. They looked to the city engineers and parks and playgrounds staff to complete the planning process. Others recast the report's descriptions of urban blight and decline as a beautification issue, which they deemed less important than real

The Regina Manifesto, http://www.economics.uwaterloo.ca/needhdata/Regina_Manifesto.html (accessed November 29, 2010), reprinted from Leo Zakuta, A Protest Movement Becalmed: A Study of Change in the CCF, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1964). *lbid. 81 Ibid.


problems such as public health. Through these arguments the council rejected both the authority of planners to diagnose and treat urban problems and their representation and understanding of those problems as urban decline and blight. The decision attracted the attention of the CCF, the Chamber of Commerce, and numerous civic, labor, women's, fraternal and trade organizations that expressed their support for the TPC's work in letters to Council.83 The media, however, continued its opposition. An editorial in the Spectator stated: "The word 'planning' is coming into its own these days. Planning is akin to dreaming, and dreaming may be either an asset or a liability, depending upon the practicability of the dreams and the amount of time fruitfully or uselessly consumed."84 In addition to the value of planning, the paper also assaulted the expertise of planners and the standing of those protesting in defense of TPC and its work, claiming that: There is a fairly widespread and well founded belief that town planning problems come more within the purview of civil, sanitation and transportation engineers than that of landscapers, artists and architects. It is natural that public bodies interested in social welfare, city beautification, sports and other collateral aspects should express their concern over the proper solution of the problem, but we question whether any of them are sufficiently well informed to justify concerted pressure upon the City Council for the adoption of any particular procedure at this


stage. The paper urged the city to ask for advice from local professionals before proceeding. None of this publicity bolstered TPC and its position that planning and zoning were the
Hamilton Spectator, "Council Decides to Drop Town Planning Consultants," February 28, 1945. Minutes of Hamilton City Council, February 27, 1945; Minutes ofHamilton City Council, March 13, 1945; Minutes of Hamilton City Council, March 27, 1945; Minutes ofHamilton City Council, April 3, 1945. 84 Editorial, "No Desperate Hurry," Hamilton Spectator, March 5, 1945. 85 Ibid.
83 82

149 solution to decline and blight. Pressure from supporters eventually did sway the council to support the second phase of the project, but the resistance of the press underscored the importance of public relations to the success of urban planning in Hamilton. Faludi was well aware of the political and ideological opposition to planning. In the summer of 1945, he reported on Hamilton's advances toward planning in the Journal of the American Institute of Planners. In his article, he claimed that he had earned the support of the public by involving them in the fight against decline and blight. He asserted that Hamilton's system of planning involved going to the people and asking them "what is wrong," in contrast to state planning in Russia.86 This distinction would be significant to those who feared the type of planning promoted by the CCF. Faludi expressed openness to listening to community members and planning according to their needs, rather than to the demands of a political or governmental agenda. From his conversations with Hamiltonians, Faludi concluded that "[t]he grave problems of the heavily industrialized city of Hamilton are similar to those facing most of the cities of the North American continent. The political city is completely built up and industrial intrusion is menacing the residential areas."87 These problems resulted in declining and blighted areas, the former developed through industrial invasion, obsolescence, and a lack of maintenance and the latter emerging from deterioration and dilapidation, the existence of business and industry between residences, overcrowding, and other influences. This distinction was similar to, but not a replication, of his earlier report on existing conditions, which emphasized middle-class disinvestment. Decline and


E.G. Faludi, "Planning in Three Canadian Cities, "Journal of the American Institute of Planners. (Summer 1945): 34; Such a comparison would have been highly appealing in a social and political environment replete with red-baiting andfear of rising world-wide interest in Communism. 87 E.G. Faludi, "Planning in Three Canadian Cities," 34.

150 blight were Hamilton's principal problems and in this article intended for a professional audience, Faludi promoted industrial invasion and not abandonment by the affluent as their primary cause. This explanation followed professional planning beliefs about Hamilton's ills more closely than it did public opinion, even though it was the public that brought the CCF and its pro-planning stance to power at the polls. During the 1940s, city residents wrote numerous letters to the editor of the Spectator railing about the housing crisis, road and pedestrian conditions, and litter.88 Blight was an uncommon representation of hometown problems in this correspondence. Thus, a divide existed between popular and professional understandings of decline and blight that Faludi and the Committee would have to address if they expected their plan to generate tangible change. To accomplish this TPC and the Committee held a public exhibition in March of 1946 to state their case to the public. Held at Robinson's Department Store between March 18 and 30, 1946, with advertising paid for by local industrial and retail firms, the exhibition contained 74 maps and 4 large-scale models of the city in its present and projected states.89 Advertisements for the event started the education process in advance of the opening. The copy employed a question and answer format to familiarize the public with the planning process before they witnessed its preliminary results at the exhibition. Distinguishing between declining and blighted areas, the ads offered solutions tailored to each. The city could salvage declining areas by diverting through traffic, providing additional parks and playgrounds, and drafting zoning regulations that would protect the
Disgusted Canadian, letter to the editor, Hamilton Spectator, March 1, 1947; Henry B. Latham, letter to the editor, Hamilton Spectator, March 5, 1947; Justus Springer , letter to the editor, Hamilton Spectator, March 28, 1947; The Ranger, letter to the editor, Hamilton Spectator, November 1, 1947. 89 Hamilton Spectator, "Town Planning Exhibition," February 28, 1946; Hamilton Spectator, "Minister to Open Exhibition Here," March 13, 1946.

individual homeowner. Redevelopment was the only solution for areas suffering from the "rapid growth of the city and of industry which has occurred to the disadvantage of residential areas."90 Through redevelopment these neighborhoods would be transformed into communities "where more families will be accommodated by rental housing of a better quality ~ adequate light, air and privacy assured through efficient site planning."91 The ads simplified content from the existing conditions report and promoted an exhibition that would provide the public with a glimpse of a brighter tomorrow. Many took advantage of the offer. Public interest in the event was extensive. On the first four days of the exhibit, over 4,000 visitors took in the exhibits. The Spectator reported that interest among the public was so great that even on the fourth day, "[t]hroughout the afternoon, Dr. E.G. Faludi, of Town Planning Consultants, was hidden by groups of interested citizens as he guided them among the vari-coloured maps and models, and the many photographs of accidents, dangerous crossings, slum houses and other unhappy features which are a city planner's nightmare."92 Blight was prominently on display at the exhibition. Maps delineated the sound, declining, and blighted areas of the city, photos demonstrated blight's problems, and charts and graphs explained where and to what extent uncontrolled growth had occurred. Exhibits also emphasized a connection among blight, decline and social ills. One youngster, pointing to a map of juvenile delinquency proudly boasted: "Nobody in our block's been in jail!"93

90 91

Advertisement, Hamilton Spectator March 19, 1946. Advertisement, Hamilton Spectator, March 16, 1946. 92 Hamilton Spectator, "Town Planning Show Interests Hamilton Folk," March 22, 1946.

152 Among the most popular displays was the chart showing present residential conditions. The Spectator mentioned that some elderly women were gathered around the exhibit concerned about what would become of their homes.94 Indeed, as blighted neighborhoods could only be remediated by removal, the realization that one's house was in such an area brought the cold reality that expropriation was a very real possibility. The reporter made light of the situation, quipping that a potential conversation would have sounded like this: "I've just discovered that I live in a declining area." "Oh, I wouldn't feel too badly; some of my best friends are blighted."95 The exhibition and its advertisements attempted to address public fears, claiming in bold-faced type that no redevelopment would happen before everyone was properly placed into temporary housing.96 Although those in blighted areas could rest assured that they would not be made homeless by the planners' visions of a new Hamilton, they still faced the loss of tangible and intangible investments in their homes. Through the exhibition, the public could become excited about the possibilities of a new Hamilton. At the same time, those whose homes did not fit that vision learned of the uncertainty looming in their future. The promise of better conditions would come at the price of the loss of their homes and the disruption of their neighborhoods. Of course, these fears were not yet certainties and Faludi did not formally submit his master plan to the Town Planning Committee until November 1946, allowing the memory of the exhibition and its worries to fade. In its final form, the plan differed from its predecessor by exposing the existence of blight in a wider range of milieux and by providing more explicit recommendations on

Ibid,. Ibid,. 96 Advertisement, Hamilton Spectator, March 19, 1946.


153 how blighted areas should be redeveloped. It dealt with industrial, residential, and commercial land separately, although some of its recommendations involved the transfer of land between these uses. Faludi focused on industrial land uses first. Rather than explicitly defining blight in these areas, he described a modern ideal missing from Hamilton's industrial landscape. Citing studies supporting single-story factories that provided more floor-space per worker as the new standard, he branded Hamilton's cramped and multi-story factories as obsolete. Obsolescence and blight were not synonymous, although the former could cause the latter. The plan suggested that these inefficient industrial uses interspersed within residential and commercial areas brought blight to the entire area. It recommended replacing the blighted industrial land with commercial uses in the core and residential uses elsewhere. The mixing of uses was the principal cause of industrial blight and separation was the cure. In the plan's coverage of commercial areas, Faludi presented blight in a unique way. Among the problems in declining commercial neighborhoods, Faludi listed "obsolete warehouses, blighted shops, and storage yards" as checks on the possibility of a better class of retail. While warehouses and storage facilities are clear examples of incompatible uses that would blight residential as well as commercial areas according to the standards of the planning profession, the mention of blighted shops was somewhat distinctive. The idea of a blighted shop extended the concept of blight to a finer level of granularity than its use in the existing conditions report. In the report, blight occurred on the level of the neighborhood. Individual houses could decay or shelter more families

154 than practical. A house could also host businesses and industries ill suited to residential areas. The report, however, did not mention how a house could become blighted. How could a single property become blighted when blight and decline rested upon the relationship between the conditions and functions of all buildings in a given neighborhood? With this understanding of the concept, how could an individual store in a commercial area become blighted? In the master plan, the idea of the blighted shop hinted that blight was not based solely on physical characteristics or the proximity of incompatible uses but also might be related to the type of goods sold or the class or status of the customers that it served. Although the report listed no specific characteristics of what constituted a blighted shop, it clearly stated a desire to replace them with a better class of retail establishments.97 This would also address the problem described in the existing conditions report: the loss of middle-class attachment. Allegedly, the reclamation of blighted commercial areas would appeal to a better class of customer. It might also improve the "efficiency and attractiveness" of Hamilton's public market, which would benefit all citizens. Thus, goods and consumers could be blighting influences, raising questions about not only "for what" but "for whom" the city exists. Faludi further recommended the restriction of uses in the newly renovated commercial core for its protection. The plan permitted retail and wholesale stores; service stores and shops, hotels, restaurants; business and professional offices and studios; places of amusement; passenger transportation facilities; and institutions. It banned all

E.G. Faludi, A Master Plan for the Development of the City of Hamilton, (Hamilton: City Planning Committee of Hamilton, 1947), 38.

residences from the business center. It also sought to remove warehouses and light manufacturing from downtown, crediting these specifically with contributing to the "blight of the central area." Reserving the core for commerce would further protect residential areas from commercial encroachments outside of the local retail corridors that provided residences with convenient goods and services in centralized, accessible locations. Unlike its treatment of commercial blight, the plan's coverage of residential areas differed little from the existing conditions report. It demarcated five areas for reclamation through the National Housing Act. Although this act permitted the removal of blighted areas as well as slums, the plan specifically stressed factors of blight that were also characteristics of slums. Overcrowding was a major concern because it both created slum-like conditions and increased the intensity of land development beyond the limits permitted by modern residential planning standards. Blighted and declining areas also suffered from mixed uses, traffic, and a lack of incentives for homeowners to maintain their properties. Interestingly, although both the report and the plan mentioned uncontrolled growth, the plan departed somewhat from the report's emphasis on the rhetoric of decline, affording a new prominence to the rhetoric of unfettered growth. Where the report claimed that all residential areas started satisfactory and declined if unable to defend themselves from external pressures, the plan made no such claim, crediting unplanned growth for diminished living conditions in Hamilton's blighted


Ibid, 44. Ibid, 48-49, 63.

To solve these problems, the plan urged a bulldozer approach, noting that spot adjustments and private initiative would surely fail. "Individual property owners are by themselves helpless to arrest the blight of whole residential neighbourhoods... Rehabilitation can be accomplished only by wholesale attack (sic) on the problem involving replanning and rebuilding on a large scale." 10 The use of medical metaphors, while lacking in the report, was prominent in the plan. Blight was contagious and had to be controlled before it infected the remainder of the city: "Decline has been spreading progressively for years. In order to provide decent living conditions and to stop the spread of further deterioration all over the city and (sic) the redevelopment of such blighted areas is imperative."101 As it did in Pittsburgh, arguments such as these added urgency to the call for a tabula rasa in blighted areas. In all sections of the master plan, blight was primarily associated with the mixing of uses. Having more than one land use type in an area made it unfit for any use. While the existing conditions report blamed middle class disinvestment for miscegenation, the plan searched for causes beyond the borders of the individual household, neighborhood and even municipality. It claimed that the invasion of incompatible uses and all of Hamilton's other planning problems had roots in the dearth of regional planning.102 Without coordination, municipalities inefficiently allotted regional land according to the strictures of political boundaries. Hamilton's and its neighbors' problems necessitated the reallocation of land uses across borders. For example, the report recommended the relocation of several industrial uses to areas outside of Hamilton proper, which the city could later annex with provincial assistance. Such solutions required regional planning.
100 101

Ibid, 50. Ibid, 50. 102 Ibid, 26.

157 The authority for this already existed in the Ontario Planning Act; however, municipalities had to agree to work together to create a regional planning area. The persuasive power of blight as a representation of contagious urban problems could aid the formation of this coalition, although local independence and the association between planning and socialism could deter cooperation. Regardless, the report claimed that both regional and municipal plans would be necessary to conquer shared problems, tying the success of the master plan's descriptions of urban problems to the fate of the entire region. Thus, the master plan extended the local discourse on blight started in the existing conditions report. Blight reached beyond residential neighborhoods to infect commercial and industrial areas. It reinforced the importance of middle class attachment to cities, but recognized their roles as retail consumers as well as homeowners. It also demonstrated the potential for blight to strike isolated properties and shops as well as entire neighborhoods, but simultaneously asserted that the individual was powerless to stop the spread of blight alone and that the region, rather than the municipality was the best unit to address the problem. It made blight more pervasive, invasive, and pressing. The master plan extended and reinforced the discourse on blight in another significant way. As a municipally endorsed description of current and ideal conditions, it became the official representation of the city's problems. It was not, however, an expression of policy. It did not become law, but enabled the city to craft a policy to enforce its vision of the future. That power lay in zoning. The city already possessed the power to control land uses within its borders thanks to the Ontario Municipal Act. Hamilton availed itself of this legislation on a

limited scale to protect residential areas from industrial intrusion by creating a Restricted Areas Committee to adjudicate proposed land uses in a small number of designated affluent residential neighborhoods. This approach suffered from two major problems according to contemporary planning practice. In comparison to zoning, it was not comprehensive. It did not cover the entire city. It also did not address height or lot coverage restrictions. Additionally, it allowed the public to petition the Committee, weakening land use controls through a time consuming process.103 Planning advocates believed that a comprehensive zoning by-law would solve these problems and bring the city into compliance with the requirements of the National Housing Act, which provided federal resources for local redevelopment projects. The details of Hamilton's proposed zoning by-law remained a mystery long after the acceptance of the master plan. The Spectator criticized the silence of the planning board as it worked on the new legislation, accusing them of damaging the city through inaction: So long as there is such a cloud of mist around just what zoning is or is to be in Hamilton it is almost impossible to establish any standards. We suggest it makes for an uneasy and unhealthy growth. Piecemeal surrender to expediency is the result of lack of policy. Even as there are suggestions of a war-time housing concession right now that would create new slum areas where we ought to be concentrating on getting rid of old ones, there is no real civic effort in sight to inspire confidence in home-building or homebuying in large areas of the city.104 A few days later, the paper printed a cartoon featuring a giant question mark over Hamilton's street grid, depicting the uncertainty that hung over the city with few details
*Hamilton Spectator, "Adopt City's Master Plan Unanimously in Principle," May 28,1947. Hamilton Spectator, "Where A House Can Be Built," March 1,1947; Editorial, "ZoningOr Not?" Hamilton Spectator, April 23, 1947.
104 13 0

about zoning and the implementation of the master plan known to the public. The silence and delays surrounding zoning were not without reason or precedent. Toronto toiled for years to produce its zoning ordinance, and Hamilton did not yet possess even the raw materials required for the process, such as proper city maps.105 Ideological opposition to planning and zoning continued as well. In 1947, the Spectator published an article by Ontario newspaper editor Lewis Milligan that promoted a free and unfettered market over the planned city: That is the story of all great cities; they were not planned ~ they grew as the result of the free enterprises of individuals and little communities: If the early settlers had laid out cities on the chessboard plan there might never have been any cities, for instead of getting down to the cultivation of their own patch of soil, the building of a mill and the marketing of their products, they would probably have done as little work as possible in the hope of selling their stakes in the future big city. But the Victorians did not act that way. They were individualists. They were free workers. They could not conform to the chessboard design, and they refused to be moved about as pawns by town or social planners.106 He continued, making comparisons to Hitler and Napoleon as planners and alluding that urban planning was similar to state planning in the Soviet Union: "And now the Communists of Russia have a plan. They have succeeded in laying out their own country
1 07

like a chessboard on which they push the people around in the game of Socialism." But, the political climate in Hamilton and in Canada had been changing. In 1950, a more moderate mayor, Lloyd Douglas Jackson, took office and by 1951, the city's representatives in Toronto were Progressive Conservatives. With the rise of the cold war,
Hamilton Spectator, "Hopeful Zoning By-Law Adopted By End of Year," May 13, 1947; Hamilton Spectator, "New City Plan To Be Prepared Board Decides," August 9,1947. 106 Lewis Milligan, "They Did Not Worry About A Plan," Hamilton Spectator, December 18, 1947.

160 the CCF lost influence nationally and in 1958, drafted a new guiding document, the Winnipeg Manifesto, which moderated references to economic planning, the privatization of industry, and the redistribution of wealth.108 Within this new political environment, urban planners had an opportunity to advance their goals unfettered by associations with totalitarianism. In 1950, Hamilton enacted its first zoning by-law. The legislation contained no direct reference to blight, and without a statement of purpose or summary of current conditions, it presented no new representations of the city's problems. Rather, it guided development according to the master plan. Along with the National Housing Act and the Ontario Planning Act, the zoning by-law brought legal force to the ideas in the plan. Additionally, the National Housing Act provided a means to change inefficient and incompatible land uses when zoning could not. Zoning controlled future uses, but exempted most present ones from regulation. By representing neighborhoods as blighted, the master plan could qualify them for federal redevelopment assistance under the National Housing Act. In this manner, the plan and the zoning by-law could, in concert, encourage and facilitate comprehensive change.109 Thus in Hamilton, the master plan and its official representation of urban problems as blight and decline gained the force of public policy through local, provincial, and federal legislation. The upper levels of government left the official definition of blight up to the municipalities themselves, requiring only that they fulfill certain bureaucratic requirements to make their assessments official. The involvement of urban
For more information on the fortunes of the CCF in Ontario, see: J. T. Morley, Secular Socialists: The CCF/NDP in Ontario, A Biography (Kingston & Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1984). 109 Blight, however, was not the only representation with this power. Because of the Act's text, slums and other substandard areas also qualifiedfor redevelopment assistance. National Housing Act, SC 1944-45, c. 46, s. 12; National Housing Act, RSC 1952, c.188, s22.

planners was not a legal requirement. In this regard, Hamilton's experience differed from that of Pittsburgh, where the state defined, albeit loosely, what constituted a blighted area and required a certification report from professional municipal planners to start the redevelopment process. In both cities, blight was a contested concept in the years before renewal. In Hamilton, Faludi, the city council, and the public debated the value of planning and its representations of urban problems. Often, Hamilton's other concerns overshadowed blight. On more than one occasion, TPC and its supporters had to abandon it in favor of more compelling representations such as overcrowding and the housing crisis in order to protect their plan. Hamiltonians questioned not only the definition of blight, but its relevance. Within this context, Faludi's understanding and use of the concept changed over time. In the existing conditions report, blight was primarily a residential problem of industrial intrusion, declining property conditions, traffic, and pollution resulting from middle-class disinvestment. Later, in the exhibition and master plan, it extended to commercial and industrial areas within and beyond municipal borders. Blight's increased scope and magnitude failed to secure its place in popular and political discourse. Blight was not sufficiently compelling on its own to inspire action, but it offered a convenient means of access to federal assistance to solve the city's principal concern: the housing crisis. In Pittsburgh blight was also contested; however, local conflicts centered on the definition and application of the concept and not its significance. In the courts and in the media, Pittsburghers argued over the use of blight to describe the Lower Triangle,

162 without doubting its relevance to a city in physical, social, and economic decline. The heightened stakes of redevelopment fueled this conflict. Not only did property owners and tenants stand to lose real investments in money, time, and community but also any delay in redeveloping the area could have cost the city jobs, investments, and even entire industries. Furthermore, the legal precedent created through this particular use of the Urban Redevelopment Law linked the fate of Pittsburgh to other cities as both case law and as an example. Thus, the physical, political, economic, and social conditions of each city, and perhaps more importantly, the priorities of those in power and of the general public resulted in different understandings of urban problems. This had a direct effect upon blight's role and significance as a form of representation and as part of the solutions suggested in public policy. What were these distinctions and how did they change the post-war discourse of blight in each of these steel cities? Representation and Policy in Two Steel Cities Perhaps the most powerful influence on each municipality's understandings of blight was their local experience of growth or decay. Population loss and the specter of economic disaster loomed large over Pittsburgh, encouraging its business and civic elite to promote a discourse of blight to a local audience. This local discourse generated the political and public support necessary to enable the ACCD and the city to redevelop the Lower Triangle and present an image of modernity and progress to corporations and investors outside of the region. Hamilton, by contrast had less need to construct and project a new image. The city was expanding in spite of local, national, and international constraints. Its population

163 and industrial growth brought a different set of pressures to bear on local development. As industry expanded, the availability of jobs brought workers to the city at a time when it was ill equipped to welcome them. Hamilton, like most Canadian cities in the post-war period, was in the throes of a housing crisis. Not only was there not enough housing but the limited availability of construction materials constrained private and public efforts to alleviate the problem. Furthermore, the return of soldiers from the battlefields of the Second World War would further exacerbate residential conditions in the city, with many Hamiltonians claiming that veterans deserved the dignity of returning to a home of their own. In local public and political discourse, homelessness and overcrowding were more popular and pressing representations of urban problems than was blight. As housing problems were not unique to Hamilton, the reform of the city's public image was a relatively trivial issue centered on the opinions of tourists rather than those of capitalists. Numerous letters to the editor of the Spectator decried the conditions of streets and sidewalks, the amount of litter visible along roads and highways, and the unattractiveness of motor routes into the municipality.110 These were minor concerns in comparison to the availability of housing; they reflected the relatively marginal importance that a representation of decline, like blight, would have in a city experiencing growing pains. In addition to differences in the local importance of blight as a representation of urban problems, Pittsburghers and Hamiltonians held conflicting beliefs about the legitimacy of the planners creating these representations. In Pittsburgh, the work of professional planners received extensive support from civic and business leaders and
Disgusted Canadian, letter to the editor, Hamilton Spectator, March 1,1947; Henry B. Latham, letter to the editor, Hamilton Spectator, March 5, 1947; Justus Springer , letter to the editor, Hamilton Spectator, March 28,1947; The Ranger, letter to the editor, Hamilton Spectator, November 1, 1947.

from state and local government. Not only did the ACCD work closely with planners, architects, and landscape architects but it collaborated with experts from the city's planning department. Planners in Pittsburgh had a lot of power over the use of blight thanks to both the structure of city government and the stipulation of the Pennsylvania Urban Redevelopment law requiring their certification for access to eminent domain. Planning in Hamilton was in a much less advantageous position. The municipal government had tremendous control over the master plan, and therefore over the demarcation of blighted areas. City council decided who would sit on the planning board that drafted the plan and whether its work was sufficient. The Planning Act did not require the participation of a professional planner and only the provincial Minister of Planning and Development could amend or reject the plan once it earned council's approval, reinforcing council's power over local planning efforts. Established in September 1947, the planning board shouldered the everyday burdens of planning in Hamilton. With little authority, it had to sell not only its plan for the future, but its understanding of the present to the council. Because of this, it also had to be concerned about the opinions of the general public. Elections provided frequent interruptions that could stifle the momentum of planning endeavors and subject them to the whims of electoral fiat. Aldermen and controllers in Hamilton knew that they were directly responsible to the electorate and faced the possibility of retribution if they ignored the wishes of their constituents.111 Furthermore, the association of planning with

// should be noted that the Spectatorfrequentlyindicated during the 1940s that Hamiltonians did not exercise their right to vote in large numbers, decrying their apathy. This would not eliminate the necessity of a campaign, however, and could create interruptions in project leadership on the Council if an incumbent did not win re-election.

165 the platform of the left-wing CCF throughout the 1940s politicized the issue and polarized the electorate. Public opinion mattered in both cities. As a primary vehicle for educating the electorate about the planning process, the local press had the potential to shape popular beliefs. In Hamilton, the Spectator betrayed the many misgivings of city council over TPC and the planning process in its reports and promoted those doubts in a series of editorials questioning the wisdom of urban planning and the qualifications of professional planners. It also compared urban planning to socialist and communist economic planning, expressing the concerns of industrial and business leaders at the ascendency of the CCF in local, provincial, and national politics. By contrast, the press in Pittsburgh was very supportive of the work of the ACCD and Mayor David Lawrence. Even when looking nostalgically at what would disappear with the redevelopment of the Lower Triangle, the Sun-Telegraph still praised the plan for the future. The different stances of the press in each municipality reflected the contrasts in each city's physical conditions and contemporary political milieux, and reinforced local attitudes about blight and its use as a representation of urban problems. Attitudes about blight also reflected the stakes involved. Hamilton's master plan and zoning by-law qualified the city to use the slum clearance provisions of the National Housing Act. They did not physically alter the city. The risk of losing private property through the use of the Act was purely hypothetical at the time. Furthermore, allowing sections of the city to bear the label "blighted" created the possibility of more and better housing at a time of dire need. In Pittsburgh, real property, businesses, jobs, and community networks were at stake. Questions about the constitutionality of the use of the

Urban Redevelopment Law brought blight and eminent domain to the center of local debates over the fate of individuals' investments and the future of the city. In a sense, blight remained theoretical in Hamilton even as it became part of local redevelopment policy. In contrast, the struggle to build Gateway Center identified blight in the Lower Triangle and then physically removed it, establishing blight as part of local development practice at the expense of those who built and used the Lower Triangle. In Pittsburgh, blight and its removal were tangible. Thus, a variety of factors contributed to differences in the meaning and significance of blight in local development rhetoric in Pittsburgh and Hamilton. Physical, economic, political, and social conditions affected public, municipal, and media support for planning, which in turn altered the speed at which planning and redevelopment took place. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, local attitudes about and understandings of blight would affect each city's participation in federally assisted urban renewal programs. These programs would transform physical structures and social networks in each city, altering not only neighborhoods but also the local meaning and use of blight as a concept. In Pittsburgh's Hill District and Hamilton's North End, the change would be contentious, halting, and in many ways, incomplete, exposing an unseemly side of renewal and contemporary understandings of blight.

Chapter 4: Reinventing Neighborhoods, Transforming Urban Blight

In the 1950s, Pittsburgh and Hamilton began urban redevelopment and renewal in residential neighborhoods, inspiring innovation in and controversy around the policy and representational aspects of blight. The Pittsburgh Planning Commission certified three sections of the primarily African American Hill District, judging its physical and economic inadequacies against planned institutional rather than current residential uses. Residents and redevelopment interests initially agreed upon the existence of blight, but developed different understandings of its nature, symptoms, and solutions. The resulting protest underscored the contentious nature of blight as it conformed to the needs of redevelopment. In Hamilton, planners brought renewal to the city's North End, a neighborhood significantly healthier than many other North American redevelopment areas, including the Hill District. In doing so they built upon ideas about blight established in E. G. Faludi's original city plan. In the course of their efforts they gradually deemphasized parts of Faludi's more comprehensive assessment of blight, basing their decisions primarily on physical conditions. Residents of the neighborhood mounted a vigorous and immediately quashed protest that reemerged as a series of academic and professional disagreements over the nature of blighted neighborhoods. These projects were not the first attempt at physically reshaping sections of both cities. Work had already begun on Hamilton's beachfront and on Pittsburgh's downtown commercial and South Side industrial sites. But the North End and Hill District were special for their complexity and controversy. Facilitated by urban renewal funds, these

projects demonstrated how blight and city building changed as government programs altered local power to shape cities. Urban renewal programs made a huge difference in the size and scope of what was possible. Those powers resided outside of planning departments, changing planning's emphasis from observation and analysis toward chasing opportunity. Neither Canadian nor American urban renewal programs explicitly defined the concept of blight, and by linking funding to blighted and slum conditions, these policies encouraged cities to make the concept of blight fit their needs. The incentives were many. In this chapter, I will examine how various conflicting interests in and understandings of these two residential neighborhoods affected the meanings and uses of the concept of blight in the exercise of local renewal policy and in the representation of each neighborhood in public discourse. I will start with a brief overview of how each country's federal urban renewal policies engaged the concept of urban blight. Next I will explore how planners defined Pittsburgh's Hill District as a blighted area and the disagreements that emerged among various local stakeholders over the meanings of the Hill's blight and how to remediate it. Finally, I will examine how Hamilton's use of urban renewal in the North End affected understandings of blight in local redevelopment policy and how residents and scholars disagreed with the presence and meaning of blight in their neighborhood, influencing development of the concept. While the Hill District and the North End had a similarly traumatic and ultimately disappointing experiences with urban renewal, the understandings of blight that emerged through the process of renewal were dramatically different.

169 Blight in Public Policy Urban renewal started in the US with the passage of the Federal Housing Act of 1949.1 Its Title I provisions introduced assistance for redevelopment, making loans and grants available to cities for slum abatement. Initially concerned with stimulating new construction, Congress eventually expanded its assistance to cities by funding rehabilitation and conservation through the Housing Act of 1954. This act also introduced workable program requirements based upon seven fundamental guidelines to demonstrate a plan's feasibility. Among these fundamentals were citizen participation, community planning, relocation, and proper study of the redevelopment area. The last was most significant to the definition of blight, as it provided additional opportunities for municipalities to develop, document, and institutionalize their ideas. Canada began its grand experiment in urban renewal much earlier than did the US, even though municipalities like Hamilton waited over a decade to avail themselves of the program. The National Housing Act of 1944 contained a provision that offered federal funds to partially defray the costs of purchasing and clearing blighted residential land, but restrictions discouraged municipalities from participating.2 Unlike the US Housing Act of 1949, which only required that redevelopment areas either start or end as primarily residential, the Canadian act mandated the development of low or moderate-income dwellings on cleared residential land. Furthermore only private entities, such as life insurance companies and limited-dividend corporations, could fund these projects. Only in 1954 did Parliament amend the act to allow government funding of public housing,

Although the idea of assisting urban redevelopment had been seriously debated in Congress since 1946 when the ill-fated Wagner-Ellender-Taft bill passed the Senate but failed in the House, the 1949 Housing Act represented the first time that the federal government contributed money and influence to the process. 2 The National Housing Act, 1944, SC 1944-45, c. 46, s. 12.

making renewal in Canada more feasible and opening the door to the first experiments in large-scale, publicly funded redevelopment. The floodgates opened with the passage of the National Housing Act of 1956. This act made it possible to use cleared land in redevelopment areas for any use that fit a municipality's master plan, as long as it was substantially residential either at the beginning or the end of the program.3 As in the US, redevelopment areas had to be blighted, but the definition of the concept was left open to interpretation. The North End renewal project started under the 1956 provisions, which governed it with few significant amendments for much of its existence. In 1964, the federal government reinvented the urban renewal program once again, loosening all restrictions related to housing. This allowed municipalities to use the program to work on commercial or industrial blight. Just as a physician diagnoses and treats a patient based on beliefs about disease, understandings of blight at the state, provincial, and local levels had much influence over the application of renewal programs. The programs themselves offered little guidance as to how municipalities should define the concept. In the US, the Housing and Home Finance Agency (HHFA), the federal administrative body initially in charge of the renewal program, left official definitions to state and local planning bodies. It did, however, publish a handbook with guidelines for determining blight. The HHFA divided the problems related to blight into two categories: characteristics and symptoms. The Agency recommended that local authorities use the characteristics as primary evidence of blight. These included dilapidation of structures, substandard alterations or additions, inadequate construction, obsolete or inadequate

An Act To Amend The National Housing Act, 1954, SC 1956, c. 9, s. 23.; Stanley H. Pickett, "An Appraisal Of The Urban Renewal Programme In Canada," University of Toronto Law Review 18, no. 3 (1968): 234.

171 dwelling facilities, improper building location, coverage, or land use, and inadequate community facilities. The Agency also provided a list of symptoms for use as secondary evidence. These included economic deterioration, declining property values, low average rents, high incidence of tax delinquency, juvenile delinquency, and overcrowding, and poorly maintained properties.4 These suggestions are interesting in that they shift declining property values, previously one of the most common and important characteristics of blight to the list of symptoms of secondary importance. The HHFA weighted physical evidence of blight more heavily than economic and social factors that residents might tangibly notice and that might earn their support for renewal. That is to say, factors that were secondary to the HHFA's recommended policy on blight were potentially most important in terms of an area's representation in public discourse because those factors were most salient to observers within and outside of a neighborhood. The Agency's ideas were merely recommendations, and state and local legislatures and authorities retained the power to define blight, creating statewide standards or matching it to local realities or aspirations. In Pennsylvania, the Urban Redevelopment Law of 1945 still governed projects throughout the commonwealth. It specified several factors of blighted areas, including the unsafe, unsanitary, inadequate or over-crowded condition of the dwellings therein, or ... inadequate planning of the area, or excessive land coverage by the buildings thereon, or the lack of proper light and air and open space, or because of the defective design and arrangement of the buildings thereon, or faulty street or lot layout, or economically or socially undesirable land uses.5

Quintin Johnstone, "The Federal Urban Renewal Program," The University of Chicago Law Review 25, no. 2 (Winter 1958): 302-303. 5 Pennsylvania Public Law 991, 35 P.S. 1702.

Predating and therefore not shaped by the HHFA's recommendations, the Urban Redevelopment Act encompassed the Agency's lists of characteristics and symptoms along with design considerations and social housing standards. It gave municipal and county planning commissions and redevelopment authorities tremendous power. They applied the law, molded the local definition of blight, defended their powers and ideas in court, and shaped representations of blight in the media and local discourse. Local actors were also very influential to the meaning of blight in policy and representation north of the border. Under federal and provincial law, municipalities enjoyed the liberty to define blight according to local circumstances and aspirations. The federal government did not specifically define blight.6 Similarly, Ontario did little to provide guidelines or curb the actions of local government in written policy. It vested significant planning power in local boards and city councils that not only respectively produced and approved city plans, but also opened the door to participation in federal redevelopment programs. Ontario's Planning Act of 1946 tasked local planning boards with the study of physical, social, and economic conditions in relation to development, the hosting of public meetings, the publication of educational materials and planning maps, and the production of a master plan to guide development. Although a planning board would have the power to recommend its plan to the city council, it was the council's prerogative to officially adopt a plan. Municipalities could acquire, hold, clear, sell, lease, or otherwise prepare land to facilitate the development of any feature of the city plan. The Act, however, did not specifically permit cities to redevelop land on its own.

The National Housing Act, 1944, SC 1944-45, c. 46, s. 12.

173 That changed in 1952 when Queen's Park specifically permitted municipalities to authorize redevelopment.7 It enabled cities to create redevelopment areas for alteration and development according to a redevelopment plan. The provincial planning minister had to approve the plan and could revoke his or her approval if the municipality did not produce satisfactory progress towards its completion. With the plan, a city possessed the powers that it had held under previous revisions of the Planning Act for the aid of development and could also build structures and lease, sell, or otherwise dispose of them in accordance with the plan. This allowed municipalities to participate directly in every stage of the redevelopment process to chip away at blight and decay even in the absence of significant private interest. The Act defined redevelopment areas, providing the first provincial mention of characteristics of decline. Unlike the federal policy, it did not specifically use the term blight. It did, however, enumerate a number of its most common features. It defined a redevelopment area as "an area within a municipality, the redevelopment of which in the opinion of the council is desirable because of age, dilapidation, over-crowding, faulty arrangement, unsuitability of buildings or for any other reason."8 This definition granted city councils, and the planning boards that advised them, a great deal of control over what a redevelopment area was, and thus, over what constituted a blighted area under the National Housing Act. The only checks on this power were the approval of the provincial planning minister and the oversight of the Ontario Municipal Board. These were substantial in theory, but in practice the cooperation of both facilitated redevelopment during the renewal period.

1 8

An Act to amend the Planning Act, R.SO 1952, c. 75, s. 8. Ibid.

174 Local debates over development programs and urban problems possibly did more to define city dwellers' experiences of blight and its remediation than did policy, particularly under urban renewal. It is toward those local programs and discourses, and thus toward the intersection of policy and representation, that we now turn to examine how blight transformed as it spread its shadow over US and Canadian cities in the 1950s and 1960s. Pittsburgh's Hill District and Hamilton's North End demonstrate the dual and contentious nature of the concept through the variety of interpretations that emerged in local discourse surrounding neighborhood renewal programs. The Hill District: Toward Whose Brighter Future? Pittsburgh's Hill District was the site of some of the city's most contentious urban renewal projects. Adjacent to the "Golden Triangle" downtown business district, the Third and more prosperous Fifth Wards of the city welcomed successive waves of immigrants and housed many in Pittsburgh's African American community. By the midtwentieth century, its neighborhoods had become a regional center of African-American culture with significance across the country. Unfortunately, the Hill suffered from serious housing and socio-economic problems that earned it a reputation as slum and a hub of vice and disease recognizable to residents and outsiders alike. The Janus-faced nature of the District as a treasure to preserve and a problem to solve facilitates an exploration of the dual and contentious nature of urban blight The city's plans for the Hill District involved three distinct renewal projects, covering areas with different levels of decay and dilapidation. The lower Hill project started first. This neighborhood on the western edge of the Hill, adjacent to downtown and home to some of the city's worst housing and crime rates, presented a golden

opportunity to introduce renewal to residents. Next, the URA published plans for the Bluff, the cliff-side home of Duquesne University in southern section of the Hill. Near the relatively stable Fifth Ward commercial district, this area was less severely decayed than was the lower Hill. Finally, redevelopment interests turned to the Hill's eastern edge for the creation of the Centre-Morgan redevelopment project area. The physical and social conditions there were far better than in other sections of the Hill, forcing city planners to carefully construct an argument to certify the area as blighted. These three certifications progressively relaxed the criteria for identifying blight in the local redevelopment policy. This did not, however, generate much criticism from residents or the press. The nature of blight and its cure, rather than its existence in the Hill, were the primary points of contention. The most significant project to those within and outside the neighborhood was the redevelopment of the lower Hill. The removal of approximately 100 acres of blighted land entangled the oft-conflicting aspirations of multiple stakeholders in the neighborhood and in the region. Everyone recognized that the Hill had problems. Their aspirations for and understandings of the area ultimately colored what they identified as blight and the cures they recommended. Documents from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD) indicate that redevelopment interests primarily viewed the lower Hill as an opportunity rather than a residential neighborhood. In 1950, Mayor David Lawrence proclaimed that areas of the city "now unfit for modern residential use" would be transformed into "beautiful and productive sections of the

176 community."9 The Hill was among these neighborhoods. John Robin, Executive Director of the URA, referred to the Hill as "a fruitful area for redevelopment."10 Its location made it a valuable one as well. Adjacent to downtown, the Hill should have been some of the most desirable land in the city. The ACCD regarded the lower Hill as a "blighted barrier to the east of the metropolitan business district."11 Sandwiched between downtown and the amenities of the Oakland civic center, the Hill was an obstruction, both literally and figuratively, to the expansion of two valuable and dynamic regional hubs. These two neighborhoods, united by a vibrant and rehabilitated Hill District, would form a renewed and attractive heart for the city and the region. This renewed core, and the lower Hill specifically, with its access to and vistas of downtown, had the potential to attract middle and upper class residents back to city living, bringing with them the purchasing power that merchants craved. Those who already owned establishments in and around the redevelopment area also anticipated serving a broader clientele. Charles P. Pernell, President of the Business and Professional Association (BPA), the local chamber of commerce, urged his fellow merchants to support renewal, claiming that "the enormous program of expansion and redevelopment that is being carried on in our city at the present time and the proposed plans for a greater Pittsburgh certainly gives each and every citizen a keener sense of civic pride." He encouraged his colleagues to spearhead a local "Neighborhood Redevelopment Program" asserting that cooperation was necessary for "negro

Pittsburgh Courier, "Excerpts From Mayor Lawrence's Speech Accepting Second Term," January 7, 1950. Pittsburgh Courier, "Says Hill District Must Be Destroyed," February 25, 1950. 11 William J Mallett, "Redevelopment and Response: The Lower Hill Renewal and Pittsburgh's Original Cultural District," Pittsburgh History (Winter 1992): 182.

177 businessmen and women to attain a place of respect in this great industrial center," linking together personal, professional, civic, and physical progress.12 Pernell and the BPA recognized that the Hill could benefit from physical renovation, but saw its people as an integral part of its future. Tangible changes should expand social and commercial networks to the benefit of the BPA, its members, and its clients. Hill dwellers had a more complex understanding of their home. They acknowledged its severe physical, public health, and safety deficiencies. The city's African-American newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier, repeatedly detailed them, exposing absentee and negligent landlords and a system of social and economic prejudice and oppression that left African-American Pittsburghers with few housing options. Segregation enabled landlords to hike rents and crowd tenants into small, dilapidated quarters. National and local commentators noted that without better law enforcement and housing standards, African-American residents would not be able to look beyond the daily effort to survive toward better neighborhoods and living standards.13 Despite these detrimental conditions, residents also recognized characteristics worth preserving in the Hill. Culture, faith, family, and community mingled there. The Courier referenced these asking, "is the - HILL DISTRICT DOOMED?" amid initial suspicions of redevelopment.14 Some residents felt powerless and angry about the disruption of their neighborhood.15 Others remained hopeful.16 They saw a future that

Charles P. Pernell, "Pernell, BPA Head, Urges Negroes to Catch Spirit of City's Redevelopment," Pittsburgh Courier, Jan 12, 1952. 13 Of the many examples, the following is a representative sample of commentary on residential conditions in the Hill. Joseph D. Bibb, "Murder Is Cheap," Pittsburgh Courier, Apr. 15, 1950; Paul L. Jones, "City of Pittsburgh's Housing for Negroes," Pittsburgh Courier, Apr. 29, 1950; John L. Clark, "Wylie Avenue," Pittsburgh Courier, Nov. 15, 1952. 14 Paul L. Jones, "is the -- HILL DISTRICT DOOMED?," Pittsburgh Courier, April 22, 1950. 15 Gregory J. Crowley, "Contentious Urban Development: Pittsburgh Cases"(PhD dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 2003), 108.


178 would improve property values while retaining and enhancing the use values of their neighborhood. They would be among the primary beneficiaries of the effort, with better housing, safe play spaces for children, and continued access to the physical and social resources they had always enjoyed. Even some of those who understood that they would have to leave the lower Hill anticipated better conditions in nearby public or low-cost rental housing.17 To these residents, blight remediation could mean a better life in the Hill or near it. These understandings were among many visions of the Hill District's present and future. They would ultimately shape blight remediation, renewal, and local redevelopment discourse. None of this could begin in Pennsylvania without the Planning Commission and its power to certify redevelopment areas as blighted. Few among Pittsburgh's neighborhoods met the definition as handily as the lower Hill. The Planning Commission under Frederick Bigger, through a series of certification studies from 1950 until 1953, brought the fate of the Hill into question while transforming its methods. The latter was significant. After years of litigation and lobbying, local planners could more confidently assert their understandings of blight, its nature, and its cures. Making Blight Official: The Planning Commission's Hill Certifications Local planning autonomy made the criteria for determining the existence of blight critical to its definition and application in public policy. While the Commission never drifted too far from the original text of the Urban Redevelopment Law, it did significantly transform its procedures and reporting style. This shifted the focus of the

Laurence Glasco, "The Civil Rights Movement in Pittsburgh: To Make This City 'Some Place Special'," Freedom Corner Website, Urban League of Pittsburgh, http://www.freedomcorner.org/downloads/glasco.pdf (accessed October 8, 2009), 6. 17 Paul L. Jones, "'Hill Housing Future, What Will It Mean?'," Pittsburgh Courier, May 6, 1950.


179 law's application in early 1950s from Progressive Era concerns about health and housing to a wider variety of contemporary planning and economic concerns. These transformations were threefold. First, planners replaced argumentative rhetoric with a more interpretive narrative that identified factors of blight without attempting to justify their methods. In earlier certifications, such as the one used to establish the Lower Triangle redevelopment area, the Commission repeatedly defended the data it presented as representative of blight, arguing not only that blight existed, but that the methods it employed in the study accurately and appropriately supported their conclusion. The word "blight" appeared throughout the document. It explicitly defined factors of blight and associated the neighborhood's deficiencies, as demonstrated by their surveys and statistics, with the concepts of "blight" and "slum."18 This is not true of the Hill District certifications. In these reports, the Commission presented evidence of blight without repeated mentions of the concept. It established that each redevelopment area failed to meet modern planning standards directly related to the characteristics of blight enumerated in the law. Through this relation, the Commission could legally establish the presence of blight and create a redevelopment area. It no longer argued to justify its metrics. One could partly attribute this to the successes that the URA and the city experienced in court over the Lower Triangle redevelopment. With the judiciary uninterested in questioning expert findings, the Commission may have felt less need to justify its work. Some of this confidence may also have originated in the extreme conditions found in some parts of the Hill. The lower Hill certification stated: Finally, the Commission notes that "the Hill District" has long been recognized as the city's most extensive single
City Planning Commission, An Analysis of the Point Area, Westwardly ofStanwix and Ferry Streets, (Pittsburgh, 1947), 4, 5-7.

180 locality of blight, slum, and other negative social conditions. Other places in the city may be as bad as in the Hill District, but none of those other areas has - all together - so many dwelling units of such bad quality over such a continuous and extensive area.19 Regardless of the motivations, the Hill certifications display a confidence not present in the Lower Triangle certification. This confidence expressed itself in the second distinguishing characteristic of the Hill certifications: their interaction with and relation to the criteria of blight enumerated in the Urban Redevelopment Law of 1945. The law cited seven characteristics of blighted areas that planning bodies could use as a guide for certifying redevelopment areas, many of which primarily pertained to residential areas.20 Both of the projects that preceded efforts in the Hill, the Lower Triangle and South Side redevelopment areas, contained housing but were primarily non-residential. The nature of each area, commercial and industrial respectively, made it more difficult to apply the law. Under these circumstances, the efforts of the Planning Commission to justify its findings without directly relying upon the seven factors are understandable. The "Certification for an Industrial Redevelopment in the South Side of the City, Redevelopment Area 2," expressed the challenge directly: The conditions specified by the urban redevelopment law as indicating blight are all applicable to housing areas, and some of them are applicable to non-housing areas commercial or industrial. In the latter instances an evaluation, under the terms of the law as it now is, may be confined to determining the character of a designated area "with respect particularly to housing". It may go beyond that by analyses and evaluation of the basic legallyimposed land plan of streets and lot subdivision "in relation
City Planning Commission, An Analysis of Part of the Lower Hill District Adjacent to and Eastwardly of the Downtown Business District, August 1, 1950 and February 6, 1951, (Pittsburgh, 1951), 9. 20 Pennsylvania Public Law 991, 35 P.S. 1702.

to commercial or industrial use". Public utilities and services may be evaluated. The evaluation will involve the creation and demonstration and testing of the evaluation technique as part of the process of actually applying it to specific areas.21 In the absence of applicable criteria, the Commission was forced to be creative and develop its own standards of analysis. The lower Hill study was the Commission's third certification and the first well suited to apply the mostly residential factors of blight enumerated in the law. They appeared in the introductory "Summary Of Findings," but almost nowhere else. Instead of organizing the study around them, the Commission directed the reader to various sections of its own analysis as evidence of their existence. The study supported most factors with evidence from multiple sections of its analysis, leading the reader back and forth through the data and reusing findings to support the existence of multiple factors of blight. Thus, planners derived the structure of the certification's argument from local practice rather than from state law. Finally, over the course of its Hill District certifications in the early 1950s, the Commission certified redevelopment areas with physical and social conditions increasingly in alignment with those of the rest of the city and contemporary planning standards. From 1950 until 1953, the Commission certified neighborhoods that were less obviously defective. While conditions in the first neighborhood to be certified, the lower Hill, were so notorious both inside and outside of the city as to make the Commission's findings a foregone conclusion, its report of conditions in the final Hill certifications stretched and molded the criteria to meet the expansion needs of the city's universities. This was possible because the Planning Commission evaluated conditions primarily for

City Planning Commission, An Analysis of a Locality on the South Side, (Pittsburgh, 1949), 183.

182 their suitability for the redevelopment plan, rather than for existing uses. By these metrics, residential areas with minor defects proved to be vastly insufficient for non-residential uses. These three transformations demonstrated the Planning Commission's confidence in its ideas and methods, and its orientation toward facilitating redevelopment opportunities. In its Hill certifications, the Commission promoted the URA's and the city's interests. Its reports emphasized the Hill's physical and design deficiencies, which of all blighting factors most effectively blocked the creation of an institutional civic center between Oakland and downtown. They deemphasized social and cultural factors of blight as these problems would disappear with the relocation of the populace. The Hill's current residents, largely African-American and working class, would not be able to afford the residences slated for these areas. The URA and the city hoped that new luxury housing would entice suburban residents to back to urban life. The use of blight, its definitions, and symptoms, in the Commission's certifications reflected these aspirations and, under the Urban Redevelopment Law, legitimized them as the official reasons for redevelopment. Thus the Commission's Hill certifications offer insight into how opportunities and planning autonomy combined to shape blight in local redevelopment policy. They further illuminate the disagreements that would develop between the URA and residents over the meaning of blight, its cures, and the best and highest use of the Hill. The Lower Hill Certification In its first Hill District certification, the City Planning Commission labeled a portion of the lower Hill blighted on August 1, 1950, and subsequently expanded the boundaries of the redevelopment area on February 6, 1951. The problems of the lower

Hill were not surprising. Its reputation as a declining area was well known to most Pittsburghers, as the city's newspapers repeatedly detailed its housing, health, and crime problems. The extent of conditions in the area prompted the Commission to state that: It may be safely claimed that only the full enumeration of the inferior characteristics of the area (contained in this present document) can reveal how serious these are, and how irrefutable is the judgment here made that the area is shot through with obsolescence, blight, and slum characteristics. The area is one that, under the terms of the Redevelopment Law, qualifies without doubt as an appropriate "redevelopment area."22 Its "full enumeration" started not with the housing conditions that plagued Hill residents, but with an examination of the street grid. The Commission expressed disapproval with the area's street and lot layout several times and gave it a place of prominence as the first factor of blight addressed in its analysis. The introductory "general background" section began with streets and lots, stating: "Over this uneven hillside there has been laid out in past years, one tract of land after another in a series of gridiron street patterns often unrelated and ill-adjusted to each other and the land itself." ' Interestingly, this introduction neglected to mention any other factor of blight. Emphasis on the existence of a faulty street and lot layout continued throughout the analysis, suggesting an understanding of the lower Hill as an extension of downtown. The introduction emphasized this by pointing out that the street grids in the eastern section of downtown and in the lower Hill did not match, resulting in a " 'no-man's land' of intermixed street patterns of inferior quality.. .."24 The flow of goods and people through the commercial heart of the city as well as the potential for an expanded CBD


City Planning Commission, An Analysis of Part of the Lower Hill District., 5. Ibid, 2. 24 Ibid, 4.

184 would make this no-man's land a defect worth addressing. Streets and lots also played an important role in linking its analysis to the Redevelopment Law. The Planning Commission used data about them as proof of many deficiencies. The law mentioned them directly and planners connected them to two additional factors: inadequate planning and defective design and arrangement of buildings. As an important part of the Planning Commission's evidence, street and lot layouts received a considerable amount of analysis. The Commission found that 32.1% of the total land area in the lower Hill was covered by roads. It regarded this as unacceptably high, preferring 15% to 20% as an acceptable modern standard.25 Road size exacerbated this problem. According the contemporary planning standards, roads should be at least fifty feet wide in a residential area. Only 39% of streets in the lower Hill met these expectations. These narrow streets were occasionally steep, as lower Hill terrain forced travelers to contend with high grades. More than 8% of roads in the proposed redevelopment area had a grade over 10%. Sixty percent had grades between 5% and 10%. While this was acceptable legally, it was not desirable according to contemporary planning standards.26 The quantity of streets and the size of lots are directly related to each other, and, according to planning standards, to blight. The large percentage of land dedicated to narrow and steep streets in the lower Hill was not only detrimental in its own right; it pointed to the existence of faulty lot layouts, betraying a haphazard and unplanned platting pattern. All three of these concerns were factors of blight in both the analysis and

Statistics in this section refer to the original redevelopment area certified in 1950. The 1951 addition was certified in a brief addendum which found conditions not substantially different than those in the original redevelopment area. 26 Ibid, 12.


the Urban Redevelopment Law. The Commission found that the percentage of inefficiently platted parcels was too high. Only 28% of parcels had no deficiencies in any dimension, supporting the claim that "[t]his surely indicates that individual development of property in the area in compliance either with the present zoning regulations or generally accepted land subdivision standards would be difficult if not impossible."27 Related to plot size was the problem of excessive land coverage by buildings. This factor of blight appeared without a specific threshold in the Urban Redevelopment law. The Commission based its findings upon a standard that it previously established in the Master Plan Guide for high-density three-story multiple family structures. This type of construction complied with the zoning classification for the lower Hill and should occupy no more than 30% of the available land in a plot. When looking at the neighborhood as a whole, conditions did not appear too bad. Buildings occupied 38% of the gross area, leaving 62% in streets, ways, yards, and other open spaces. While this is only 8% over the acceptable maximum, it only accounted for land use across all plots, including vacant lots, parking areas, and other parcels with a few small structures. On a net block basis, the situation became much more dire. Removing roads and vacant lots from the equation left an average building coverage from 38% to 56%, with several blocks having in excess of 80% coverage.28 This was in clear violation of even a lenient interpretation of the standard and according to the Commission, served as evidence of blight and demonstrated "faulty street and lot layouts" and the "lack of proper light, air and open space" listed in the law.

Ibid., 15. Ibid., 12.

Although not the first factor mentioned in the analysis and remarkably absent from the introductory "general conditions" statement, housing conditions received more analysis than any other factor. This was reasonable given circumstances. The Commission based its findings on two surveys published five years apart. The first was an investigation of housing conditions taken from the 1945 "Groundwork and Inventory for the Master Plan". It found a large number of aged dwellings with 2,223 units built before 1900. Furthermore, 3,275 units were "in need of major repair, without a private bath, or both," meaning that even twentieth-century buildings were substandard as residences. Housing was not only poor, but scarce. 784 units had an occupancy rate of 1.51 or more persons per room, demonstrating a marked amount of overcrowding.30 These conditions reflected levels of neglect that planners associated with aloof and absentee landlordism throughout the twentieth century.31 The finding that only 619 units were owner-occupied confirmed the lack of resident investment in the neighborhood.32 This did not necessarily reflect a lack of interest in ownership among residents, as structural barriers in the credit and housing markets complicated the efforts of prospective African American home owners. It did, however, mean that those who lived in neighborhood dwellings did not reap the financial benefits of home improvements. To verify these statistics the Commission undertook an additional survey in 1950 using the widely respected American Public Health Association (APHA) standards for judging housing quality with similar results. Planners across the North America, including in Hamilton, employed this technique providing one of the few de facto
Ibid., 6. John Ihlder, "Rehabilitation of Blighted Areas: The Part of City Planning," City Planning, 6, no. 2 (April 1930): 111; Mabel Walker, Urban Blight and Slums: Economic and Legal Factors in Their Origin, Reclamation and Prevention, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938), 17. 32 City Planning Commission, An Analysis of Part of the Lower Hill District, 6.
31 30

187 standardized methodologies for determining housing blight. The APHA suggested a penalty scoring system to appraise dwelling and housing environment quality. The organization made its dwelling appraisal standards available in 1946 and released environment standards in 1949. Pittsburgh used both standards in all of its Hill District certifications, while Hamilton did not specify whether its ratings related to housing in isolation or to the environment itself. According to the standards, a neighborhood could receive penalties for land crowding (both coverage and density), the presence of non-residential or nuisance uses in residential areas, pollution and danger from transportation facilities, poor topography or the potential for flooding, inadequate utilities and sanitation, and inadequate community facilities like schools, playgrounds, food shops, parks and public transportation.33 Pittsburgh planners, in their survey, separately evaluated dwelling units and environmental conditions. In the thirty-eight-block survey area, out of thirty-four blocks containing dwellings, 44.1% exhibited slum-level conditions and 29.4% were substandard. Regarding the environment, the survey covered all 38 blocks finding 28.9% of them worthy a slum score and 44.1% merely substandard.34 The broad scope of issues addressed by the APHA environmental assessment related to many of the law's criteria, but the Commission associated the results with only one: "unsafe, unsanitary, inadequate or overcrowded condition of dwellings." This decision limited the impact of the appraisal, particularly regarding the last of the seven criteria in the law: "economically or socially undesirable land uses." The neighborhood's environmental score would have provided ample evidence of the dearth of schools, parks,

Joseph A. Salvato, Nelson Leonard Nemerow, and Franklin J. Agardy, Environmental Engineering, (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2003), 1303. 34 City Planning Commission, An Analysis of Part of the Lower Hill District, 10.

and playgrounds and the prevalence of non-residential intrusions into the area. It also could have enabled the Commission to make an argument about the social and cultural amenities of the neighborhood, but it failed to emphasize this in its analysis. In lieu of the APHA standards, the Planning Commission proffered statistics regarding building permits, neighborhood investments, property assessments, welfare cases, and public health as evidence of blight related to land use. Two of these measures, property assessments and the number and value of building permits issued, provided critical insight into the economic health of a neighborhood. Property assessments indicate the city's "professional" estimation of the worth of a neighborhood and in this regard, the lower Hill was declining. From 1942 to 1950, the area lost $3,197,428.00 of its total valuation. This represented a 22% loss that the Commission regarded as a "drastically shrinking" amount. This loss included all but two of the blocks in the area, some with losses in excess of 40%. The only blocks to gain value did so very modestly, with increases of 1.2% and 6.5%.35 These assessments were important to the determination of blight for multiple reasons. They indicated whether an area was keeping pace economically compared to other neighborhoods. When paired with indices of social problems, they identified communities that required more services from the municipality than its tax base could sustain. These ideas were not novel and had roots in early twentieth century planning. Building permits were perhaps more important than assessments to the determination of the economic health of a neighborhood. According to the Commission, "[b]uilding permits, in a sense are a measure of peoples' opinion of a neighborhood and

Ibid, 15.

189 their willingness to invest funds therein for construction or reconstruction purposes."36 This to a large extent is true. The number and value of permits issued could indicate investor confidence. They could also indicate the values that investors held. According to the certification report, in the nine years preceding the study, all permitted construction cost $3,263,125.00, with $2.5 million resulting from a single large apartment building.37 Public construction accounted for an additional $425,087 leaving only $338,038 spent on private building. Of this, $232,455 went to alterations. Planners presented this meager investment in new construction as an indication of blight. Putting a dollar value on confidence in a residential neighborhood is difficult. Absolute dollar figures do not necessarily estimate the social or economic investments of residents and owners. Those with little money may have invested a large percentage of their income in their homes. They may have valued internal improvements over exterior maintenance. Because of these issues, not all planners agreed that the living conditions of the poor constituted blight. Mabel Walker in Urban Blight and Slums argued that poverty did not necessarily equal blight and that middle class neighborhoods should not be the

only standard by which planners judged conditions. She suggested comparing neighborhoods of similar socio-economic statuses to determine the existence of blight. The use of building permits as a measure of investor confidence would be most appropriate in a neighborhood with a large percentage of owner occupied dwellings. Not only would those investors be concerned about property values, but the utility of their homes would have an effect on their quality of life. This was not the case in the lower Hill, where in 1945, only 619 of 5,382 dwelling units in the area were owner occupied.

Ibid, 15. Ibid, 18. 38 Walker, 70.


190 From these statistics the prevalence of absentee landlords was widely apparent and confirmed by reports of abuse in the Courier.39 These slumlords were already enjoying a handsome return on their small investments by charging high rents to African-American Pittsburghers unable to obtain housing outside of segregated ghettos such as the lower Hill. Under these circumstances, a dearth of building permits indicated that owner neglect was an already profitable system and did not necessarily accurately serve as a measure of investor confidence. The Commission, however, presented both assessment value and building permit data as evidence that the lower Hill was not in sound economic shape and that its prospects for future improvement were grim. The city was not benefitting from a wealth of property tax income from the neighborhood and indices of social problems indicated that the area likely siphoned away more in services than it could support on its own. Public health and safety data demonstrated the depth of the neighborhood's needs. According to the report, the lower Hill suffered a 32% higher death rate compared to the rest of the city. This dire statistic betrayed only part of the poor conditions in the area. The percentage of those who died of tuberculosis in the lower Hill was a staggering 282% higher than the city average. This statistic alone indicated a severe public health problem that would, according to planners, adequately demonstrate the presence of "economically and socially undesirable land uses."40 Perhaps surprisingly, the Commission did not direct readers of the report toward this data as evidence of the "unsafe, unsanitary, inadequate or overcrowded condition of dwellings." This omission may have reflected planners' and redevelopment supporters' understandings of the Hill as
Paul L. Jones, "City of Pittsburgh's Housing for Negroes," Pittsburgh Courier, Apr. 29, 1950; Pittsburgh Courier, "Relocation Housing Survey To Start In Hill Next Week," December 6,1952. 40 City Planning Commission, An Analysis of Part of the Lower Hill District, 5, 19-20.

191 a barrier to the growth and health of the city as a whole rather than as a residential neighborhood. Additionally, the statistics on crime and welfare in the report demonstrated a staggering imbalance in the neighborhood's relation to the rest of the city and in Hill residents' access to wealth, health, and safety. The Commission explained that the number of public assistance cases was 283% higher in the lower Hill compared to the city average, and 326% higher with the study area extracted from city averages. Furthermore, the rate of juvenile delinquency cases was 117% higher than the city average and cases of dependency and neglect were 122% higher.41 These statistics indicated the municipal expenses associated with neglected and decayed urban areas. Through its involved analysis, the Commission built its case for blight in the lower Hill. Given conditions in the area, this was not difficult. With the promise of better housing, social and cultural institutions, lower crime, and better health, the residents of this area awaited the start of this project with qualified anticipation. The plans would take years to materialize and in the interim, the Commission certified several other sections of the Hill. The Bluff Certification On June 17, 1952, the Commission certified the Bluff neighborhood to the south of the lower Hill redevelopment area, using a study by the City Planning Department's staff dated October 31, 1951. Unlike the lower Hill study, which emphasized roads in its introduction and, to some extent, throughout its analysis, the Bluff study scrutinized the area's challenging geography. The neighborhood sat on a steep hill culminating in a cliff overlooking the Monongahela River. This difficult terrain monopolized the study's introduction and colored its analysis of the street pattern and vehicular and pedestrian

Ibid, 19.

192 access. It inspired them to claim that "the peculiar geographic and topographic position of the area between Locust and Bluff Streets offers excellent advantages for institutional or similar uses because of its isolation and protection."42 As with the lower Hill, planners' intentions for the area affected the definition of blight in the Bluff. In contrast to the city's vision of an institutional Bluff, the area was primarily mixed use with 20 of 24 blocks filled with "closely-built, generally old residential structures covering 37.3% of the net use area." Other land uses included commercial and industrial uses in 36.7% of the area, Duquesne University, occupying 13.5% of the land and hungry to expand, and 12.5% vacant land, primarily due to steep slopes that rendered construction unfeasible.43 These uses represented a barrier to the primarily institutional district that the city and Duquesne University had planned for the neighborhood. A blight certification would facilitate the transformation. The Bluff study used the same categories of analysis that the Commission used in the lower Hill. It analyzed the area's residential land use and dwelling conditions first. Interestingly the lower Hill was more residential and more dramatically decayed, but its certification opened with an analysis of the street grid and its relation to downtown. Once again, planners assigned grades based upon surveys of dwelling conditions and environment, which they combined to form a housing quality score. Planners gave the neighborhood a median grade of "C - Intermediate" in a survey of dwellings. Only three of the twenty residential blocks received slum grades and four received the mark "D Substandard." A full eleven blocks were graded good, acceptable or intermediate. This was vastly better than the lower Hill, but far below conditions in wealthier Pittsburgh

Department of City Planning, An Analysis of the Bluff Street District Adjacent to and Eastwardly of the Downtown Business District, (Pittsburgh, October 31, 1951), 2. K Ibid, 2.

neighborhoods. The Bluff fared worse in the environmental survey, with six slum blocks and 10 substandard ones. This resulted in a housing quality grade of "D-substandard" for the entire area.44 City planners used only eighteen of the twenty residential blocks to make their case. They stated that those blocks were the only ones that contained enough residential use to compute a median for the entire block. Although there is no data concerning the conditions of the remaining blocks, it is possible that they could have had a significant skewing effect in either direction. In the absence of this data, it is impossible to know. The report then addressed planning defects through a very brief analysis of building coverage, which was high at 50%.45 Regarding parcel size, only 20% of all of the lots in the area were sufficient in all dimensions. While this is 5% less than the percentage of acceptable parcels in the lower Hill, it should also be noted that parcel size is judged against zoning as established in the master plan. In the master plan, the Bluff was primarily a light industrial district and required larger lots to be "adequate."46 The study also examined the street grid, but deemphasized it compared to the lower Hill certification. Part of this is likely due to the steep grades and cliff that complicated traffic circulation and disrupted the street pattern. Duquesne University further hindered the flow of traffic. The city would not be able to address either of these issues through redevelopment, reducing the utility of street grid analysis in the certification. These streets affected the size of lots and building coverage, with an excessive number of narrow streets taking too much land away from productive, taxable use.
"Ibid, 5. 45 Ibid, 1. 46 Ibid., 6,8.

194 Like the lower Hill certification, the Bluff study measured economic health through property valuation and the number and value of building permits issued. Between 1937 and 1950, assessed valuations in the area decreased 6.85% compared to 4.7% for the rest of the city. While underperforming comparatively against the city as a whole, the area bested the lower Hill. In terms of building permits, from 1941 until 1950, only 3% of the total value was for residential construction, with the remainder commercial and industrial. This supported, or reflected, the city's decision to zone all but 30% of the area as a light industrial district. The only investors willing and able to make significant contributions to expanding and maintaining the area were commercial, industrial, or institutional. The Commission's use of zoned (dejure) rather then grandfathered (de facto) land uses as the standard was consistent across the two certifications, as were its categories of analysis. Rather than producing a consistent definition of blight, these similarities resulted in certifications that stressed significantly different characteristics. The distinctions are most readily apparent in their introductory sections. These provided an opportunity for planners to discuss the neighborhoods in a less structured format than in the topical subsections that followed, offering insight into how planners understood and prioritized each area's problems. In the lower Hill report, street pattern and lot subdivision received emphasis over the area's famously dilapidated living conditions, hinting that the authors viewed the area as a potential roadblock to the expansion of downtown rather than a neighborhood in its own right. By contrast, the Bluffs report emphasized its topographical isolation as a benefit to its intended future institutional and light industrial use. Whereas awkward and disjointed street grids indicated blight in the

195 lower Hill, the Bluffs steep grades and cliff that resulted in dead ends and the university that blocked streets and choked traffic were assets that the city sought to convert to its advantage. In both cases, the Commission emphasized the existence of blight based upon each area's failure to meet the expectations of future development. While both neighborhoods exhibited poor living conditions, their studies focused upon optimal rather than existing residential uses. The Oakland Certification This trend was even more pronounced in the 1953 certification of another swath of land on the eastern border of the Hill, where the homes of many of the city's AfricanAmerican and immigrant residents came closest to the homes of affluent East Enders. Technically a part of Oakland, the streets and houses in this area were separated from the rest of the civic center by the University of Pittsburgh and Carlow College but contiguous with the Aliquippa section of the Hill (today known as Oak Hill and West Oakland). As part of the Fifth Ward, residents likely recognized this area as part of the Hill and the Courier covered it as such. Its certification further demonstrated the primacy of local policy interpretation and the practice of judging blight by planned rather than current uses. This report was more complex than its predecessors due to the area's varied uses. It divided the redevelopment area into three districts including part of the University of Pittsburgh, a medical center, and residential land. The city only wished to redevelop the residential area and therefore concentrated its efforts to find blight there. Administratively, it subdivided this portion into two sections; one centered around DeSoto Street and Thackeray Avenue (section A) and another around Centre Avenue and Morgan Street (section B).

196 Like the previous Hill studies, this certification judged the area according to planned rather than current uses, recommending a form of "spot clearance" writ large, removing only the residential uses and leaving the remainder of the neighborhood intact.47 The introduction's stress on incongruous land uses emphasizes this point, although the report claimed that all of the seven types of blighting characteristics listed in the law were present in the area. Land use in each section was primarily residential. On the APHA scale these were in better shape than other Hill redevelopment areas. Section A received scores in the "C Intermediate" and "B- Acceptable" range, averaging to a "C."48 Section B fared even better with an average score of "B." 49 Without data to compare conditions in the rest of the city it is difficult to judge whether these areas were similar in dwelling conditions to other parts of the city. However, with scores consistently above "declining" and "slum," it is interesting that the Commission referenced these statistics as evidence of "unsafe, unsanitary, inadequate or overcrowded condition of dwellings."50 The amount of land covered by buildings was not far from the ideal in Section A with 32% of the gross area and 36% of the residential blocks occupied by stuctutre.51 Section B again fared better with only 9% coverage, well below the 30% standard listed in the lower Hill certification.52 The amount of space dedicated to streets was higher than the acceptable average in both areas, if only slightly.53 The size of parcels was an issue, however, with only 10% of lots in section A free of defects and 14% in section B. This

City Planning Commission, An Analysis of the Oakland Redevelopment District Northwest, (Pittsburgh, 1953), 2. 48 Ibid, 3. 49 Ibid, 4. 50 Ibid, 5. 51 Ibid, 3. 52 Ibid, 4. "ibid, 11.

197 was based on current zoning, which, at the time was a mix of "A" residential and commercial, mirroring current use. Since the "highest and best use" of the land was to be institutional, planners would not likely consider these lots sufficient for their intended use either.54 Regarding investor confidence, building permit values were low in section A, with no new construction and only an average of $1,365 per year spent on alterations.55 Section B, by contrast saw new construction, both residential and intuitional, with a further $6,320 spent on additions, alterations, extensions and repairs over ten years.56 In comparison to other sections of the Hill, the evidence presented against these areas was weak. The Commission pointed toward "Intermediate" and "Acceptable" dwelling conditions as signs of "unsafe, unsanitary, inadequate or overcrowded condition of dwellings," slightly over-standard building coverage statistics as evidence of "lack of proper light, air, and open space," and minor relative property value declines as proof of "economically or socially undesirable land uses."57 The principal motivation for redevelopment was the University of Pittsburgh's need for expansion and blight in the area was most clearly linked to the incompatibility of existing residential structures with plans for institutional growth. The increasingly relaxed criteria for certification exhibited across studies demonstrated that the needs and values of planners and redevelopment interests molded the definition of blight, with little interference from federal and state policy or the needs of residents. The URA and the city understood the problems of the Hill in terms of their

54 55

Ibid, 3-4. Ibid, 3. 56 Ibid, 4. 51 Ibid, 5.

plans for it, which entailed eliminating its current residential uses and integrating it with its culturally and commercially significant neighbors: Oakland and downtown. Physical and design deficiencies represented barriers to this goal and therefore constituted the bulk of the analysis, overshadowing social and public health problems which the URA and the city planned to solve with relocation rather than blight remediation. Thus the Planning Commission molded its use of blight to meet the needs of redevelopment opportunities, resulting in a primarily physical understanding of the concept. While stretching the meaning and use of blight, the Planning Commission simultaneously solidified its methodology. Certifications transformed from arguments for the existence of blight to expert observations of its presence. As official statements of the Hill's problems, they asserted the planners' authority as they worked in service of the city's redevelopment goals and solidified a physical understanding of blight based on future needs. Eventually it would become clear that not all stakeholders envisioned the same future, and therefore the same understanding of blight. Community Reaction: Debating the Meanings of and Solutions to Blight As word of the certifications spread via Pittsburgh's mainstream and African American press, the residents of the Hill District learned of the city's plans to transform their neighborhoods. Early news produced a primarily positive reaction, with only a few voices of doubt in the African-American press. Later, after the process of relocation faltered and as additional plans emerged, the realization that redevelopment was squeezing into the area on three sides produced a wider range of reactions including careful anticipation, calls for self-help, and militant opposition. Reactions to representations of the Hill as a blighted place led to greater citizen participation in


shaping the way that planners defined blight in the local application of public policy and how they diagnosed and treated neighborhoods affected by it. Many Hill residents were initially supportive of redevelopment. Local business owners anticipated new customers through revitalization. Some living in the lower Hill looked forward to better conditions, but also faced the uncertainty of relocation. Those in parts of the Hill adjacent to the redevelopment area feared a nebulous future. Uncertainty could discourage improvements and investment, driving property values down and fostering blight. Instead of denying the existence of blight, residents looked for ways to improve their neighborhood in advance of the bulldozers in an effort to gain some control over its fate. Even those who did not approve of redevelopment for philosophical or economic reasons, such as the Real Estate Board, recognized blighted conditions in the Hill. Its concern lay with the intrusion of government into the operations of the real estate market. It reacted not by denying its existence, but by starting its own redevelopment project. Albert A. Murrer, chairman of the Board's Special Housing Committee announced the rehabilitation of a block of the Hill District to serve as "a demonstration of what private enterprise can do to restore a rundown neighborhood."58 To raise and sustain support for the city's efforts, the URA held a series of public meetings to educate residents about its plans. Although the Planning Commission's blight certifications emphasized the relation of the lower Hill to downtown over its residential use conditions, the city stressed housing in its dealings with the media and the public. At a meeting at the Irene Kaufmann Settlement House in the Hill District in 1950, URA Executive Director Jack Robin minced no words, stating that "living patterns in the Hill

Pittsburgh Courier, "Realty Board To Redevelop Hill Block," Aug 12, 1950.


Districts (sic) are neither desirable, acceptable, nor endurable."59 The meeting stressed the need to address these conditions. The public relations effort paid dividends. Paul L. Jones of the Pittsburgh Courier promoted redevelopment in a series of articles. Echoing planners' tropes, Jones pointed out the need to arrest decentralization, the greed of absentee landlords, and the dangers of blight. He explained the renewal process, including eminent domain and relocation. In his defense of redevelopment, he also expressed a concern for the future of social networks in the Hill District, stating: Much more than merely providing a roof and walls is needed. What about the churches, schools, business neighborhood associations, civic groups? All these are part of the whole problem of uprooting the lives of many people, whose patterns of living have been labeled, "not desirable, not acceptable, not endurable."60 By echoing Robin's words, Jones pointed toward a significant point of tension that existed below the surface of accord that existed over the physical state of the Hill. The causes of blight in the Hill and what would have to disappear to stem the decay would continue to surface in local redevelopment rhetoric. Jones addressed the question in his series of articles, placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of greedy absentee landlords and a credit system that made it difficult for African Americans to become owner-occupiers. As people crowded into inadequate spaces, property values plummeted under the weight of intensive use and neglect.61 Jones was aware of the designs that redevelopment interests had on the Hill's prime real estate. Redevelopment would improve conditions in the area and raise prices.

Pittsburgh Courier, "Says Hill District Must Be Destroyed," Feb 25, 1950. Paul L. Jones, "is the -- HILL DISTRICT DOOMED?," Pittsburgh Courier, April 22, 1950. 61 Paul L. Jones, "City of Pittsburgh's Housing for Negroes," Pittsburgh Courier, April 29, 1950.


Both the causes of blight and its victims would be eliminated, but Jones tempered this news with the benefits of public housing. He claimed that many in the "dingy, crowded back streets of the lower Hill" would be eligible for better public housing. This would bring a tangible benefit to the displaced. "The street won't be their children's only playground. Wintry blasts will no longer make the inside of the house as cheerless as the outside."62 By replacing absentee landlords with a public housing authority, redevelopment would cut at the major cause of blight for Hill residents. Others criticized the government itself for the conditions in the Hill, in particular for the danger of crime and disease. In his Wylie Ave. column in the Courier, John R. Clark routinely blamed the Hill's problems on lax law enforcement on the part of City and County police. He also blamed the Democratic Party for failing to improve conditions while maintaining and expanding its patronage machine. In a warning to the city and to concerned Hill residents, Clark stated that the crime currently situated in "bottoms" and "pretty girl 'houses'" would move to the new housing projects and to other neighborhoods if enforcement didn't improve. While shifting some of the blame, he nevertheless confirmed that the lower Hill was a troubled area. Interestingly, he also blamed some Hill residents, namely those involved in criminal activity. In this analysis, bulldozers could not cure declining conditions. Through his emphasis on vice, crime, and poverty, Clark located the problem deep within the city's administrative and political structures. Reform, not redevelopment, was the solution.

Paul L Jones, '"Hill Housing Future, What Will It Mean?'," Pittsburgh Courier, May 6, 1950. John L.Clark, "Wylie Ave.," Pittsburgh Courier, November 15, 1952.


Demolition and Dispersal: Neighborhood Reaction to the Development Plan Every major stakeholder agreed that the Hill was blighted, but the nature of blight and its cure fueled debate over the neighborhood's fate. Disagreements surfaced with the dissemination of concrete plans. On March 31, 1951, the Courier reported on a plan before City Council that would replace much of the lower Hill. Defending the project, Mayor Lawrence cited the high tuberculosis rate in the area, claiming that it was "the result of poor housing, of overcrowding, of a blighted area."64 Along with those houses, many institutions vital to the Hill's social fabric would disappear. It would raze Bethel A.M.E. Church (known as "Mother" Bethel) and Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church. Although Lawrence claimed that some churches would be spared, the list of the condemned would grow as the plans expanded. Social clubs such as the Loendi Club, a prestigious African American social and literary society, would lose their homes along with businesses like Goode's Pharmacy, the only twenty-four hour drug store in the Hill. A hub of African-American Jazz in Pittsburgh and in the United States would also disappear with the demolition of the Crawford Grill and its neighboring clubs on Crawford and Wylie Avenues. Although stories of "Deep Wylie" peppered the papers with tales of vice and excess, some of those who played music in those clubs remembered them as accepted and vital parts of their communities. Charles Austen, a musician who performed on Wylie, recalled how clubs and churches were intertwined in the urban fabric of the Hill. The musicians' union's club sat across the street from Mother Bethel, and according to Austen, "We never got any complaints. We never had, there was never

Pittsburgh Press, "City to Uproot, Rebuild 100 Acres in 5-Year Improvement Plan," March 26, 1951.


any that I know of. There was never any preaching."65 Both institutions brought the streets to life at different times and for different purposes. Regardless of the neighborhood's physical trappings, its social and cultural resources were arguably significant to the city and essential to the social and economic health of the residential community. These institutions faced an important choice. Since redevelopment would also relocate their constituents, they had to decide whether to stay in the Hill or follow their clients and members. Shortly after plans became public, both the Loendi Club and Bethel A.M.E. announced their intentions to remain in the Hill. The city responded with relocation assistance. This assistance would benefit the city by retaining social and cultural checks against blight and generating goodwill. Not everyone feared dispersion. Frank E. Bolden, in a series of Courier articles entitled "People In Ghettos," argued that, "if that ghetto system is bad for Pittsburgh, the official and unofficial bodies possessed of planning power and influence must take up the problem of dispersing its people. To let nature take its course will not do, for that has produced the ghetto."66 Bolden argued that ghettos coincide with blighted areas. Poverty and racism trapped African-American Pittsburghers in these areas, subjecting them to poor physical conditions while draining their personal finances. He rightly asserted that rents in blighted areas had almost doubled between 1940 and 1951. This was possible due to the practice of providing a small amount of furniture with an apartment. If an apartment was furnished, rent control legislation would not apply to it, allowing landlords


Charles E. Austen, interview by Cathy Cairns, August 2,1995, African American Jazz Preservation Society of Pittsburgh Oral History Project, 1995-1999, AIS 199804, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh. 66 Frank E. Bolden, "People in Ghettos," Pittsburgh Courier, June 16, 1951.


to demand high rents from areas that would not produce them without the assistance of racism, segregation and a poverty of alternatives for tenants.67 Ultimately, the city had to eliminate the conjunction of blight, poverty, and the African-American population. This meant dispersing the ghetto. He did not, however, tacitly support redevelopment. His argument was not merely that the ghetto should be destroyed, but also that the city must take care of its displaced people. Dispersion, for better or worse, became certain with the publication of Michell & Ritchey's plan for the hill in February of 1953. Presented by the ACCD, the plan would create an auditorium for the Civic Light Opera, an art gallery, and a symphony hall, reinventing the lower Hill as a new civic and cultural center.68 Given the extent of the transformation, the URA proceeded with caution. To build support for the project, Robin appeared at a panel discussion at the Hill District People's Forum to discuss the effects of redevelopment and relocation. A photo exhibit of conditions in the neighborhood accompanied the discussion, with illustrations sufficiently graphic to emphasize the need for dramatic action.69 Public relations efforts such as these attempted to address the anxiety and uncertainty that accompanied rebuilding and relocation. The halting progress of redevelopment complicated this task. A few days after the Forum discussion, news of the Centre-Morgan certification broke in the press, bringing uncertainty to the upper Hill and the awareness that no neighborhood was exempt from redevelopment. Residents found themselves squeezed by plans on three sides. Delays would create further anxieties for residents and redevelopers
Frank E. Bolden, "People in Ghettos," Pittsburgh Courier, May 31, 1951. Pittsburgh Press, "Project Calls For Clearing Blighted Area," February 26, 1953; Mitchell & Ritchey, Lower Hill Cultural Center, Urban Redevelopment Area No. 3: Land Use Study, (Pittsburgh, Mitchell & Ritchey, 1953). 69 Pittsburgh Courier, "Robin to Speak at Hill District Forum at IKS," April 25, 1953.
68 67

alike. The Planning Commission certified the lower Hill as blighted in 1951, but razing only began in earnest in 1956 due to questions over funding and planning details. The certain doom of project areas and the uncertainty that enshrouded adjacent plots fed blight by discouraging upkeep and investment. This neglect delegitimized redevelopment efforts, painting them as a source of decay rather than a solution. Robin confirmed the risks of investing near redevelopment areas as early as 1951, warning that various Hill locations were slated for projects and that incoming proprietors might face future relocation.70 In this regard, rhetoric about blight and redevelopment fostered decline. Conceptually, blight was not merely the backdrop or starting point of redevelopment and renewal. It was an integral part of the process spurring action and delaying it, and encouraging and discouraging investment. Its power as a form of representation shaped not only understandings of decline and its solutions but also the very process by which those plans became real. While most inside and outside of the Hill District acknowledged blight in its neighborhoods, not everyone agreed with the broad brush that redevelopment interests used to represent blighted conditions in the Hill. Some felt that certain institutions and populations were beneficial and took issue with the idea that blight could only be effectively treated with the bulldozer. Conflicts over the meaning, extent and nature of blight and its remediation led to legal briefs, letters, and academic studies questioning some of the underlying assumptions behind redevelopment in the Hill. A Tale of Two Churches

Pittsburgh Courier, "Bethel Can Locate In New Institution District, If Able," May 5, 1951.

Among the many social and cultural institutions in the Hill, some of the most significant to residents and potentially controversial for redevelopment were churches. An examination of the fate of two houses of worship slated to fall beneath the wreckers demonstrates their congregations' differing understandings of blight's nature. Bethel A.M.E. church, known as "Mother Bethel" stood on Wylie Avenue in the heart of the lower Hill redevelopment area at the time of its condemnation. Founded in 1823 as the first independent African-American congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains, it served as a religious refuge and housed the first church school for African-American children in the area.71 When early plans for the lower Hill became public, the fate of the church building was unclear. Rev. A. A. Hughey, Bethel's pastor, addressed the uncertainty, stating: "No official action has been taken. Some of our officers desire to remain in our present location if it is at all possible. We shall undertake a thorough study and investigation of how we will be affected by the proposed changes."72 Bethel's board eventually sought negotiations with the URA and the Federal Housing Administration.73 The church ultimately chose to cooperate with the URA. It was aware of the poor conditions in the Hill and was working with civic and religious groups to help alleviate them. It understood blight not only as physical, but also experiential. At a conference of the Hill District Community Council held in September 1951, Rev. Hughey stated that churches, civic, and social organizations had done too much preaching and had taken little action to correct problems in the Hill.74 Bethel emphasized cooperation and looked for new ways to strengthen its commitment to improving life in the Hill.

71 72

Pittsburgh Courier, '"Mother Bethel' Will Rebuild," March 17, 1956. Paul L. Jones, "Decree End of Fullerton, Wylie Area," Pittsburgh Courier, March 31, 1951. 73 Pittsburgh Courier, "Bethel Acts To Stay In Same Area," May 26, 1951. 74 Pittsburgh Courier, "Problems of Hill District Outlined At Camp Conference," Sep 22, 1951.


While unsuccessful in maintaining its property, Bethel did win concessions from the Authority to remain in the Hill. John Robin indicated that keeping the church in the institution district planned for the Hill would be desirable and offered the congregation assistance in finding an affordable and suitable location.75 Ultimately, Mother Bethel relocated to another location in the upper Hill and the old church was razed in 1957. Rev. Charles S. Spivey stated of the congregation's decision to remain: "We decided to establish the church at the location to show our faith and confidence in the future of the upper Hill District and in ourselves to aid its spiritual and moral growth."76 To Spivey and his followers, moving the church and remaining in the Hill demonstrated a dedication to their congregation and their neighborhood, widely defined. Although relocation would separate many of the flock from their church, it would also force a large number into nearby public housing with access to the church. Rather than focusing on the physical condition of their building, Bethel's officers looked at the decay that surrounded it, choosing cooperation as an avenue toward improvement. Members of the congregation of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church took a very different approach to the threat of losing their house of worship. As a result, they concentrated on the physical aspects of blight and how it exempted their spiritual home. St. Peter's was an ornate structure that served generations of Italian immigrants who took up residence in the Hill upon their arrival in Pittsburgh. The building was arguably architecturally significant and it had become something of a tourist attraction due to its Lourdes Shrine, surrounded by outdoor statuary portraying the Stations of the Cross and

Pittsburgh Courier, "Bethel Can Locate In New Institution District, If Able," May 5, 1951. Pittsburgh Courier, '"Mother Bethel' Will Rebuild," March 17, 1956.

other religious figures and events. It was also a destination for Pittsburgh's Italian Catholics who returned there after moving out of the area. Originally, as Mayor Lawrence announced in 1951, the URA planned to preserve a number of churches, but revised plans called for the demolition of every one, save Epiphany Catholic Church on the western border of the redevelopment area. The change caused anguish at St. Peter's where a group of highly dedicated parishioners concerned about the fate of the church formed 77 Comitato della Congregazione per salvare la Chiesa and launched a campaign to save it. They looked to Italian and Catholic associations for assistance and retained attorney Louis Glasso to represent them in court. In its court pleadings and petitions and in the resolutions passed in community meetings, the church's defenders tried to preserve a building that they viewed as a sound example of historic architectural beauty. Approximately 10,000 signatories attached their names to a petition to city council to save the structure, emphasizing its beauty.78 Additionally, the mutual benefit society (benemerita) La Loggia 24 Maggio resolved to help save the building, claiming that it was structurally beautiful and that it should be conserved and treasured.79 By contrast, St. Peter's supporters felt that Epiphany was inadequate, in need of repairs, and architecturally less attractive.80 Grosso also claimed that the URA's actions were harming the Hill, stating that the city was "tearing down a church to make way for a


Pittsburgh Press, "High Court Seals Fate Of St. Peter's," December 4, 1958. Unione, "Petizione presentata al Consiglio Comunale, Pittsburgh, per salvare la Chiesa di San Pietro Apostolo," March 27, 1959. 79 Unione, "La Loggio 24 Maggio adotta una risoluzione per la Chiesa S. Pietro," September 18, 1959. 80 Pittsburgh Post-Ga:ette, "Parishioners Fight To Save St. Peter's," June 20, 1959.


cocktail lounge."81 Not only did the URA retain the inferior church, but it might replace St. Peter's with a physically and morally inferior structure. In their arguments and in their statements to the press, 7/ Comite and its supporters argued for the preservation of their church primarily upon aesthetic grounds. They did not understand St. Peter's to be part of the blighted conditions in the Hill, nor did they believe that blight could only be solved through bulldozer redevelopment. This argument may have won the sympathies of the press and of members of the public, but it failed to sway the courts. In a prolonged court battle over the fate of the church, the issues at stake were questions of ownership and the power of religious bodies over church property, not interpretations of blight. Grosso fought the razing of the church in the state Supreme Court and in federal court to no avail. Judges ruled that Pennsylvania vests authority over church property to church authorities, which in Roman Catholicism was the bishop. II Comite also appealed to this ecclesiastical authority. It even sent Grasso to the Vatican. This failed as well. Grasso and II Comite were unlikely to get support from the Church for two reasons. The first was due to the URA's dealings with the Diocese. According to the accusations of II Comite, the URA approached the Irish-American Bishop of Pittsburgh John Dearden and asked him to select which of the Roman Catholic churches in the Hill to save. Dearden selected the primarily Irish Epiphany, marking the mainly Italian St. Peter's for elimination. According to his accusers, Bishop Dearden not only made a decision based upon ethnic favoritism, but he silenced the pastor of St. Peters until it was too late for parishioners to protest. While the personal whims of a Bishop may have seemed unfair, Commonwealth law supported his authority to make the decision.

Pittsburgh Press, "High Court Seals Fate Of St. Peter's," December 4, 1958.

210 Additionally, the Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper was advocating for urban redevelopment and renewal. In a series of articles the newspaper called upon Catholics to attack urban problems with the same vigor they reserved for religious issues. By calling for more active participation in rebuilding cities, the paper exposed the Church's concerns about decay and blight and its support of redevelopment.82 Decades later, in an interview for an oral history project, John Robin indicated that he regretted the management of the St. Peter's controversy. He claimed that, at the time, the plan was inviolable, but under contemporary conditions the URA would have brokered a deal to save the ornate building.83 This tale of two churches demonstrates that understandings of blight could affect responses to redevelopment efforts. A vocal minority saw their part of the Hill as sound and fought attempts to represent it otherwise. Immigration, Race, and Blight Around the same time that the Bethel A. M. E. congregation sacrificed its building to help Hill residents improve their living conditions, another organization turned its attention toward blight and its social aspects. The American Service Institute (ASI) was an organization that, according to its statement of purpose, assisted with the ethnic, cultural, and economic assimilation of immigrants. In its twenty years of existence, from 1941 until 1961, it produced a number of published and unpublished studies that collected and analyzed data about immigrant communities and the conditions in which they lived. As part of its efforts, the ASI commissioned a study of social blight

Bill McClinton, "Urban Renewal Is Everybody's Business, But Are Catholics Meeting The Challenge?," Pittsburgh Catholic, March 3, 1960. 83 Joel Tarr & Michael Weber, interviewers. Oral History of Pittsburgh City Government As Reported By The Mayor's Executive Secretaries, January 21, 1989, 4-5.


211 throughout the city. Entitled, "A Study of Five Factors Which Might Make A Partial Index of Social Blight," the effort was incomplete and records of it included researcher notes exposing some of the reasoning that led to the report's analysis. The report looked at median income, the percentage of households with annual income under $2000, years of school completed, delinquency, and housing blight as a guide to finding socially blighted areas.84 The author's first observation is that the areas with the largest amount of negative factors were those that had the highest proportion of non-white population. Many of these areas were clustered in the Hill. To distance immigrants from this negative data, and therefore from African-American neighborhoods, the report segregated non-white and white majority areas and divided each based on the extent to which they housed foreignborn populations. With these divisions, the study found that social blight was more prevalent in non-white areas than in white areas. Within the non-white sections, those with few foreign born and no ethnic enclaves fared worst. The Hill was home to many of these areas. Decayed housing played a role in social blight, but the ASI did not find it to be more significant than other factors. Replacing buildings and roads would not affect the existence of blight. Even with the removal of poor housing conditions, blight could still persist in the form of poverty, poor literacy and crime. This conception of blight was in conflict with the ideas that girded the URA's plans to remove the poor and rebuild the Hill to tempt middle and upper class suburban dwellers back to the city. In its plans to improve housing conditions for the poor the URA


According to the report, the median income of all individuals in the city was $2858 in 1949. American Service Institute Records, ca.1920-1961, AIS.1963.01, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.

did not, at the time, address other factors of social blight. The ASI's understanding was social and holistic compared to that of the URA. The ASI's analysis would not benefit every Hill resident. Although not necessarily blaming African-American Hill dwellers for their conditions, the report did claim that African-American neighborhoods with no foreign-born enclaves suffered from a greater percentage of socially blighting factors than did areas with more significant immigrant populations. The report linked large and cohesive immigrant communities with better conditions in primarily African-American areas like the Hill. In predominantly white areas, the study saw the inverse effect. This correlation between residents and blighting factors did not imply causality, but also did not provide evidence to support the maintenance of social networks in neighborhoods like the Hill. Both physically and socially blighted, these areas might have appeared less valuable and salvageable in light of this analysis. Although likely unaffected by the ASI's report, the redevelopment of the lower Hill did little to maintain African-American social networks. Neighborhood Interests, Delays, and Demolition Concerns over funding and implementation delayed City Council's approval of the lower Hill redevelopment plan until 1955.85 On March 26, 1956, the URA bought the first of 1,300 properties in the lower Hill and opened a relocation office in the neighborhood a few weeks later. Demolition started in May, erasing everything baneful and beneficial in the area. The loss of housing and cultural institutions in the lower Hill troubled residents outside the project area. The threat of redevelopment and renewal expanding into their


Roy Lubove, Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh: Government, Business, and Environmental Change, Volume 1 (Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), 131.

neighborhoods prompted them to look for solutions to blight as they defined it. The Hill District Community Council (HDCC), a coalition of neighborhood stakeholders, proposed a plan to improve the upper Hill shortly after the demolition began. It hoped to give local grassroots stakeholders greater control over the future of their community. After gaining the support of religious leaders, the HDCC sent a letter to the mayor in May 1957, requesting a meeting to discuss blighted conditions. As a focal point for their neighborhood's problems, it drew attention to a vacant lot across from the Miller Street public school where unsafe conditions injured several neighborhood children. In its letter to the mayor, the HDCC proposed combining citizen participation with an increased level of municipal services to create a "sound way to stem the spread of blight, to stabilize property values and promote safe and healthful living conditions."86 Another community organization, the Fifth Ward Civic Association, started its own plan in 1958 to improve the Schenley Heights section of the Hill. Invoking the Pittsburgh Renaissance, the group sought to "improve the living conditions in their respective areas as outlined in redevelopment and urban renewal proposals."87 Its proposals, however, focused on maintaining current uses and gaining control of blight remediation. Rather than opposing redevelopment, it promoted self-help and cooperation as a means to preserve, improve, and protect its stake in the community. Community groups were not the only stakeholders asserting themselves. Small businesses noted defects in their communities. In their efforts to address them, they recognized ways in which the government contributed to creating and maintaining them. At its December 9, 1957 meeting, the Business and Professional Association passed a
86 87

Pittsburgh Courier, "HDCC Asks Mayor for 'Blight' Meet," April 13, 1957. Pittsburgh Courier, "5th Ward Civic Ass'n Unit Works Out Plan to Improve Schenley Heights Area," June 14, 1958.

resolution protesting the opening of new taverns in the area. In its opinion, the Commonwealth's regulatory agencies were hurting local businesses by approving new liquor licenses. One member blamed the community as well, stating that "[w]e have all been asleep, sound asleep ~ you, I, the ministers and the general public ~ while greedy moneymakers have sneaked into our front yard to make a shameful blight of the area, where we are expected to live and rear our children in a respectful manner." He continued, claiming that "As long as we sit idly by and permit this condition to exist, we will have no choice except to have Negro neighborhoods peck-marked with taverns, so many of them, that decent, respectable people won't be able to walk safely in some blocks." The liquor control board continued issuing large numbers of permits for bars and taverns in the Hill, which the association saw as contrary to the city's redevelopment

aims. Even in its efforts to renovate the area, the government ran afoul of local business interests and in turn fostered additional decline. The city and URA's designs on land beyond the redevelopment area put the investments of local business owners in limbo. This uncertain future contributed to blighted conditions. Some business owners who had anticipated expanding, remodeling, or building when the lower Hill redevelopment was announced put their plans on hold, concerned that any improvements or repairs would be lost to the wrecking ball. Others who anticipated a boom due to renewal were similarly disappointed by the project's failure to bring them a significant boost in business. Years of operating in uncertainty discouraged current stakeholders and potential outside

investors as well.
88 89

"BPA Up in Arms as 88 Bar Opens," Pittsburgh Courier, December 14, 1957. John L. Clark, "Wylie Ave.," Pittsburgh Courier, November 19, 1960.

Declining conditions in areas adjacent to the redevelopment site were a source of frustration to both residents and redevelopment interests. The city's commercial community criticized the police for not adequately protecting stores. In January of 1960, the Pittsburgh Press reported that a dry cleaning shop had been vandalized three times since the previous May, stating "[s]urely the police should be able to protect property in such a location and discourage any repetition by arresting the vandals. If we expect to develop a new commercial and residential area in the lower Hill, we'd better show an ability to protect property there."90 Vandalism and crime existed alongside the URA's attempts to market the area to development investors, diminishing its efforts. Neighborhood and downtown businesses recognized and protested this neglect as detrimental to their interests and counterproductive for the replacement of blight with a vital urban fabric. Even former slumlords recognized that their investments in the Hill were in danger. Claiming that landlords could effectively participate in neighborhood revitalization, one such real estate firm (that remained anonymous in the press) retained architects to create a plan for an upper Hill superblock. With community cooperation, the firm held public meetings and promised to renovate the properties that it owned and to offer guidance to homeowners in the surrounding blocks.91 This was only a temporary solution, as the area was ultimately slated for large-scale redevelopment. The firm's willingness to make an investment in an area under the specter of redevelopment was exceptional. The potential for future razing and rebuilding usually depressed investment.

90 91

Pittsburgh Press, "Get The Vandals!," January 26, 1960. Mel Seidenberg, "New Plan for Ending Upper Hill Squalor Under Consideration," Pittsburgh PostGazette, December 24, 1960.

Each of these stakeholders recognized blight in their community and sought means to address it before outsiders encroached, but saw different problems enmeshed in the concept, including public safety, physical conditions, property values, and commercial health. Many of their ideas required government assistance to come to fruition and the city proved unable to fulfill every request. Even when unrealized, these ideas focused community advocacy, defined local problems, and proposed solutions. They resulted in modest physical change, but perhaps more importantly, they educated local organizations about the discourse and process of redevelopment and renewal. These groups wielded this knowledge and confidence against the URA's final attempt to save its faltering project in the lower Hill. Not all decline resulted from government and property owner neglect. Blight also arose during the redevelopment process as delays between razing and reconstruction grew weeds and protest in the lower Hill. While the construction of the Civic Arena and its retractable domed roof, the project's centerpiece, went relatively smoothly from the ground breaking in 1958 and until it opened in 1961, the rest of the plan proceeded haltingly. Delays, compromises, and back-tracking threatened the integrity of the project and shook the confidence of those who sought a home for high art and culture next to a seething slum.92 Plans to build luxury housing began with a contract with national developers Webb & Knapp in 1959. The Aluminum Corporation of America (ALCOA) rescued the project in 1963 after financial problems incapacitated the original developers. Only one of the three planned towers eventually materialized the next year. Also planned, delayed, and amended was a motor hotel near the new arena. Construction could not begin until the courts resolved a conflict between local hotel

Mallett, 185-6.

217 operators and the URA over increased competition. Throughout 1962 and 1963, the courts sided with the Authority and construction eventually began in 1964. Delays maintained vacant and stagnant conditions in the redevelopment area and discouraged development adjacent to it. Also in 1964, the construction of Crosstown Boulevard ended, reducing traffic and placing a formidable physical and mental barrier between the lower Hill and downtown. Isolated and scarred by development and delays, Hill residents grew increasingly restless. The Failure of Relocation, Community Solutions, and the Shift to "Renewal" Fears over an uncertain future compounded frustration over a relocation process that paid insignificant attention to protecting communities and failed to house everyone displaced by redevelopment. Housing shortages and racial bias forced many of those who did not find space in public housing into cramped quarters in previously established ghettos throughout the city. Instead of achieving their vision of remediation, the city and its allies dispersed the Hill's problems. Blight moved with relocatees. According to Adolph W. Schmidt, chairman of the ACCD, "despite all the efforts of public and private agencies, the relocation process did not cure or ease the problems of prostitution, narcotics, gambling, trade in illegal liquor, 'winos.' derelicts, high crime rates or high disease rates ~ but merely dispersed these problems to other sections of the Hill, to other areas of the city, or to other communities."93 Tensions between the city and Hill residents prompted a response from redevelopment and relocation agencies. ACTION-Housing, a non-profit organization, and the City Planning Department instituted community and social planning programs


Herbert G. Stein, "Moving Families Is Major Problem For Communities," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 14, 1961.

that encouraged local participation in development in the early 1960s. Where previous grassroots efforts lacked resources, those in the 1960s garnered more support. This accompanied a change in the URA's tactics away from massive clearance projects and toward spot removal and rehabilitation in the rest of the Hill.94 The URA supported these new programs with hiring of citizen participation staffers and community planners that attended meetings, educated activists about the process and discourse of redevelopment, and served as a liaison between redevelopment and neighborhood interests. Local groups took advantage of their somewhat increased access to resources and decision makers in the URA's "shift to 'renewal' as well as redevelopment."95 One organization that availed itself of this opportunity was the Hill District Homeowners and Tenants Association (HDHO&TA), facilitating negotiations between neighborhood interests and the city. In 1961, it held a series of meetings with the city over a proposed self-help development that would prevent the destruction of houses. Although the government provided no funding, its receptiveness provided hope that self-help efforts could lead to positive results.96 Additionally, the HDHO&TA in coordination with the Urban League hosted meetings between the City Planning Commission and representatives from civic groups in an effort to influence renewal plans.97 Another group, the Citizens Committee for Hill District Renewal (CCHDR) formed to take renewal into its own hands. According to Harry Bray, the Committee's coordinator, "It is most important that citizens of the Hill get organized and begin working on plans for their future area. We all know that the City Planning Department is
Pittsburgh Courier, "City Planners Will Confer With 'Hill' Representatives," July 7, 1962. Pittsburgh Courier, "Hill Council Will Hear Urban Renewal Report," November 18, 1961. 96 Harry Brooks, "Home Owners, Tenants Told of Plans to Modernize Homes in Wandless St. Area," Pittsburgh Courier, January 28, 1961. 97 Pittsburgh Courier, "City Planners Will Confer With 'Hill' Representatives," July 7, 1962.
95 94

working on a proposed plan for the Hill. Thus, this gives us an excellent opportunity to have a voice in the overall development of the new Hill."98 At its inaugural meeting, Calvin S. Hamilton, the head of the Planning Department, and James A. Jordon, an African American city councilmember active in the Hill, addressed the Committee, signaling the potential for cooperation. Community engagement influenced the Planning Department's approach to analyzing social and community concerns. In a 1964 study entitled "The Hill District and Environs: Section 1 - The Problem," planners looked at the "physical, economic, and social facts" of the Hill." As in the 1950s, the analysis began with an investigation of traffic and access. Repeating many of the same problems identified in the blight certification reports of the 1950s, the report cited steep grades, jogged intersections, decaying paving, and changing and inadequate street widths. It then turned its attention to housing and land use issues. Overcrowding, poor housing, and the invasion of inefficient commerce and industry remained from earlier reports. They joined population decline, overcrowded schools, and inadequate public facilities as sources of community ills. With the inclusion of social and community problems, the 1964 study resembled the work of E. G. Faludi in Hamilton two decades earlier. It represented a more holistic understanding of decline that transcended the legal standards for determining blight in the Urban Redevelopment Law as well as the Planning Commission's practice throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Cordial relations between the representatives of the City and the Hill bore fruit through collaboration, but ultimately did not persist. The CCHDR and the URA worked
Pittsburgh Courier, "Hill Committee Sets First Public Meeting," Mar 30, 1963. The Hill District and Environs: Section 1 - The Problem: Preliminary Staff Report (Pittsburgh: Department of City Planning, March 1964).
99 98

in concert on a survey of housing conditions in the Hill.

Shortly after the

announcement of the effort, however, tensions arose dividing the URA and Hill representatives like the CCHDR and Councilman Jordon. At a public meeting at the Loendi Club in June 1964, Jordon accused Robert Pease, Executive Director of the URA at the time, of failing to keep him informed of plans. Hill residents sought assurances from their representatives that "downtown will not come up to our area and tell us what to do."101 Without timely information, Jordon could not warn community groups of threats to their vision of the Hill. Gaps in communication and collaboration strained relations and fueled debate over what constituted blight and how it should be solved. In these conflicts, the CCHDR not only advocated and studied, it took action. The organization purchased a building cited for fifteen code violations to rehabilitate as a demonstration. It tried to show what local organizations could do to eliminate blight in their neighborhood without handing the area over to wealthier, whiter residents.102 Informal groups also took up blight remediation. On August 10, 1965, 150 to 200 "militant parents, teenagers, and children of the Hill House Assn. Neighborhood Development area 4 in the vicinity of Jumonville and Tustin Sts., armed themselves with shovels, wheel barrels, and brooms. They marched on a debris littered vacant lot at the corner of Jumonville and Tustin Sts., in a clean upclear off campaign and successfully provided a safe clean play area for the neighborhood children."103 Eradicating blight and decay meant eliminating impediments to a better quality of life. The end result would be

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Hill District Renewal Outlined," May 15, 1964. George E. Barbour. "Jordon, URA In Clash On Hill Project," Pittsburgh Courier, June 13, 1964. Pittsburgh Courier, "Breach Widens Between Hill Citizens And URA," January 29, 1966. Pittsburgh Courier, "Bluff Area Citizens Redevelop Play Area," August 28, 1965.

221 a healthier residential neighborhood, a goal that community planners and Hill residents appeared to share. Behind the Chinese Wall: Development as Segregation The URA produced a contradictory response to community efforts, participating in them while continuing to view residents, and their neighborhood, as part of the problem. In 1965, it worked with developers to create new plans for the lower Hill cultural center that would isolate the wealthy, white redeveloped area from the AfricanAmerican and less wealthy middle Hill. This was in response to investor concerns about building next to blight. A 1964 article in the Press addressed this tension, quoting an anonymous man who stated: "I'm not going to take my wife up there for a concert and run the risk of her getting hit by a bucket of garbage."104 This language is significant. In order to be hit with garbage, someone must throw it. It was not only the physical condition of the Hill but the image of its garbage-flinging residents that inspired fear. Investors demanded protection from human and physical blight. Anchoring the development with an auditorium added weight to these prejudices. Without an audience, the arts could not survive. A barrier might provide them with security. A number of Hill residents objected, calling the new development a "Chinese Wall" and advocating for housing instead.105 Ralph E. Koger of the Pittsburgh Courier asked "[h]ow can they stop the renewal ogre from threatening small shop owners and moderate-income renters with eternal banishment from the Hill District which furnished a more than adequate living in the past and might furnish a better living in the future?" Urban renewal, the very program that residents previously looked to as a way eliminate

104 105

Ralph Brem, "12,000 Wait To Escape Hill Slums," Pittsburgh Press, April 13, 1964. Pittsburgh Press, "Hill Residents Seek Living Room," January 10, 1965.


the physical and social ills of their community, became a potential enemy. Lorenzo A. Hill of the CCHDR reminded the URA at a community meeting in 1965 that residents had not forgotten the promise of a renewal that would bring not luxury homes for affluent white consumers, but safe, clean and affordable housing for current residents.106 Hill dwellers agreed that blight required remediation, but dissented over its characteristics and cures. They did not see themselves as part of the problem and demanded to remain as part of the solution. In an article entitled "Does Urban Renewal Mean Negro Removal," the Pittsburgh Courier accused planners of placing the costs of blight remediation upon the poor: Admittedly, the elimination of slums is most desirable, but not at the present expense to the people living in them. At the moment, planners of urban renewal place more emphasis on beautiful buildings, landscaping and arterial routes over which the white suburbanite can hasten to and from work in the central city without having to contact or view the "victims" of 300 years of deprivation as they wallow helplessly in their human misery which the slums

As a response to protest, the URA assigned two staffers to assist residents in the middle Hill with community-led blight remediation efforts later that year. They were to follow up on the 1964 study of the Hill's problems and, according to Pease, "to work with all Hill District residents to develop action programs and goals for the overall improvement of their community."108 The URA set up a field office, named the Hill District Community Improvement Office, that provided space to the CCHDR and sought new ways to promote self-help programs in the Hill. While all sides recognized blight in

106 Ralph E. Koger, "Citizens Unveil Plan for Solvent Folks to Renew, Remain in Hill," Pittsburgh Courier, Jan 16, 1965. 107 Pittsburgh Courier, "Does Urban Renewal Mean Negro Removal?," February 27, 1965. 108 Pittsburgh Courier, "Redevelopment Authority Assigns 2 to Help Improve Hill," August 7, 1965.


the Hill, just as they had a decade earlier, residents and the African-American press began a more active and vociferous protest against official solutions that viewed Hill dwellers as part of the problem. In proposing alternate solutions, they asserted an understanding of blight based on the harms that urban problems brought to their lives. The efforts of the CCHDR and other community planning groups targeted crime, garbage, and disease. They offered an alternative vision of blight and its solutions that contrasted sharply against the diagnosis and cure proposed by the proponents of bulldozer redevelopment. The dream of an arts center died the next summer when bids to construct a new multi-purpose stadium on the North Side came in $12 million over budget. The remains of the effort separated downtown and the remnants of African-American community in the Hill: a single luxury apartment tower next to a hotel overlooking a domed auditorium surrounded by a sea of parking lots. The apartments provided a view of two versions of Hill blight. To the east lay the poverty and overcrowding of the middle and upper Hill. To the west lay the sterile half-completed redevelopment area. The end result pleased almost no one. To Hill residents it was a symbol of the costs they bore in the name of a progress that did not include them. Racial and class injustice left fresh wounds. The day following the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., simmering anger and frustration sparked a violent series of demonstrations in the Hill. Some looted and burned stores, devastating local businesses. Robert Johnson, a postal worker living in the Hill at the time, recalled a man at the Mainway Supermarket telling looters that they could take what they wanted but begging them, in vain, not to burn down the store. Someone threw a Molotov cocktail on

the roof anyway, destroying the building and shuttering the business. remembered many grocery stores in the Hill at the time. None survived.


Rioting and looting had profound effects on the community and its relations with the government and development interests. The unrest vented years of pent up frustration over racial inequality, oppression and mistreatment. It gained the attention and fearful respect of civil and municipal leaders, who realized that poor African-American Pittsburghers would no longer tolerate being removed, obscured, and ignored as part of the solution to the city's problems. Hill residents' problems now became Pittsburgh's problems and bodies previously dedicated to redevelopment turned to address deeper structural issues such as poverty and inequality. Mayor Joseph Barr set up a Task Force on Civil Disorders that asked City Council to transfer $2.3 million from various renewal projects to the Hill District. Some of the money was for the rehabilitation of housing, demolition of uninhabitable structures, and creation of shopping centers, but recommendations also included social and cultural amenities like swimming pools and play lots.110 The ACCD also changed its focus in 1968. Henry L. Hillman, president of the Conference, stated: "We must admit we failed to recognize the urban crisis." According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hillman "made it clear that the Conference would not abandon the physical renaissance of Pittsburgh but stated that the plight of Pittsburgh's slum dwellers would now be the main concern of the Conference."111 These changes in stance were welcome, but they did not represent a complete change in the way that civil

Robert Johnson, "MLK riots: 40 years later, turmoil on the Hill stirs memories," Pittsburgh PostGazette, April 02, 2008. 110 Pittsburgh Press, "Plan Pushed To Help Hill," July 3, 1968. 111 Thomas M. Hritz, "New Goals Set For Better City," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 25, 1968.


225 and municipal leadership understood blight. Hill residents and other poor and AfricanAmerican Pittsburghers still represented part of the problem of blight. Instead of removing them from redevelopment areas as bulldozers eliminated blighted buildings, new solutions recommended a form of human rehabilitation. Job training and antipoverty and education programs improved people, not the systems that constrained their access to opportunity and advancement. In a sense, the treatment changed but the diagnosis still implicated the local population as a blighting factor. This new attention to social, economic, and cultural problems came at a tremendous price for those who called the Hill home. With local businesses destroyed, life grew difficult. Riots dissuaded private investment from outside of the Hill, complicating efforts to rebuild the commercial heart of the area. Local AfricanAmerican-owned businesses also suffered from the riots. Damage and looting compounded the loss of clients for businesses-to-business enterprises. Maude Hawkins, a African-American businesswoman who owned a meat and sausage processing facility in the Hill, eventually closed after the riots forced most of her supermarket and restaurant clientele to shutter their storefronts.112 She and her neighborhood shareholders suffered, as did those whom she employed and supplied. From these physical and economic costs, Hill residents gained a new militancy. They no longer asked for the consideration of government and development interests. They demanded it. Declaring Crawford Street "the end of the line" for luxury development, they fought visions of progress and ideas about blight remediation that ran counter to their beliefs about their neighborhood's best interests. A member of the United Negro Protest Committee summed up the new militancy, stating "I swear to God that you

Papers of Maude Hawkins, 1944-1988, MSS# 171, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

will be sorry if any more of the Lower Hill is devoted to construction of housing for the affluent society."113 Facing these and numerous other barriers, redevelopment interests took their plans for a cultural center downtown. Separated by the Crosstown Boulevard, the Civic Arena and a sea of parking lots, the affluence of downtown and the riotand~ development scarred Hill District would co-exist in an uneasy relation. Blight remediation continued in the Hill, but focused on improving the quality of life for local residents while "rehabilitating" them. Downtown, a cultural and historic district would begin to form where "adult" businesses and gay and lesbian social establishments existed. Blight as Opportunity As they brought urban renewal to the residential neighborhoods of the Hill District, planners and redevelopment interests solidified the meaning of blight in local public policy and their position to define it, while expanding its reach into less decayed neighborhoods. In their certification efforts, planners focused primarily upon physical manifestations of blight. Poor traffic design, mixed or less useful land uses, and decaying physical conditions figured prominently in certification studies, comprising the official reasons why redevelopment could and should occur. These factors supported the extension of the downtown commercial and Oakland institutional districts into the Hill which the ACCD, URA, and city government proposed as the best and highest use of the land. Measures of health, welfare, safety, and quality of life were not absent from planners' analyses, but they played a diminished role in determining blight, befitting the similarly diminished role that Hill residents would play in the neighborhood's proposed

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Alcoa May Not Finish Hill Area Apartments," February 4, 1965, quoted in, Mallett, 187.


future. Planners certified the District's redevelopment areas according to proposed, rather than current, uses, resulting in an overwhelmingly physical characterization of blight. Since the beginning of redevelopment in Pittsburgh, planners had grown more confident in their methodology for finding blight. The narrative in studies shifted from argument to interpretation. In early certifications, the Planning Commission defended its ability to determine blight. In the Hill studies, it unapologetically presented its data. Support from the justice system, redevelopment interests, and the press solidified the Planning Commission's position as the arbiter of blight. Over the course of its certifications in the Hill, the Commission used its position to label increasingly less decayed neighborhoods as blighted. Even physically acceptable areas could be called blighted if they did not conform to redevelopment plans. In this regard, blight waned as a marker of decline and waxed as a signal of opportunity. Jack Robin, former executive secretary to Mayor Lawrence and executive director of the URA, described the city's planning efforts as opportunistic and imaginative. He asserted that formal planning as a scientific discipline never really affected the City's basic development decisions.114 Planners remained instrumental to the process, opening doors of possibility and facilitating the replacement of buildings, roads, poverty, and people. Although residents supported the elimination of the first three, their understanding of the nature of blight did not include themselves, and thus the representation of Hill blight in public planning discourse was complex and contested. According to their interests, Hill residents, businesspersons, and even slumlords understood the nature of blight in different ways. Residents in redevelopment areas saw blight through the lens of


Joel Tarr & Michael Weber, interviewers. Oral History of Pittsburgh City Government As Reported By The Mayor's Executive Secretaries, January 21, 1989, 66.


their quality of life and expected remediation to improve their situation. Local business owners saw blight as a barrier to earning both profits and respect. Real estate interests, landlords, and homeowners with property adjacent to the redevelopment areas shared a view of blight as a dangerous siren that would tempt outside developers and bring about the loss of the economic and use values of their investments. Individual interests also led community members to differing ideas about the origins of blight. Some blamed landlords. Others faulted the city. All of these divergent ideas and interests resulted in unique understandings of blight's nature and its cures. Most of these stakeholders, however, recognized some form of blight in their community. A few did not agree and argued that their part of the Hill was not blighted. 7/ Comite fought to save its church on the basis of its physical beauty. The ASI sought to disassociate the immigrant community in the Hill with the existence of blight. These groups exempted their interests from the definition of blight. Few, however, claimed that the Hill was free of blight. While agreement about its existence should have made public relations easier for the URA, the varied and sometimes conflicting representations of both blight and Hill neighborhoods complicated matters. Redevelopment interests addressed these constituencies initially by focusing their rhetoric on improving the quality of life in the Hill. They promised a better life through public housing and slum clearance, but problems with relocation would eventually doom efforts to garner support. By the early 1960s, community resistance inspired a turn to community planning which empowered neighborhood groups to define their own problems and propose their own cures. After the riots of 1968, residents were in a position to demand attention to their concerns. Pittsburgh diverted renewal funds to

229 programs aimed at providing a better quality of life while the ACCD pledged to battle poverty in the Hill. These solutions, however, did not change one of the primary tenets of official understandings of blight in Pittsburgh renewal policy. People were still a factor of blight. The solution to the problem shifted from clearance through relocation to spot rehabilitation through job training and anti-poverty programs. This meant that incompatible impoverished African Americans, along with decaying buildings and incompatible land uses, continued to define blight for those interested in gentrifying the Hill. The results of redevelopment and renewal were mixed and the Hill fared far worse than downtown. While some of the worst slums disappeared, so too did communities, social networks, and historic landmarks. Furthermore, delays and uncertainties damaged the use and property values of residences and businesses in and around redevelopment areas, resulting in additional blight. Blight proved to be somewhat impervious to remediation. As a project, Hill renewal very possibly developed and promoted the concept of blight far more effectively than it developed and promoted the neighborhood. Hamilton's experiences with neighborhood renewal were distinct compared to Pittsburgh's even if its results were similarly halting and lackluster. Unlike Pittsburgh, Hamilton did not have a significant African-American community and therefore race played little to no role in the city's renewal efforts. Additionally, due to the differences in the legal framework of renewal, Hamilton faced more administrative and fewer judicial checks on its authority to establish redevelopment project areas. A brief investigation into the interests and ideas that supported the Ambitious City's first major foray into

residential renewal provides insight into how urban planners, social planners, and homeowners understood blight in development policy and practice and how they disagreed about its use as a representation of a neighborhood's problems. Hamilton: Blight, Redevelopment, and Resistance in the North End As was the case in Pennsylvania throughout the twentieth century, the provincial legislature had ultimate control over the enumeration of municipal powers in Ontario. Provincial parliament passed a specific municipal act for each city, enumerating the powers allotted to their respective city councils. In conjunction with these municipal acts, legislation dictating municipal policy throughout the province determined the tools available to cities and the boundaries within which they could operate. In Ontario, the Planning Act governed municipal and county redevelopment. By 1952, it enabled city councils to create redevelopment areas defined as "an area within a municipality, the redevelopment of which in the opinion of the council is desirable because of age, dilapidation, over-crowding, faulty arrangement, unsuitability of buildings or for any other reason."115 Thus, although Ontario and Pennsylvania both controlled the activities of their municipalities, Queen's Park allowed city councils greater freedom over the definition of redevelopment areas in policy. In Pennsylvania, planners, as technical experts, held that power. Furthermore Ontario did not provide a comprehensive list of criteria for the determination of these areas, as was the case in Pennsylvania; rather it granted cities the right to develop their own. Also significantly, blight was not a requirement for redevelopment, although Hamilton invoked it repeatedly, and with good reason.


An Act to amend the Planning Act, RSO 1952, c. 75, s. 8.

The other potential check on the power to create redevelopment areas, and also to define blight in local development policy, came at the federal level when cities attempted to use federal renewal funds to fuel their projects. Federal law specified that renewal areas should be "blighted or substandard," but enumerated no metric by which a municipality should judge a prospective redevelopment area.116 This freedom afforded Hamilton the ability to start its redevelopment programs without fear of litigation over its powers. Pittsburgh and its redevelopment interests had to fight to create a constitutional precedent that would shelter them as its renewal program and its definition of blight expanded. Hamilton's planners and redevelopment boosters could defend their right to define redevelopment areas, and therefore blighted areas, based on clearly enumerated policies. This would shift the earliest battles over the definition of blight in redevelopment discourse from its role in policy to its use as a representation of project area problems. Although Hamilton and other Ontario cities benefited greatly from the protection provided by public policy, they were not free to define blight and blighted areas without interference. The Planning Act required that the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and the Provincial Planning Minister approve plans and definitions of redevelopment areas, making a provincial veto possible. Public opinion was a powerful force in the provincial review process. The OMB held hearings in which the general public could register their complaints about any planning project, which could delay or even prevent official approval. This greatly increased the importance of public relations and the use of blight as a representation of conditions in Hamilton's redevelopment efforts, particularly when redevelopment area residents did not see their neighborhood as declining. Since the

An Act To Amend The National Housing Act, 1954, SC 1956, c. 9, s. 23.


public could influence OMB approval of redevelopment areas as defined by city council, the representation of blight could directly affect its definition in local redevelopment policy and practice. In spite of its freedom, the Ambitious City did little to innovate blight's definition or application in local policy during the 1950s and 1960s. This is primarily because it based most of its redevelopment program upon the prior work of E. G. Faludi. His studies held tremendous influence over the definition of blight throughout the course of the city's mid-century redevelopment program. His findings echoed in Hamilton's redevelopment and renewal plans and studies and in the city's official master plan. This plan, which earned provincial approval, bound solutions for Hamilton's future to definitions of past problems. Blight remained significant in local redevelopment rhetoric and an investigation of the study that launched Hamilton's urban renewal program demonstrates how the city found the right blight to get the wrecking ball swinging toward a new and potentially brighter future. The 1958 Urban Renewal Study On October 24, 1957, Ontario Parliament approved an agreement between the city and the CMHC to produce an urban renewal study to guide Hamilton's redevelopment. According to Mark P. David, the study's director, public desire to replace substandard housing, eliminate blight, and rehabilitate aging dwellings prompted the project. Provincial and federal approval enabled the city to enter into the contract using a $12,000 federal grant, with only $4,000 required from city coffers.117 David justified renewal stating, "Hamilton does not have the extensive concentrations of bad housing in blighted areas, which exist in some cities. But in the

Urban Renewal Study, 1958, (Hamilton, 1959), 1.


older parts of the City, there are some sections which contain a considerable percentage of substandard structures."118 With this introduction he defended the report and its diagnosis of blight in a city that lacked many of the problems of its neighbor, Toronto, and the more distant metropolis, Montreal. The study sought to garner support from all levels of government with a scientific and measured diagnosis of the Hamilton's problems. Its goals were threefold: to assess the city's housing needs, to determine how many units could be rehabilitated, and to decide how many would require replacement.119 The authors rooted their work in the city's planning history, drawing directly from Faludi's original master plan. His tripartite division of neighborhoods into "AConservation," "B-Declining," and "C-Blighted" categories, based upon the conditions of their buildings and environment, was one of the most significant borrowings. Each respectively required conservation, rehabilitation, or redevelopment. Both Faludi's and David's studies separated decline from blight, with the former eligible for treatment and the latter deemed terminally ill.120 The urban renewal study primarily analyzed living conditions, in sharp contrast to the Hill District certifications that privileged physical conditions and spatial design over the everyday experiences of those who lived in blighted areas. While Pittsburgh planners viewed the Hill as a blighted barrier to downtown expansion, diminishing the importance of residential ills in their analyses, Hamilton examined its neighborhoods in light of their current uses. The study's scope, constraints, and goals may have influenced this posture. The urban renewal study covered the entire city and all of its land uses while the
Ibid.,\. Ibid, 2. 120 City Planning Committee of Hamilton and Town Planning Consultants, LTD, Report on Existing Conditions Prepared As Base Material For Planning, (Hamilton: City of Hamilton, 1945), Existing Conditions3.
119 Ui


Pittsburgh study focused more narrowly on a specific neighborhood. Furthermore, the residential focus of renewal in Canada may have influenced Hamilton's first forays into the program. By contrast, Pittsburgh's planners approached the Hill after arguably successful experiences with commercial and industrial redevelopment. Although both cities' efforts were opportunistic, their goals were different. Pittsburgh aimed to reinvent a residential area as an extension of downtown, while Hamilton sought to determine potential renewal sites. A number of its older residential neighborhoods conformed with the profile of urban renewal project areas. In its residential analyses, the urban renewal report determined that living situation did not equate to dwelling condition, finding that "Hamilton is just over 100 years old, and only about one quarter of the dwellings are more than 60 years old. There are some blighted areas with deteriorated housing, but the main reasons for poor living conditions are low standards of internal space and external environment."121 The age and physical condition of housing played a role in neighborhood quality of life, but it was clearly not the only factor. In fact, over 75% of all buildings in the city were sound.122 Following Faludi, it blamed insufficient control over urban growth for industrial and commercial invasions into residential neighborhoods. It also examined heavy traffic, another invasion that made streets noisy, loud, dirty, and dangerous. Besides cars, railroads and other transportation technologies could blight a neighborhood with smoke, noise, and heavy infrastructure. The report's concern with the mixing of disparate elements went beyond land uses and street types. It addressed the mixing of building quality itself. While a few areas

121 122

Urban Renewal Study, 1958, 10. Ibid., 15.

contained concentrated clusters of fair-to-poor quality buildings, many were scattered amidst good housing. The threat of decline spreading from isolated spots of blight and decay to sound housing represented a significant danger, according to the report, which dramatically claimed: "The areas of sound housing, surrounding blocks with many substandard buildings will be subject to the spread of decay, unless effective steps are taken to halt its progress."123 This rhetoric reinforced two traditional ideas about blight: that it is virulent and that it spreads easily into areas of variegated use and condition. At least on paper, Hamilton retained closer ties to traditional planning ideals than did Pittsburgh's more opportunist approach which more readily adjusted blight to fit proposed plans. The study distinguished between decline and blight by both nature and severity, with the former leading to the latter. It described declining areas with the following language: "Built up during the last thirty to fifty years the Districts have characteristics which may lead to blight, such as heavy site coverage by buildings, narrow lots, lack of space for off-street parking, heavy through traffic on residential streets, lack of open space for recreation, and the intrusion of other uses into the residential sections."124 Conditions in these areas warranted action, but the authors still held hope that they could be molded into the image of the ideal neighborhood. Blighted residential districts, on the other hand, were too infected by the creeping influence of industry. City planners had zoned many of these areas as industrial, which for a residential neighborhood was equivalent to being dead upon arrival. The report noted that industries had been purchasing houses in such areas and were likely to

Ibid., 15. Ibid., 18.

continue to "eat" those that remained.1 5 The choice of words is interesting, for it evoked both disease and the relationship between the hunter and its prey. Industry devoured the residential, resulting in blight. The report ended with recommended priorities for renewal. The top priority, Van Wagner's and Crescent Beach, was already becoming a park, although the transformation would ultimately take many years. Downtown Hamilton was an unsurprising second choice. Other neighborhoods fell into ranks below. The study suggested a plan for neighborhood projects and city-wide services. It took a holistic view of blight remediation on the scale of the city, integrating concern for major infrastructure with redevelopment project areas. Pittsburgh's planners shared these concerns, but Hamilton's more traditional and less opportunistic approach to planning for renewal allowed for a deeper consideration of neighborhoods as living spaces. The study inspired City Council to take action on renewal. It established Van Wagner's and Crescent Beaches as the city's first renewal project. Additionally, the Board of Control set aside one million dollars in May 1960 to redevelop downtown's blighted areas over the following four years. This was the first time that Hamilton put urban renewal into its capital budget. Both of these actions followed the study's list of suggested priorities. The study did not determine every priority. That task fell to the Urban Renewal Committee, which the Council authorized as part of its renewal plans. Recognizing that renewal would be a long-term process and investment, the Council recruited private citizens. This would shelter complicated projects from the politicized cycle of municipal

Ibid, 18.


It did not, however, provide speed. By October 1960, little had been done to

further urban renewal, to the chagrin of the press and public. Although the study found Hamilton to be relatively healthy at the end of the 1950s, statements in the Spectator stressed the urgent need for action. An anonymous member of the Downtown Association referred to Hamilton as "Coventry," in reference to the British city destroyed in the Second World War.127 The search for a chair stalled the project. Mayor Lloyd Jackson approached several people, but all refused. The paper decried the apathy of the public, stating, "Since Hamilton taxpayers will find (sic) 25 per cent of the $4,000,000 that will be spent over the four-year period and the skyline for the next several generations will be changed, a livelier public interest should be shown than has so far been evident."128 Kenneth Soble answered the call. Soble, a broadcaster and owner of what would become the first independent television station in Canada (CHCH), agreed to lead the Committee in November 1960. Upon his appointment, Soble defined renewal as "... the whole subject of those policies, measures and activities that would do away with the major forms of physical blight in cities and bring about changes in urban structure, roads and institutions contributing to a favourable environment for a healthy civic, economic and social life for all city-dwellers."129 This statement placed physical blight at the center of renewal and promoted it as a benefit for all Hamiltonians. In practice, it only partially achieved this goal.

126 127

Hamilton Spectator, "Will Take Steps To Set Up Urban Renewal Committee," March 19, 1960. Hamilton Spectator, "Getting Started on Urban Renewal," October 11, 1960. 128 Ibid. 129 Hamilton Spectator, "Urban Renewal Long-Term Project," November 18, 1960.


Studying the North End By 1961, the Committee was staffed and operational. Rather than following the Urban Renewal Study's recommended prioritization of Hamilton's needs, the Committee promoted the city's North End to the top of the list for additional study. Soble claimed that the neighborhood was not necessarily the city's top priority. It was merely the most convenient to define and study. Another member, Sam Smurlick, believed that the North End represented the best starting point for renewal because it was the city's oldest section, was largely residential and suffered from high rates of delinquency.130 In this regard and in contrast with Soble's definition of renewal, blight and its cure transcended the physical from the start. The investigation looked at housing conditions, population, incomes, and juvenile delinquency in the neighborhood. It was required to obtain funding from the federal and provincial governments but also served a public relations function. It offered an opportunity to educate North End residents while gauging their opinions of renewal. In addition to this report, the Committee also held public meetings and sent brochures entitled "What does it mean to me?" explaining the benefits of renewal to North End residents.131 These benefits included higher property values, better community and home life, and a more attractive neighborhood. The Committee hoped that these efforts would expedite future OMB hearings. The report, entitled a "Relocation Study", found that many residents lived in poor conditions but were very attached to their neighborhood in spite of the advertised benefits of renewal. Surveyors interviewed 781 families in the area and found that most had lived
130 131

Hamilton Spectator, "North End Area Picked For Study," June 17,1961. Hamilton Spectator, "House-to-house Survey Seeks Data For Urban Renewal Plan," December 19, 1961.


in Hamilton for more than five years. The majority lived in detached housing and 59% of residents were owner-occupiers.132 Even though some lived in poor conditions, many were quick to reject public housing, which they derisively referred to as "tenements." They preferred to live in semi-detached or row houses. If forced to relocate, North Enders would not face the same level of discrimination as Hill District residents. The population of the North End, and Hamilton in general, was overwhelmingly white. The relocation study did not analyze race or ethnicity.133 Race would not create a barrier to housing those forced to abandon their current homes, but poverty could, and the report analyzed housing conditions are a measure of financial and material well-being. Poor conditions in Hamilton were not nearly as severe as conditions in the Hill District. The study found that 19% of families lived in crowded conditions. 70% had no central heating and used space heaters in the winter. The study found that 60% of surveyed residents had a private three-piece bathroom.134 While this is not ideal, it verified that conditions in Hamilton were far less severe than in other large North American cities including Pittsburgh. While the urban renewal study classified this neighborhood as blighted, residents clearly did not agree. Out of the families surveyed 54% preferred to remain in the North
Housing Branch, Department of Economics and Development, Relocation Study, City of Hamilton, Redevelopment Area #4, Field Work Conducted: December 1961 -January 1962, (Ontario: Housing Branch, Department of Economics and Development, 1962), 77; reprinted and repaginated in, Hamilton Urban Renewal Committee. City of Hamilton Second Urban Renewal Project (North End). (Hamilton: Hamilton Urban Renewal Committee, cl964). 133 The study did list the number of families who could not speak English and had no access to a neighbor or child who could act as an interpreter. The authors used this statistic not as an indicator of neighborhood demography, but included it with the number of families who could not be reached or who refused information to explain the study's sample size. Religion was included and given Hamilton's large population of residents claiming some form ofBritish heritage, could provide approximate data on ethnicity. 134 Ibid., 78.


End.135 These results in particular were surprising to members of the Committee. Graham Emslie, executive secretary of the Committee, claimed that people wanted to stay particularly because they liked being close to downtown and industry, the scenery, and other amenities. In describing the neighborhood he said: "Some homes were 'unbelievably run-down' but many of the older ones had been completely renovated inside, with new bathrooms, kitchens, wiring, etc. This was noted especially in homes owned by Italians and other immigrant groups."136 The study found that a number of these residents had invested in their homes, a sign that they did not believe their neighborhood was blighted. Furthermore, many of them owned their houses outright and held no mortgages, indicating that their homes were not just valuable for their use, but also represented significant share of their wealth. A New North End: The Plan Revealed Two months after the study's publication in January 1961, the Planning Commissioner revealed his plan to the Urban Renewal Committee. It included a new school, street grid alterations, two hundred public housing units, a shopping center, and spaces for private development. Soble supported the plan urging, "The greatest damage that could be done to the north end and to urban renewal throughout the city would be if the committee does nothing."137 Additionally, without warning, Alderman Frank Dillon, who represented the North End, presented a rival plan created at the University of Toronto. He was concerned that the Commissioner's plan would destroy a large portion

Ibid, 79. Hamilton Spectator, "Survey Leaves No Doubt: North End Residents Want To Stay There," January 12, 1962. 137 Hamilton Spectator, "Unveil North End Redevelopment Scheme: Want 520 Homes Torn Down," March 06, 1962.


241 of the neighborhood. He told the Committee, "THE IDEA was to rehabilitate this area. You're razing it... To accept this would be to break faith with the public."138 In an attempt to avoid breaking this faith, and to improve public opinion of the project, the Committee compromised. The original plan razed 520 homes. The new one, which the Committee approved on March 16, 1962, eliminated only 260. In addition, scattered "blighted" homes would disappear unless owners improved them. This feature of the plan was significant. Pittsburgh bulldozed the majority of the lower Hill. Spot clearance was not a significant part of the scheme. Hamilton planned to remove blighted homes with surgical precision. This decision provided insight into the nature of conditions in the North End and planners' understandings of blight and its cure. The North End was a patchwork of conditions that made spot clearance useful. This surgical approach suggested a belief that blight occurred at the level of the individual house. A single structure could be blighted within a sound neighborhood. This contrasted dramatically with Pittsburgh's treatment of structures in the Hill District, sacrificing churches and other valuable institutions when they were surrounded by decay. Planners in Hamilton may have held a less virulent view of blight than did their Pittsburgh counterparts. Spot clearance could save structures with blighted neighbors and decayed homes could recover if sufficiently rehabilitated. The Committee held up the scalpel rather than the bulldozer as the tool of choice when discussing the early stages of the project. This gave hope to those who held sound property adjacent to decaying stock, as well as those whose dwellings required a little repair. Additionally, early rhetoric about the project aimed to calm the fears of those who might lose their homes in later stages of renewal. Even if families lived under the threat of future expropriation, the


Committee claimed that they should still improve their properties. They would benefit from the renovations before expropriation and the city would acknowledge their efforts at the time of sale.139 This argument sought to circumvent a problem that plagued the lower Hill development in Pittsburgh, namely, that residents and investors resisted improving properties while under the shadow of potential redevelopment. It would also provide early evidence of the program's benefits through encouraging individual efforts. In addition to the removal of blighted dwellings, the plan called for the elimination of nonresidential properties with the exception of some good corner stores and industries. This is a significant exception. Mixed uses appeared as a factor of blight in every modern planning study in Hamilton, yet the scheme permitted corner stores rather than segregating commerce into tightly planned districts. This prioritized resident convenience over technical perfection, but it was not enough to garner a uniformly positive public response. Community Reaction and Social Planning Many North End residents were not enthusiastic about transforming their neighborhood. As part of the planning process, the Committee held a series of public meetings to explain the program. At the first, held on April 9, 1962, six hundred attendees filled a tense room in the HMCS Star. The meeting ended abruptly during the question and answer session as people banged chairs and spoke out in protest. At the meeting, Soble claimed that the Committee would not act "until the residents of the area were fully aware of the plan" and stated, "if you don't want the plan, we'll go no farther." Additionally, he promised to move any sound house in path of destruction to another part

Hamilton Spectator, "Final Touch Added To Plan For Renewal In North End," April 9, 1962.

of the redevelopment if feasible, to give displaced homeowners priority access to lots, and that nothing in the renewal plan would necessarily raise taxes.140 Residents remained displeased. One worried that sale proceeds would not be sufficient to cover relocation. Another requested a plebiscite to gauge neighborhood support. None would materialize and neither would many of Soble's promises that evening. North End residents did not wait for an election. They gathered one thousand names on a petition protesting the plan.141 With the help of the Women's Civic Club, the residents presented it at an informal meeting of City Council on April 26, 1962. Ultimately the petition had little effect. The City Council approved the plan with an 11 to 2 vote. Alderman Frank Dillon, who would lose his home in the redevelopment, abstained from voting. In spite of the petition, Joseph Macaluso, the other North End alderman voted for the plan. The Hamilton Spectator called his vote "statesmanlike," claiming that the petition might be due to uncertainty and misunderstanding rather than disapproval.142 Regardless of their motivations, residents halted their vigorous protest after the vote. On June 4, 1962, less than one hundred attended the start of OMB hearings regarding the plan. The city's social planning organizations quickly took up the mantle of opposition. The Social Planning Council of Hamilton and District (SPCHD) produced a draft report that leaked to the press and the Committee, resulting in heated words. Even though the SPCHD rejected the draft and requested revisions, the Committee reacted publicly to its contents. The Spectator summarized the report, stating that, "the social planning
140 Hamilton Spectator, "A Little Praise, A Lot of Argument: North End Reaction Mixed On Urban Renewal," April 10,1962. 141 Hamilton Spectator, "Gathered In 3-day Blitz: 1,000-name Petition Protests Renewal Plan," April 26, 1962. 142 Hamilton Spectator, "No Rough-shod Ride Over People," May 1, 1962.

researchers had claimed that the urban renewal scheme had been arrived at 'through the biased eyes of class consciousness.'" Sobel rebutted, claiming that, "no other urban renewal proposal in Canada has paid so much attention to the wishes and needs of the people in the project area and given them so many opportunities to make these needs and wishes known."143 The residents of the North End, however, had made their wishes known. They did not want to leave their homes and they did not believe that they were blighted. The Spectator printed comments from residents defending their homes on the day that the report leaked. One claimed that he fixed a nice house for himself and installed a back porch but as an old man, would have to move and possibly get a mortgage. He wondered how he could pay for it. Another family recalled purchasing a shack that they transformed over thirty years into a home in which they were proud to live. The redevelopment proved to be most vexing for the North End's sizable elderly population. One widow claimed emphatically, "This is no slum area." Another resident stated, "I think it's terrible. If they want to start redevelopment, let them start with an area that really needs it." He continued, "This redevelopment is killing some of these old people. They can't start all over again."144 These residents saw the North End as a home and a community. It was also an investment of dollars and years. Social planners recognized the ways in which residents and the members of the Committee differently estimated the neighborhood's value in a more refined version of the report, entitled "The Social Costs of Urban Renewal."145

Hamilton Spectator, "Urban Renewal Causes Storm: Uproar Develops Over Report," June 24, 1963. Hamilton Spectator, "North End Residents Fear Disruption Under Scheme," June 24,1963. 145 Social Planning Council of Hamilton and District, The Social Costs of Urban Renewal, Vol. 1 (Hamilton: Social Planning Council of Hamilton and District, 1963).



According to the SPCHD, the purpose of the study was not to condemn but to assure that those relocated or otherwise affected by the process would receive holistic care. It did not, however, avoid criticism of the Committee and its program. It addressed the Committee's definition of blight directly, stating that "The terms 'blight' and 'deterioration' are commonly used concepts in urban renewal. These concepts are often subject to different definitions and observers can and do differ on practical applications of the term 'blight.'"14 In light of these differences, the SPCHD asked its interviewers to evaluate buildings in the area during resident interviews. Although the report failed to describe their methodology in detail, the interviewers found that three out of every four houses was sound, contrasting dramatically with the 1961 reexamination of housing for the official renewal plan. The report claimed that, from a sociological point of view, one should judge blight on more than housing conditions. Considerations should include the strength and nature of social relationships and networks of human interaction. Additionally, planners should account for the values of the residents when determining neighborhood deficiencies.147 To accomplish this, renewal studies should compare residents' accommodation budgets to their other expenses to understand what they valued most. To assume that residents agreed that better housing meant a better life was to impose planners' values upon North Enders. The report asserted that working and middle class values differed. Planners should root "blighted" and "sound" in what residents wanted from their homes.

Social Planning Council of Hamilton and District, The Social Costs of Urban Renewal, Vol. 2 (Hamilton: Social Planning Council of Hamilton and District, 1963), 18.


Furthermore, the SPCHD questioned why the North End became a priority. It found a greater percentage of overcrowding in nearly one-third of all city tracts using the same methods as the national census. The North End ranked thirteenth in overcrowding, yet became the top priority for redevelopment. Furthermore, buildings did not cause overcrowding, it argued. Poverty did, but the renewal plan provided little relief. In fact, it might exacerbate financial problems for the poor by escalating housing costs until life in the North End became unaffordable. This would promote poverty and destroy social networks. Relocation would disrupt the lives of the uprooted and those who remained. It would foster a social blight. On the level of the representation, the SPCHD generated a lot of discourse about the needs and values of residents, but regarding local policy, the report was unsuccessful. The city did not change its methodology and the concept of blight in Hamilton's development circles remained grounded in physical conditions and design concerns with only limited recognition of physical neighborhood amenities such as schools and play areas. The Renewal Program and Official Findings of Blight As an expression of local policy, the Committee published a document detailing the North End renewal program for submission to provincial and federal authorities. The document, entitled "Second Renewal Project," was the official statement of the North End's problems and how the city planned to address them.148 Before the table of contents, the report featured two photographs. The first is of a house in good condition next to the statement: "This area is one of the oldest in the city and, in its time, one of the finest. It

Hamilton Urban Renewal Committee, City of Hamilton Second Urban Renewal Project (North End). (Hamilton, cl964).


still contains a great many fine homes. Unfortunately...." On the next page , the report displayed a photograph of row houses in very poor condition next to the caption: "... in the past decade or two a certain degree of blight has crept in and it is the feeling that if this is allowed to go unchecked eventually there is a great danger that the blight will continue to grow and that eventually portions of this area would turn to slum."149 This introduction is significant for a number of reasons. First it suggests an explanation for the objections of long-term residents, many owner-occupiers, to the designation of this neighborhood as a redevelopment area. A large percentage of North Enders had a long history with the neighborhood. They remembered it in healthier times and did not see their homes as contributing to its decline. The report ascribed the fine and healthy homes of the North End to its past, while residents saw their own homes as a sound part of its present. The caption also presented blight as transitory stage rather than an endpoint. While decline ultimately led to blight in the Urban Renewal Study, in this caption blight is an intermediary stage leading to slums. This changed the nature of blight in terms of severity and represented blighted areas as salvageable. This could comfort those discovering that the city found their homes and neighborhoods to be blighted. In describing these blighted conditions, the document used a number of different metrics. It quoted building condition data from the 1958 Urban Renewal Study and updated it with new findings from 1961 using the American Public Health Association appraisal method that planners in Pittsburgh used. The re-examination classified the buildings into the same three categories used in the 1958 study. 7.4% qualified for conservation, 47.6% required rehabilitation, and 45% were sufficiently decayed to

require clearance. The report was careful to mention that this classification only took internal and external structural conditions into account. The report listed a number of other blighting influences, including, buildings and lots that were too small, excessive coverage of lots, inadequate front and side yards, and the invasion of nonresidential uses. The report claimed that these factors would result in a higher percentage of buildings in the clearance category. Age was another factor in defining blight. The document listed the approximate ages of buildings in the North End categorizing them into four groups. All but 4.5% of the buildings were more than 30 years old. Excessive age combined with the other factors of blight pointed to a North End ripe for renewal. Interestingly, the report also included the conditions of schools as a factor of blight. Inspectors found both public and private schools unsafe and insufficient. They discovered unsanitary drinking fountains, structural cracks and defects, unsafe stairs, and poor ventilation. Even more disturbing was the discovery of rooms without emergency egress. The inspections were significant. Previous determinations of blight noted the number and location of schools but not their physical conditions. Renewal was an opportunity to eliminate blight and to improve the educational infrastructure of the city. But this opportunity was limited, as the inspection considered only physical deficiencies. Also of interest was the absence of analysis regarding assessments. Rather than discussing declining property values the report detailed efforts to educate people about repairs that would not increase their taxes. The document included a brochure that described such renovations, claiming that city officials were negotiating with the province to delay tax increases on improvements for up to three years to promote


investment. In this regard, the report was not merely interested defining blight in terms of policy. It also addressed the representation of blight and its remediation to residents. Although Hamilton planners remained mostly consistent throughout the midtwentieth century, the Second Urban Renewal Project document diverged in its avoidance of economic issues. This aberration eventually became the official statement regarding the North End, winning the approval of the provincial and federal governments. It would receive far less support from a number of constituencies closer to home. Too Much and Not Enough: Reactions to Renewal Some of those unhappy with the renewal program thought it was too slow to act. Stan McNeill, a commentator for the Spectator, goaded the Committee to action in a series of articles entitled "A Study of Inertia." Claiming to look at why the Ambitious City was not, he focused primarily on downtown but reserved some ire for the North End. Planning and studies delayed physical change.150 His call for urgent action hinged upon his understanding of blight, which differed significantly from the one reflected in the urban renewal plan. While the plan itself supported spot reduction and the preservation of buildings, MacNeill preferred more drastic measures. He argued, "Urban blight is a disease. Leave it alone and it will multiply itself, spreading decay and community sickness in ever widening circles. Destroy it and the area has a chance to grow strong and healthy again." He did not support the city's campaigns to encourage self-help and do-ityourself rehabilitation, claiming that the homeowner was discouraged because "[n]o matter what he does, unless the core of urban blight is rooted out, his property is doomed

150 Stan McNeill, "A Study of IntertiaPart I. The Unlovely City On Aimless Course," Hamilton Spectator, September 8, 1964.

to a steady rate of depreciation." 51 This painted the homeowner as an investor rather than a consumer of dwelling space. In his attempts to encourage action, McNeill also drew upon earlier planning tropes about blight that the Committee opted to avoid. The most important was the benefit that redevelopment would have on tax rolls. He argued that blighted areas generated less tax revenue and could not pay for the services they required. They also needed more help than did healthy areas. Ironically, he offered New Haven, Connecticut as an example of a city that was quickly on its way to being the "first slumless city in the United States."152 In goading citizens and their leaders to action, McNeill blamed their apathy for the spread and maintenance of blight in the North End and throughout the city. It was inaction that lay at the core of the city's ills. This belief not only promoted the idea of blight as a virulent and rapidly expanding disease, but it also betrayed a belief that something could be done to reverse it. Blight had a cure: the bulldozer. It was already at work throughout Canada and the United States. Hamilton need only wake from its slumber to reap the benefits of progress. This, of course, was a rosy estimation of the utility of redevelopment against blight. Cities suffered from innumerable delays that halted redevelopment and renewal across the continent. While litigation and resistance caused many of Pittsburgh's delays, staffing and indecision lay at the root of Hamilton's sluggish advance toward renewal. The city did not have enough legal and planning staff to process housing appraisals for expropriation and to draft housing standards to protect renovated property.153

Stan McNeill, "Rotting Urban Core Infects Householder," Hamilton Spectator, September 10, 1964. Stan McNeill, "A Study of InertiaPart 4. Slums Penny Wise... And Pound Foolish," Hamilton Spectator, September 11,1964. 153 Hamilton Spectator, "Legal Staff Shortage Delays Renewal Work," January 20, 1965.


251 Resistance from the public also threatened delays that the city attempted to address through its continuing public relations campaigns. It was in the discourse surrounding these attempts and in the representation of the North End as a blighted neighborhood that the residents gave a personal voice to the SPCHD's concerns. At a meeting in January, 1965, residents gathered to learn more about the Committee's plans for the North End. According to the Spectator, some were angry, some bitter, and some sat in quiet desperation. One seventy year-old man sadly described his house as a labor of love that he had renovated and improved over the course of his life. He molded it into the house where he was prepared to die. He might now be forced to move.154 Most residents wondered if they would receive fair market value for their homes. The Committee formed a citizen's advisory committee to act as a liaison between the public and the Renewal Committee, particularly in cases when all parties could not come to an agreement on what constituted a fair price. Not all negotiations with the city ended in disappointment. City Planning Commissioner Thomas Waram argued with controllers and aldermen over a local corner grocer's request for a zoning variance to continue operations in a new location in its current neighborhood. The council allowed the exception over Waram's objections, calling it a plea for "humanity" and stating that once someone had a clientele and was part of a community that they should not be removed and forced to start over.155 Complications and debate may have delayed the project, but it did not prevent it. On June 25, 1965, ground broke on a new school in the renewal area. According to the Spectator, it took "seven years of confusion and controversy to get Hamilton to accept
Hamilton Spectator, "No One to Suffer. Each Case 'Special' Urban Renewal Residents Assured," January 21, 1965. 155 Hamilton Spectator, "Bypass Zoning. Humanity Pleas Wins," May 12, 1965.

252 urban renewal." It paraphrased Soble's words, stating: "Public ignorance was a big stumbling block. Despite public meetings, mass mailings and an information office, the north enders could not understand urban renewal was an attempt to preserve a neighborhood rather than flatten it."156 Ultimately, only five houses had to be expropriated. Every other purchase was negotiated. He also claimed that this was only the beginning of renewal in the North End, a statement that left residents with an uncertain future. The start of demolition met with mixed reviews from the Spectator. Nichol KingsmiU wrote on August 25, 1965, that "Urban renewal is coming crashing down." He claimed that "After eight years of council talk, committee meetings, surveyor reports and architects' dreams, urban renewal is beginning to change its meaning. It's becoming vacant lots, piles of rubble, broken windows and even the occasional fleeing rat." He continued, memorializing the Victorian cottages that once filled the area "with cake frosting woodwork and jutting gables." Although he wistfully rejected demolition, he ended on a hopeful note, reporting that the remaining residents seemed to be fixing their homes rather than waiting in despair for annihilation. In the short term however, the "blight" of the past was preferable to the present, which he described as "London or Berlin after a heavy air raid."157 Some residents might have been better off before renewal. In a March 30, 1966, article in the Spectator, Emslie and Alderman Reg Wheeler debated the fate of relocatees. Wheeler claimed that some families were taking poor accommodations to avoid leaving the North End, while Emslie countered that only three families out of 197 actually moved
Hamilton Spectator, "An Urban Renewal Dream Realized," June 25, 1965. Nichol KingsmiU, "Urban Renewal. A Dream Growing Out of a Mess," Hamilton Spectator, August 25, 1965.
157 156

253 into worse places. He blamed their unwillingness to pay more rent, as housing costs were unusually low before renewal due to the sub-standard nature of accommodations.158 While some suffered declines in their living standards and may have lost the investment and independence of home ownership, others found an opportunity to improve their conditions. For residents and for the city, change was a complicated process with mixed results. The burden of managing these changes rested with Murray V. Jones and Associates, a Toronto-based firm hired in 1966 to study the area and design a suitable plan. Jones praised the city for its progress in clearing blighted structures and providing needed public services, but looked to improve upon previous efforts to study the area and determine its physical conditions and needs. The city hired consulting engineers in 1965 to produce a survey of physical conditions that followed the customary for Hamilton tripartite classification of good, fair and poor.159 Jones criticized this work as inconsistent in its methods and its findings. He undertook a replacement study, upgrading the conditions of most of the houses. Due to these improved conditions, Jones recommended continued spot clearance: Insofar as redevelopment is concerned, the plan is obviously premised on a policy of retaining as much as possible of the existing single-family and semi-detached housing. Removal of housing in fair or good condition is only recommended where substantial blight has affected the majority of the block and where re-use proposals are incompatible with retention of the few houses so classified.160

Hamilton Spectator, "Deny Urban Plan Forcing Families to Poor Housing," March 30, 1966. Murray V. Jones and Associates, Limited. Interim Report North End Urban Renewal Scheme City of Hamilton. (Toronto: Murray V. Jones and Associates Limited, 1966), 4. 160 Ibid., 13.


He urged the city to leave these good and fair areas alone and instead concentrate its limited resources upon the clearance of "seriously blighted areas for public and private re-use."161 The re-survey was also a mild criticism of planning methodology. By admitting the arbitrary nature of physical surveys and assessments, even when employing a standardized classification scheme, Jones questioned the finer points of the North End's diagnosis. He recommended focusing only upon the worst cases, avoiding the difficulty of discerning a sound home. Such projects were more likely to generate consensus. The subjectivity of conditions also affected the residents' judgment of their neighborhood. This could skew results in studies that tried to take the values of those living in the area into consideration, as the SPCHD recommended. In 1967, Peter C. Pineo, a physiologist and university professor, recalled the results of a study that he performed just after the start of demolition in the North End. He found that the majority of residents were mildly favorable toward the renewal scheme, with owners slightly more favorable than renters. Attitudes toward their homes, however, were complicated by experience. People judge dwelling conditions relative to their experiences, rather than objectively against a scale. If they lived in relatively poor conditions, they were more likely favor renewal. They were also more likely to be satisfied with rundown conditions if it was an improvement over their previous accommodations.162 The view from outside could be somewhat more objective. Speaking a year later, Gordon Hampson, a reporter for the Spectator, was far less impressed with the outcomes of redevelopment. He drew attention to the large amounts of resources poured into the
Ibid, 21. Peter C. Pineo, "Hamilton's North End: the Sociologist speaks." Unknown Publication in North End Scrapbook, vl (1958-1996), Hamilton Public Library, 1967: 6.
162 m

255 project from municipal, provincial, and federal coffers: "Despite the massive influx of government money, a visitor walking along James Street North would never dream that this was the heart of a 'model neighborhood.' The commercial centre of the north end is still a ramshackle collection of beverage rooms, second-rate stores, vacant lots and borderline housing."163 This disappointment was perhaps most creatively expressed in another article that offered the reader a tour through the scarred North End in the manner of urban exploitation literature. It invited the reader to walk through the neighborhood, if he or she could ignore a few decayed buildings and underwear hanging on washing lines. With a flair for the dramatic, the author likened the neighborhood's business district to a burn victim. "Like a charred fire ruin on the corner of Merrick Street is the Commercial Block, which has been serving the needs of Hamilton traders for more than a century." He continued, recounting the effects of renewal on neighborhood streets. "The bulldozer has been active in this old area, and remaining houses stand up like teeth through decayed cavities." Those structures that remained were not visions of a renewed North End. Entertainingly, he described two structurally challenged homes as ships: "On the corner of Burlington and MacNab Streets a two-storey house and a bungalow have lost all sense of perpendicular and tilt towards each other in a way that leads one to imagine that the occupants must lead the lives of sea captains - climbing uphill and down in the living room and forever watchful that the Sunday dinner doesn't slide off the table. However, this is apparently not too unique in the district." Humor aside, it is clear from newspaper coverage that years of renewal removed one blight and created another.164

163 164

Gordon Hampson, "Declining North End Reaching Turning Point," Hamilton Spectator, May 1, 1967. Liam O'Cooney, "The North End: Busy Bulldozers," Hamilton Spectator, July 22, 1968.

The rhetoric surrounding the North End program emphasized residential rehabilitation, but by the end of the 1960s, its reality looked entirely different. The decade brought bulldozers and primarily institutional construction to the North End. Public housing, schools, and senior housing rose out of the rubble, but little that resembled the residential paradise promised at the inception of the program. Poor conditions remained. According to the Spectator, critics claim that "[r]un-down homes, speeding trucks, a shortage of playgrounds, and the absence of rehabilitation are still the area's most common characteristics." Some even went so far as to call it a "paper dream."165 Reifying that dream grew more difficult in 1968 when the federal minister in charge of renewal, Paul Hellyer, froze funding in advance of an inquiry into the renewal program. The North End's federal renewal assistance ended shortly afterward in 1971. At the end of that year, the city reorganized its Urban Renewal Committee into a Community Development Committee, emphasizing a new commitment to neighborhoods and residents.166 As in Pittsburgh, this reformed rhetoric of the late 1960s and 1970s put people first. However, unlike in its counterpart in the U.S., the definition of blight did not encompass the residents of the North End themselves. Rehabilitation was for houses, not for people. The social, political, racial, and economic pressures in Pittsburgh were very different than in Hamilton's North End. Where Hill District renewal plans died in controversy with funds shifting to social programs, the North End's went out in a whimper, with the city struggling to tie up loose ends.167 But after the funds were gone,

Tom Coleman, "A paper dream? An unfulfilled promise? Or will the North End regain its glory?," Hamilton Spectator, July 29, 1969. 166 Hamilton Spectator, "Renewal and rehabilitation," December 14, 1971. 167 Hamilton Spectator, "North End's renewal plan nearing end," December 8,1971.



there were many questions remaining for the North End and for Hamilton in general. The city had declined throughout renewal, transforming from a place with only limited patches of blight, as reported in 1958, to a location where, according to the Spectator, "the need for massive renewal in selected areas remains probably more pronounced in central Hamilton than in any other city in Canada."168 Renewal and Residential Blight By the end of the 1960s, planners in both Pittsburgh and Hamilton had transformed, to varying degrees, the concept of blight. Although the neighborhood focus of early urban renewal brought the discourse of blight closer to its residential roots, planners' efforts to extend blight's reach into neighborhoods with less severe decline both relaxed and expanded its definition in local development policy. Pittsburgh's aggressive expansion of the concept started as an attempt to push downtown growth and redevelopment into a residential slum, riding on the momentum of its successes with Point State Park and Gateway Center. Soon after, redevelopment interests pushed Oakland into the eastern edge of the Hill and Duquesne University's Bluff campus further into the neighborhood from the south. These certifications emphasized the physical and economic inadequacies of each neighborhood for their planned purposes, rather than for their current residential use. Planners made little mention of needs and desires of residents, measuring blight through the lens of their own values and interests. The resulting certifications squeezed a significant portion of the city's African American population between three redevelopment projects that ultimately would fail to provide them with sufficient amounts of improved housing, shopping, or cultural institutions, setting the stage for increasingly vocal opposition.

Hamilton Spectator, "Renewal and rehabilitation," December 14, 1971.


As a form of representation, the existence of blight in the Hill was widely accepted, but initial agreement fractured into discord over its nature and the residents' role in its cause and prevention. Throughout the 1950s and the early 1960s, the URA and the AC CD understood both the local population and physical conditions to be factors of blight, while residents focused on their environment and quality of life. Although the city's relocation program removed residents from the lower Hill, it failed to remove them from blighted conditions, awakening increasingly militant protest among the city's African American community. Facing resistance, redevelopment interests and all levels of government shifted their approach. Anti-poverty programs, job training, and community-based renewal efforts sought to improve conditions but persisted in defining Hill residents as a factor of blight. As with buildings, if wholesale removal failed, spot rehabilitation provided an alternative path. Hamilton, by contrast, experienced immediate controversy over the existence of blight in the North End. In many ways, the city's case was more difficult to prove, as housing conditions in Hamilton were superior compared to many North American cities. Public protest dissipated quickly after initial failures to stop renewal, but sociologists and social planners took up the mantel of the opposition and gave a voice to those who did not see the North End as blighted through their research. In its efforts to quell criticism from both camps, redevelopment interests in Hamilton deployed a significant public education and relations campaign to establish the existence of blight and to support its understandings of the problem and its solutions. Concerns among residents about tax increases and the possibility of losing a lifelong investment in a family home project kept the focus off of the economics of blight. In

public rhetoric, the high cost of providing services relative to income from assessments rarely surfaced; nor did declining property values. This divorced blight from its longstanding association with stagnant or falling values, a metric that would not hold much sway over North Enders more interested in the use value of their homes than a pecuniary return on investment and equally concerned about rising taxes. The Urban Renewal Committee included amenities important to the use value of a neighborhood, such as schools, in its analyses but confined the scope of inquiry to physical defects. Blight also played a role in Hamilton's local development policy. The urban renewal program's focus on neighborhood improvement kept the concept closely tied to its residential roots. Plans and studies emphasized the need to provide better living conditions for those in the North End. The problems and their solutions, however, remained physical even after cities like Pittsburgh had turned their attention to residents. In these ways, Hamilton's dejure freedom to define blight with the approval of provincial authorities and Pittsburgh's de facto free hand through the support of the judiciary and federal authorities resulted in different understandings of residential blight, both in terms of local policy and in the representation of neighborhoods in public discourse. Both cities shared, however, a trajectory in the growing significance of representations of blighted areas to the success of projects. Before urban renewal in the 1950s and 1960s, redevelopment interests labored to cement representational understandings of blight into public policy. With their success, planners and their allies successfully gained the freedom to define blight as necessary to facilitate redevelopment according to their interests. As these projects progressed, the theater of battle shifted back to representation where soon-to-be-displaced residents,

260 business owners and other community members, as well as the sociologists and social planners that studied them, began to voice their disagreement about the existence and nature of blight in their neighborhoods based upon their interests and values. In residential renewal, contention surrounding blight arose within public discourse rather than in the courts or behind-the-scenes in government and corporate offices. While neighborhoods were an important part of the effort to reinvent these two cities, redevelopment supporters held significant stakes in commercial areas. It is to the symbolic, if no longer economic, engines of each region that we now turn our gaze to see how commercial blight fared in the age of renewal.

261 Chapter 5: Questioning the Retail Renaissance: Blight and Commercial Renewal

Residential neighborhoods were not the only sections of Pittsburgh and Hamilton to experience dramatic change through urban renewal. Evolving federal policies and local ideas about urban problems inspired both cities to transform their commercial districts early in their renewal careers. Compared to their residential counterparts, these projects generated unique understandings of and conflicts over blight, its causes, and its remedies. In Hamilton, where the concept had been almost exclusively residential, the Civic Square project expanded it to cover commercial areas. Diverging from the local planning tradition, the Square's planners tailored a definition of blight in support of the project. It also inspired conflict over the state of downtown and its function in the city. By contrast, the reconfiguration of Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood confirmed blight's previously established local role as a signifier of opportunity, instead of decline, in commercial and residential neighborhoods alike. It also served as an exceptional example of how redevelopment could control planning and expand official notions about blight beyond those encoded in commonwealth and federal laws. In this chapter, I will examine the policy and representational aspects of blight in the controversies surrounding these two commercially oriented renewal projects, demonstrating how competing interests in each city exposed the complexities of blight's contentious nature by agreeing about its existence while arguing over its nature and cure. I will begin with an examination of Pittsburgh's East Liberty renewal project, a residential and commercial neighborhood containing the city's second largest business district. Then, I will analyze the long and contentious Civic Square Urban Renewal

262 scheme in Hamilton, which replaced several city blocks with a shopping center and cultural facilities. Both projects significantly altered their cities and inspired conflicting opinions about blight. Perhaps more significantly, they demonstrated some of the contributions that commercial renewal made to the evolution of a concept that was, at its inception, quintessentially residential. In considering these two projects, a critical question arises: "If the same renewal programs operated in both residential and commercial areas, why examine commercial blight as a distinct phenomenon?" The reasons demonstrate the concept's flexibility. First, Civic Square and East Liberty emphasized different causes and characteristics of blight compared to residential projects. For example, the utility of commercial properties could be quantified through the volume and value of retail trade. Homeowners could not necessarily compute their return on investment as easily, as it involved both property values and less tangible feelings of independence and security. Thus, planners could use the economic utility of commercial property and its effects on the wider community to determine the health of a neighborhood. Analogous equations for residential properties were harder to derive. Houses that felt just right for their owners might not necessarily contribute the same positive benefits to neighbors. Distinctions like these helped to distinguish commercial from residential blight. Furthermore, the Civic Square and East Liberty projects drew different parties into conflict over blight and its cure. Neighborhood retail associations played a central role in both projects, but were less involved in residential renewal. They were even marginal in Pittsburgh's earliest experiments with downtown redevelopment compared to corporate elites, community leaders, and planners. Main street vendors awoke to the

possibilities of renewal and campaigned to bring it to their neighborhoods, emphasizing understandings of blight and its solutions congruent with their interests. Finally, urban renewal and its attendant blight remediation transformed a great number of main streets in cities and towns across North America during the midtwentieth century. An examination of the nature of commercial blight offers insight into the motivations and justifications for the redevelopment of the retail districts that formed the heart and focus of so many communities. Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood was one such district and was exceptional both for its size and for the extent to which opportunity, rather than formal planning, drove its redevelopment. Although applications for federal renewal funds indicated that East Liberty was a residential neighborhood, it was the reconfiguration of the neighborhood's commercial district that motivated the project and that generated the controversy surrounding it. Commercial blight lay at the heart of this endeavor. It is to this project and the blight that inspired it that we now turn. East Liberty: Blighting to Inspire East Liberty was, and is today, a mixed-use neighborhood in Pittsburgh's East End. Over half of its area was residential, but its aging commercial district was the second largest in the city and among the biggest in the Commonwealth in 1959.1 Local merchants pushed to renovate the declining neighborhood, inspiring a federal renewal project that was significant in many ways. It was the first project in Pittsburgh started under the federal program, and thus the first planned to its specifications.2 This, in turn,

Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, PA, "Final Project Report (Part Application for Loan and Grant): East Liberty Project," September 15,1959. 2 Although previous projects, including the Lower Hill receivedfederal renewal funds, they had been significantly planned and certified before the start of federal renewal in 1954. The Committee on General

264 influenced its certification as a blighted area. The certification process generated controversy between the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA), the Pittsburgh Planning Commission (PPC), and the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association (PRPA), each participating with their own agendas and ideas. Their conflicts exposed weaknesses in city planners' authority and exemplified how opportunity could override or suspend established policies and practices governing the identification of blight. In the years before renewal East Liberty inspired mixed reviews. Some saw a bright future in the area. For many African-American Pittsburghers, it represented a chance to own homes and escape the ghetto. In February 1954, the Pittsburgh Courier covered the migration of African-Americans out of the Hill District and into neighborhoods like East Liberty. It praised the area claiming that it "offers much" to it new residents: East Liberty, which folks like those living near the end of the Lincoln Avenue car line, and along other trolley and bus lines, or who own their own cars, will use as a shopping center, offers a multiplicity of shopping conveniences. There, the customers will find ample parking space, greater even than new facilities around the larger stores downtown. There, customers will find a greatly increasing number of men's and women's shops, jewelry stores, theatres, supermarkets, drug stores, music shops and all that any modern shopping center can offer.3 Others held a less favorable view. In another Courier article, columnist John L. Clark noted that in January 1955, the patrons of the Hill District's No. 2 Grill nominated
Plans of the Pittsburgh Planning Commission declared East Liberty "Renewal Area No. 1" and had to rename it to "Redevelopment Area No. 10" to comply with the Pennsylvania Urban Redevelopment Law of 1945. See Committee on General Plans, Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, September 13, 1955 and October 25, 1955. 3 Ralph E. Koger & George E. Pitts, "Thousands of Negroes Buying, Renting Homes in Homewood, Outer 12th Ward, Penn Township. Where Will They Shop?," Pittsburgh Courier, February 6, 1954.

East Liberty as one of the "roughest" sections of Pittsburgh due to its vice and violence. Groups like the East Liberty Chamber of Commerce (ELCOC), an organization of local merchants, also noticed the crime and deteriorating conditions in their neighborhood. Stanley Hahn, vice president of the Hahn Furniture Company, summed it up, claiming that without any qualification there are no worse business districts in the city of Pittsburgh-physically, morally or in any other respect.5 Concerned about vice, decay, and suburban competition, the ELCOC began work on a renaissance for East Liberty. It sought the help of the City Planning Department (CPD) in 1955 to produce a simple study of neighborhood conditions. Representatives from the URA, the PPC, and the CPD agreed to consider the matter, define boundaries for the study, and estimate the costs and procedures required.6 The ELCOC did not wait for an answer, however, and publicly announced plans for a "Great East Hills" regional area with East Liberty as its economic and symbolic heart. To fulfill that role, the neighborhood would need a lot of work. According to Sigmund Hahn, also of the Hahn Furniture Store and an influential member of the ELCOC, it had declined almost imperceptibly in recent decades. "We looked around and found there was one thing wrong. We had become a little blighted," he said at an ELCOC meeting in May 1955. "A district goes along as it has for years, then all of a sudden [it] wakes up and finds itself in a lot of dirt and trouble."7 To fix the problem, the ELCOC collaborated with organizations like the Allegheny Conference on Community Development (ACCD) and the PRPA to develop a plan to address

John L. Clark, "Wylie Ave.," Pittsburgh Courier, Jan 22, 1955. East Liberty Tribune, "Whirlwind Clean-Up In The Making," June 23, 1955. 6 Committee on General Plans, "East Liberty Area Study: East Liberty Chamber of Commerce Request," Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, April 26, 1955. 7 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Challenge in East Liberty," May 13, 1955.

266 neighborhood problems, including parking, traffic, and blighted areas.8 Not only would it renovate the retail core, but using a metropolitan approach, would establish the area as the principle commercial and cultural destination for eastern Pittsburgh and its environs, protecting it from suburban competition. Thus, in its early public rhetoric, the ELCOC emphasized gradual and reparable decline. It blamed suburban retail for East Liberty's blight and sought remediation through commercial improvements, parking lots, better street design, and business recruitment efforts. It created vigilance committees to discover housing and building code violations and to educate property and business owners about neighborhood improvement.9 Using self-help and municipal capital improvements it emphasized optimism: East Liberty was sound at its foundations and without its inconveniences and outdated image, shoppers, workers and residents would return. The ELCOC's preliminary work was a success, attracting a significant electric company's offices and warehouses to the area.10 More importantly, by representing the neighborhood as blighted, it convinced public and private planners to search for a solution. These planners recognized much graver problems in the area and sought the state and federal help. The search for solutions engendered discord between agencies and the public over how to interpret and follow policies governing the certification of blighted areas, clearance, and urban renewal. In spite of general agreement over the existence of blighted conditions in the area, their nature and solutions were highly contentious. These

% 9

Ibid. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Betterment To Be Pushed," June 17, 1955. 10 Pittsburgh Post-Ga-ette, "Spring Sales Are Part Of Expansion Program Planned By Community," May 20,1955.

267 battles provoked questions about the concept's place in renewal and Commonwealth law's role in steering redevelopment. Public Delays and Private Actions At its September 13, 1955 meeting, the Committee on General Plans (CGP) of the PPC discussed a letter of June 14, 1955 from the URA declaring its intent to apply for federal financial assistance to study East Liberty. The CGP assumed that the City Planning Department would perform the study and in support; it recommended that the PPC, using its authority under state law, declare East Liberty blighted and establish it as a redevelopment area.11 This would eventually have consequences for the PPC and its role as the official arbiter of blight. By June of 1956, the URA publicly announced its application for financing to survey potential renewal areas in East Liberty and the North Side. The press lauded it as a move toward new streets, parks, and amenities. As it did in the Hill District, the URA cautioned residents and business owners not to panic and sell their holdings, as funding and planning would take some time.12 During the year of delays, residents and neighborhood organizations used planning and renewal rhetoric in their struggles to improve their surroundings and defend their homes. In September 1956, the Courier alerted the public to the presence of Rastus Way, a small alley in East Liberty.13 The name associated the dirt alley, its two houses, residents, and the neighborhood with antiquated and offensive racial stereotypes. The paper and its readers argued that such representations have no place in a city that is rebuilding itself and its image and that the name was out of character with Pittsburgh's
11 12

Committee on General Plans, Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, September 13, 1955. Pittsburgh Courier, "Federal Loan Sought For Urban Renewal," July 14, 1956. 13 Pittsburgh Courier,'"Rastus Way' Must Go!" September 1, 1956.

renaissance. Within a week, the city started the process of renaming the street. The city's Human Relations Commission sent a letter to City Council insisting it "authorize some other name which would be in keeping with the spirit of the new Pittsburgh."15 It successfully argued, invoking the rhetoric of renewal, that city's "New Look" should include the modernization of ideas and attitudes as well as architecture. The ELCOC was also at work. It identified problems in twelve sites including residential and commercial conditions, parking and street layout flaws, and barriers to industrial expansion. It intended to produce draft plans for the URA and PPC. During this process, the ELCOC s rhetoric changed. It replaced calls for improvements, code enforcement, and educational programs with warnings that more drastic measures would be needed: .. .a determination on the part of everyone to return East Liberty to its rightful position as the No. 2 shopping center of Pittsburgh, second only to the Triangle, has led to consideration of next steps in cleaning up the business district. That is why proposals to tear down and rebuild certain sections find their place on the list.16 Redevelopment and its bulldozers became acceptable solutions with the passage of time, its attendant decline, and the possibility of financial and legal assistance. Some local residents struggled to defend their homes from the first rumbles of those bulldozers. Before renewal, demolition loomed over a residential area near the commercial district due to Housing Authority plans. The agency planned to replace a number of homes with four 10-story apartment buildings for low-income senior citizens. Owners in the area were distraught. They did not object to senior housing in the area, but


Ibid. Pittsburgh Courier, "Courier Runs 'Rastus Way' Out of Town," September 8, 1956. 16 East Liberty Tribune, "Action on Dynamic Proposal Surprises East Hills District," December 6, 1956.

269 preferred another location four blocks away that they claimed was "more blighted than their neighborhood."17 To save their homes, residents and allies offered a tripartite argument. First, they compared their homes to alternative sites. Robert S. Haas, speaking on behalf of residents, asked "why take down good houses there, when there are worse houses four blocks away?" He said they were "really of slum caliber" and where "two-third of the homes are lived in by renters and the street pattern is worse than in the area selected."18 They also argued that the planned four large apartment towers would further degrade the neighborhood, injuring the homeowners that remained. Another resident, Edward Danzilli, called them "monstrosities," asserting that the neighborhood's density would dramatically increase over the 140 families that occupied the area.19 Both of these arguments hearken to early twentieth century ideas about blight, focusing on the homeowner and the preservation of the single-family home. The similarities ended when considering class. Early understandings of blight privileged resale over use value, treating housing primarily as an investment. This was a luxury that many of these homeowners could not afford. Their final point stressed the hardship of eviction. Danzilli claimed that some residents were too old to obtain new mortgages and none could obtain comparable housing from proceeds of the sale of their homes. To illustrate this point, another resident, Amelia Orgera, shared a personal story with the City Council: "I struggled hard to own my home. I put $10,000 into it. My kids didn't have a piece of meat for 10 years. Where


Pittsburgh Press, "Residents Fight For Relocation Of New Project," August 3, 1957. lb id. 19 Ibid.


are we going to go? I want to keep my home."20 Orgera was unlikely to recoup her financial investments and would be denied the use of a home that she built and maintained by delaying the gratification of a better quality of life. She lost not only money but past pleasures and future security. While many would lose the use value their homes, a few subsisted on real estate investments. William Bivings, a 74-year-old retiree, stood to lose the livelihood that his two houses provided. "I can't work and I won't get enough to buy two more just like these," he argued. "I never could see that it's fair to take one man's place and give it to another." Their complaints about hardship and loss relate to their understandings of blight. Their home investments demonstrated a commitment to maintaining their neighborhood that refuted the existence of blight as Pittsburgh's planners had presented it in previous certifications. Unfortunately for these homeowners, they were not arguing against the Planning Commission and the project was not part of an urban renewal scheme. Rather than searching for blighted land, the Housing Authority chose its location on cost and convenience for future residents. The site was already twenty-five percent vacant, dramatically reducing costs. Furthermore, the purpose of the project was to house senior citizens, who would benefit from its convenient proximity to shopping. Ultimately, the residents lost, but their efforts were distinctive. In clashes over renewal, it is usually the city that wields the club of blight. In their attempt to save their homes, these residents deployed concepts like housing density and street layout that usually served the interests of professional planners and redevelopers to propose alternate sites for the public housing project. Their salience of blight and its factors demonstrated



271 the importance of the concept in the representation of urban problems for professionals and the public alike. The wait for public funding ended in September 1957. The URA announced that it won a federal planning grant that could enable the demolition of blighted properties to start as early as 1959. With funding available, only a concrete plan and state and federal legal obligations separated East Liberty from renewal.21 The study would help remove those barriers by determining the exact condition of structures and dividing blighted ones from those that could be rehabilitated. The URA contracted with the PRPA to perform the work, sending the federal grant money to a private organization, rather than to the PPC. This challenged existing and codified procedures for determining the existence, extent and nature of blight. The arrangement was not immediately comfortable or easy. Initially, the PRPA and URA disagreed on how to proceed. The PRPA suggested a social planning study, working in partnership with the Health and Welfare Federation of Allegheny County. Its proposal declared: The social factors which must be taken into consideration in order to develop an urban renewal plan in East Liberty are many and varied. Routine statistical data will not give the planner answers to some of the most important questions: What are the qualities that attracted people to East Liberty? What will keep them there? How do subareas differ from each other? What are the physical factors that the planner can control which will increase population stability? What is the nature of the social organization of the area and how ill what the planner does (sic) effect it? In which areas are residents likely to respond to a housing rehabilitation program?



Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Green Light Given Two Big Projects," September 11, 1957. Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association and the Health and Welfare Federation of Allegheny County, "Proposed Partnership of Social and Physical Planning for the East Liberty Urban Renewal Project," Nov


These questions suggested that the PRPA was initially concerned about problems beyond physical planning. The identification of blighted and sound areas in a rehabilitation project with community participation would involve both physical and social factors. The URA and its consultants quickly rejected this holistic approach, proceeding without the Federation on a survey that more closely correlated with federal applications and requirements.23 Concurrently, the City Planning Department was also drafting a plan. The two parties met on June 17, 1958 to identify shared objectives and reduce potential conflicts between their proposals. Of the nine goals, the first was the "elimination of any and all properties or conditions that have a blighting influence on other properties in the area whether residential or commercial."24 Others included addressing traffic, parking, mixed land use, dangers to pedestrians, and the area's decaying and insufficient housing stock. Blight appeared only once in the objectives, albeit first, although the concept pervaded the entire list. Many of the objectives, such as those regarding the mixture of land uses and modes of transport, concerned conditions that the Commission previously used as proof of blight. The list, however, reserved the term for properties requiring clearance. At least at this meeting, both parties situated blight at the level of the individual structure and privileged its physical characteristics.

29, 1957, Allegheny Conference On Community Development (Pittsburgh, Pa.), 1892-1981, MSP 285, Library and Archives Division, Senator John Heinz History Center. 23 Sorley Scheinberg, "Case Study, The East Liberty Urban Renewal Project: with a brief history of the events of the Pittsburgh Renaissance leading to the project," (M.P.A. Thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1974), 38-39. 24 Committee on General Plans, Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, June 17, 1958.


The Rough Road to Consensus Although the agencies agreed on objectives, their plans and solutions proved contentious. There were a number of factors contributing to the conflict. The fast pace of planning produced discord over the timing of interdependent requirements. State and federal agencies had distinct and sometimes intertwining demands that complicated Pittsburgh's first project started under federal renewal regulations. The pressure was great. To meet its deadlines, the URA entertained telling the federal government that the PPC agreed with its plan, even when substantial points of contention remained.25 Another problem was poor communication between the PPC and the URA. In mid August 1958, the Courier reported on the results of PRPA's neighborhood study before the PPC discussed them. Of 3,233 dwelling units project area, planners found 2,276 to be substandard. 619 were overcrowded and 92 had only alley access. There was very little open land with most residences on narrow lots that did not permit yards. This congestion restricted residents' access to light and air. It also eliminated a potential safe location for children to play. Without yards, parks, or playgrounds, youths had to travel great distances to recreational facilities or play in dangerous and crowded streets.26 While these results made it to the papers, they did not appear in the minutes of the PPC's Committee on General Plans. The city's planning staff had done some initial studies of its own, but these likely had no bearing on the URA's and PRPA's work due to limited contact between the


Committee on General Plans, "Letter from Ronal C. Woods to the Committee on General Plans, "Memorandum on East Liberty Project - Redevelopment Area No. 10," Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, September 28, 1959. 26 Pittsburgh Courier, "Way Cleared for Ridding East Liberty And McKees Rocks of Unhealthy Slums," August 16, 1958.

organizations. The next significant meeting between the two was in March 1959 when the executive directors and staff members of both organizations met with City Planning Department staff and the CGP. The URA shared its research into current conditions in East Liberty. It attributed decline in the neighborhood to the mixture of land uses, traffic, lack of parking, and the inconvenient and aesthetically lacking conditions in the commercial area, stating: The area lacks parking, stores and residences are intermixed, crossing back and forth on Penn Avenue and Highland Avenue is a continual hazard to life and limb; nothing is attractive, and stores are 'down-at-the-heel.'28 It believed these conditions hindered a competitive commercial and residential area in the neighborhood. As a solution, the PRPA separated East Liberty into clearance and rehabilitation areas, although it would not raze all buildings in the former. Significant neighborhood amenities and buildings in exceptionally good condition would remain. Likewise the PRPA recommended spot clearance to eliminate irreparable buildings or land uses that might be "degenerating" to adjacent structures regardless of their location. Demonstrating the extent to which it viewed East Liberty as a commercial area, the PRPA employed land use marketing data to determine the neighborhood's economic health. It found that approximately 100,000 sq. ft. of commercial space was vacant, excluding upper-floor office space, estimating that if $50.00 per sq. ft. would be necessary to maintain commercial space in the neighborhood, tenants paid about $5 million less than they would at peak occupancy.

Committee on General Plans, Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, September 26, 1958. The initial neighborhood studies were not available in the records of the City Planning Commission and Department and there was no indication in the minutes of either the Commission or the Committee on General Plans that either shared their findings with the URA or PRPA. 28 Committee on General Plans, Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, March 10, 1959.


275 While disquieting, these results were not the source of discord at the meeting. CGP members resented their exclusion from the study, since it largely determined the fate of each block in project area. During the meeting, Ronal C. Woods, head of City Planning, described his staffs involvement, stating: We were in consultation with Regional Planning in the beginning, when they discussed the approach to and formation of some of the objectives, but other than a very brief review of the housing conditions, we have not had too much contact as the study developed. We have not had anything submitted and left with us for study.29 Thus, while the URA and PRPA technically followed state and federal demands to work with local planning agencies, they did not provide the time and materials necessary for their full participation. At the meeting, Earl Newkirk, Assistant Executive Director of the URA, stressed that the Commission not delay the project, reminding it that by law it had to certify the area and eventually approve the URA's plans, sending a recommendation to City Council within a specified number of days. Woods responded that his department needed adequate time and access to information. The URA claimed to be ready to collaborate, but tensions remained. This conflict threatened the PPC's position as arbiter of blight. Although the PA Urban Redevelopment Law vested the power to certify project areas in local planning commissions, the URA and PRPA usurped much of that role in the East Liberty project. In reaction, Woods drafted a letter to his staff dated March 24, 1959, outlining the status of the project, his interpretation of state urban redevelopment law and the federal housing



276 act, and the department's access to URA materials for study.30 In it, he criticized the URA and PRPA for withholding information, resulting in two rival plans. At its next meeting, the CGP entered the letter into its minutes and took no official action on either plan. Instead, it authorized Woods to request five changes in the URA's plans. Primarily, it objected to the creation of a pedestrian mall on Penn and Highland Avenues encompassing the heart of the commercial district. It also preferred garages to parking lots and questioned the land use recommendations for a number of parcels. Before he could present his report, only eight days after the plans arrived at the department, Woods received a letter from Pease requesting action within a month.31 Members of the CGP expressed concern that their work could not be accomplished in that time. Such conflicts continued throughout the course of the federal application process, but they did not prevent progress. On May 26, 1959, the CGP recommended that the PPC certify the area as blighted, although it did so based on PRPA and URA data, rather than its own studies. While issuing its recommendation, it reiterated its concerns about the PRPA plan and expressed hope that a resolution could be found. Later that day, the full Commission acted upon the CGP's recommendation and certified the area. In previous and subsequent certifications, the PPC relied upon staff studies of existing conditions to establish the presence of blight. For East Liberty, however, PPC cited only the URA's studies, the PPC's rival plan, a street circulation plan, and the recommendation of the CGP. In other words, the majority of the evidence came from plans for future development rather than studies of current conditions. It defined blight based upon
30 31

Committee on General Plans, Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, March 31, 1959. Committee on General Plans, Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, April 7, 1959. 32 Committee on General Plans, Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, May 26, 1959.

opportunity rather than decline and did so according to the URA's timeline and specifications. It also demonstrated the limits of the PPC's authority to identify blight. Although the Planning Department would again produce studies, the conflict and confusion over the unfamiliar balance of federal and state regulations served as a powerful example of the URA's ascendency as an arbiter of blight. Thus, at the start of Pittsburgh's involvement with urban renewal, federal regulations would influence local redevelopment concepts and processes, leading agencies into conflict and driving both accommodation and innovative assertions of independence. Local officials encountered federal influence most directly through the application process. An investigation of those documents reveals federal understandings of blight and how they affected municipal authorities. Federal Policy and Local Action: Accommodation and Resistance Urban renewal applications were complicated and the rules frequently changed.33 At the start of the East Liberty project, a typical application would proceed through the following stages: First, cities considering renewal would file a Survey and Planning Grant application for planning funds. After collecting data, they would submit a Project Eligibility and Relocation Report as an initial application for renewal grants and loans. The final application consisted of two parts that included data on existing conditions, the need for relocation services, a renewal plan, budget estimations, and certifications indicating state and municipal approval. In this project, the Final Grant Application was the last draft examining conditions and therefore the official statement on the existence of blight in the area. It

The federal government published an oft revised manualfor the program, as evinced by the numerous and varied publication dates listed on the bottom of each page of a typical copy.


consisted of a series of forms, statements, and exhibits presented in a specified order. Because forms prompt for specific answers at specific times, the government potentially could assert a great deal of control over local agencies' definitions and descriptions of blighted conditions. Of the many sections of the application, the Summary of Project Data Form most directly addressed existing conditions in the project area.34 The first section regarding project area conditions inquired into the "character" of the area, asking two questions: First, was the area "built-up (blighted)," "predominantly open," or "open?" Second, if the area was not open (i.e. vacant and unimproved), was it "clearly predominantly residential?"35 Opening with these questions privileged and assigned the term "blighted" to any built-up area involved in the program. Since the form also covered slum clearance projects seeking federal aid, it indicated that the Administration considered slums, as built-up areas needing renewal, to be blighted as well. In the case of the East Liberty project, the URA failed to indicate the character of the area, although the supporting data demonstrated that it was indeed "built-up (blighted.)" This was likely an oversight as it identified the area as "clearly predominantly residential," indicating both the primary land use and that the area was not vacant. Other questions requested quantitative data about land use in the project area and the racial makeup of the people who called it home. For the total project area and the

The federal Urban Renewal Administration created this form for use in both the Project Eligibility and Relocation Report and the Final Project Report, with different required questions for each. For East Liberty, the URA completed all sections of the form in the Final Project Report, providing insight into their responses for both reports. 35 Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, PA, "Final Project Report (Part Application for Loan and Grant): East Liberty Project."


279 clearance subsection, the form required the number of acres under street, residential, commercial, industrial, public and semi-public institutional uses, as well as vacant land. It also asked for the total number of buildings in each use category and how many of those were substandard. The form did not suggest any criteria, granting the URA some freedom in its decision. According to its data, 1045 of the 1,889 total structures in the project area were substandard. Of these, 922 were residential, 107 were commercial, 13 industrial and 3 institutional.36 The form also requested information on how many of the dwelling units in the area were occupied by white and non-white residents. In East Liberty, 1,573 of the substandard dwellings housed white families and 611 housed non-white families. The percentage of families living in substandard dwellings was approximately even across color lines, with around 70% living in poor conditions. The application required more granular information for the clearance area. East Liberty's contained 1,227 buildings, 735 of which were substandard. This represented approximately 70% of all substandard buildings in the project area. Considering dwelling units, 1,292 out of 1,700 were substandard, with around 76% of both white and non-white families living in substandard conditions. The form was less stringent with rehabilitation sections, requesting only the number of dwelling units and information about their occupants. In East Liberty, there were 991 substandard units out of 1,540 total, with 64% of families across racial lines inhabiting poor housing. Although the form did not specify criteria for housing deficiencies, it did list five categories of environmental deficiencies:



Overcrowding or improper location of structures on the Land or an excessive dwelling unit density; Detrimental land uses or conditions such as incompatible uses or structures in mixed use, obsolete building types, adverse influences from noise, smoke, or fumes; Narrow, inconvenient, congested, unsafe, or otherwise deficient streets; Inadequate public utilities or community facilities contributing to unsatisfactory living conditions or economic deterioration; Other significant conditions which are clear evidence of environmental deficiencies.37 It provided a small space for each category for the respondent to indicate the extent of existing conditions and a source for the agency's data, but allowed respondents to use a separate sheet for additional space. The URA used this opportunity to direct the reader to a separate narrative description of the area's existing characteristics, defining its own categories and emphasizing specific points that related to, but did not directly follow those specified by state law or federal policy. The narrative began with land uses. It called the project area a predominantly residential neighborhood with a "heterogeneous and mutually conflicting mixture of land uses." It claimed that: ...deteriorated or deteriorating residential areas, lack of community facilities and open space, a haphazard commercial area with insufficient off-street parking facilities, indiscriminately located industries and an inadequate and congested street system, all add to an area which is declining and in need of redevelopment and renewal.38 The URA emphasized the residential nature of the area, a characteristic of import to the federal government, reiterating that 919 of 1,328 residential structures in the area were physically substandard. The narrative also accentuated other residential problems,
37 3

Ibid. *Ibid.

281 including overcrowding of people and buildings, inadequate off-street parking, small parcels, traffic near housing, and dwellings in alleys, some reflecting the Federal Urban Renewal Administration's suggested environmental deficiencies, such as building density. Others, like parking or overcrowding within units, addressed quality of life issues not directly listed on the form. These latter deficiencies reflected shared municipal and federal concerns, such as the dearth of community resources like parks, playgrounds and schools. East Liberty lacked all of these, except for a small parochial girls' school. The URA also included economic and aesthetic factors that addressed commercial competition from suburban shopping centers. It indicated the neighborhood's position as the second largest commercial area in the city and identified defects affecting shoppers and merchants. These included "woefully inadequate off-street parking facilities, traffic congestion, many old and obsolete buildings, mixed land uses, a high vacancy ratio, generally rundown appearance and lack of continuity." It briefly mentioned the widespread intrusion of industrial land uses among dwellings, historically a concern of residential owners, then quickly progressed to an examination of the street system. The URA argued that it was difficult to travel "to, within, or through the Project Area." This primarily affected those who traveled there to work or shop, rather than residents. According to a 1958 traffic survey, up to 70% of all automobile traffic in the area passed through without stopping, suffering due to poorly planned lights, turns, and intersections. Service trucks and streetcars further complicated traffic creating inconvenient, congested and unsafe streets. Thus, the URA devoted equal space in its analysis of a primarily residential area for commercial concerns. While addressing a wider range of residential issues than

federal forms outlined, it extended its analysis to how blight and inefficiency affected consumers who lived outside of its borders. Similar to the PPC's treatment of the Hill District, the URA judged East Liberty in terms of its role in the city. While residential uses may have been statistically dominant, Pittsburghers understood it as a second downtown. The URA continued its summary of existing conditions by outlining its methods for discriminating between clearance and rehabilitation properties, providing insight into how it defined standard and substandard structures in the absence of strict federal guidelines. It designated clearance zones in the project area using three criteria: "the condition of structures, the compatibility of existing structures with proposed uses and the location of proposed public improvements." In explaining its methods, however, it reorganized its findings, dividing the condition of structures into "physical and environmental factors" and combining compatibility of uses and public improvements into a broader category of "planning considerations". To assess physical deficiencies, the URA worked with the Housing Division of the Allegheny County Health Department and the Bureau of Building Inspection of the city's Department of Public Safety to generate a 100% survey of all structures. It classified buildings into four categories: "(a) in need of major repairs; (b) major inadequacies in basic building utilities and facilities; (c) in need of extensive minor repairs; and (d) in need of minor repairs." The URA selected areas predominantly in the first two categories for clearance. It also marked discreet pockets of dilapidation for the wrecking ball.


Regarding environmental factors, the URA identified clearance zones by a number of factors, including: (a) inadequate, small or odd-shaped parcels; (b) parcels with mixed or detrimental land uses; (c) overoccupancy as determined by the Allegheny County Health Department; (d) residential parcels whose sole access is from an alley; (e) residential parcels facing a major street which is to remain; and (f) overcrowding of a parcel. Finally, the Authority marked properties for clearance due to "planning considerations," including: land assembly, street creation, compatibility of existing with planned land uses, and "parcels with attendant structures determined to be presently contributing to blighting influences." This last section suggested that the URA intended to take properties that did not conform to its plans for, and therefore its vision of, East Liberty's future. The location of planned public improvements such as parks and utilities also played a role in determining what the URA would keep and restore. Residences were more likely to qualify for rehabilitation if they bordered a proposed park or playground. The Authority drew the borders of rehabilitation areas using the same basic criteria that it employed in selecting clearance zones. Buildings in standard condition or needing only minor repairs would remain, provided that they were compatible in use and construction to neighboring and planned structures. Thus, future plans as well as existing conditions determined a building's fate. Both physicality and possibility held sway over the East Liberty's present blight and future rebirth. The report continued with an outline of that future. The URA began with a revised summary of objectives largely similar to the list it created with the PPC. The project's principal purpose was the "elimination of any and all properties or conditions that have a blighting influence on other properties in the area, whether residential or non-

residential." Faithful to the previous list, it also proposed to eliminate major traffic, parking, and land use problems. Not all of the objectives remained the same. In the previous list, the third item was "development of an efficient secondary shopping center with adequate off-street parking and circulation pattern although not necessarily to the parking standards of modern suburban shopping areas."39 In its report to the federal government, it substituted "the development, where appropriate, of sound, stable residential areas with adequate community facilities and services," demoting better commercial areas to fifth out of six objectives. The remaining two objectives emphasized better roads and increasing the available housing stock. Overall, the list was shorter and heavily emphasized improvements to residential spaces. Most notably gone from the list were references to the planners' original goals of segregating land uses and vehicular and pedestrian flows through the project area, although those aims remained in their plans. Next, in a separate section for each proposed land use, the URA specified goals, identified challenges, and proposed solutions. Commercially, it suggested a new street system to accommodate traffic moving within and through the area. Additionally, it aimed to consolidate and define a center for the diffuse and oversized business district, providing adequate parking and efficient circulation throughout. For East Liberty's few industrial areas, it sought to eliminate "residential and dilapidated uses within this area and replace them with conforming uses." In exchange, it would convert a small area on the western periphery of the neighborhood from automobile service industries into residences. Residentially, it planned the preservation of two large and several smaller patches of housing in good condition. The URA also argued that traffic was harming the

Committee on General Plans, Minutes of the Committee on General Plans, June 17, 1958.

285 residential environment and proposed ending some streets in cul-de-sacs while reorienting and resurfacing others. Additionally, it planned off-street residential parking lots, playgrounds and parks in the area. This disciplined of the use of the street by geographically segregating the various ways that residents used roads. It reserved streets for locomotion. It also moved storage and socializing into discretely defined, off-street spaces. Previously, neighborhood streets played all three of these roles, out of custom and necessity. The URA's plan, and its separation into sections by land use, betrayed its belief in the detrimental effects of the miscegenation of uses and flows. In addition to segregating large sections of commercial, residential, and industrial activities, the URA transformed the neighborhood's zoning and the personal geography of those who lived, worked, walked, drove, socialized, and shopped in the area. Thus, the Final Project Report displayed tensions between federal and local understandings of blight, and how Pittsburgh conformed to and resisted the influences of the urban renewal program. In the sections of the report where forms directed and restricted responses, the Administration imposed ideas about blight, presenting it as any built-up area worthy of renewal. By placing it on a form that, in part, was to demonstrate a project's eligibility for participation in the renewal program, the Administration gave blight a primacy of place in its vision of renewal. At a more granular level, however, it allowed local renewal authorities freedom to shape the concept. For example, applicants had to provide the quantity of substandard buildings, but no explanation of how they derived those numbers. This freed them to create standards that were most appropriate to their locales and needs. Furthermore, by

286 permitting applicants to use additional sheets of paper in their responses, the federal government enabled the URA to take control of the portrayal of East Liberty's conditions through narrative. The result emphasized the factors that most directly and forcefully asserted their claims. In its narrative, the URA stressed the neighborhood's residential flaws. It prominently mentioned the mixture of land uses, overcrowding, deteriorating dwellings, and the dearth of open spaces and community facilities. Secondarily it cited its poorly planned commercial district, inadequate streets and parking, and indiscriminately located industries. Thus, in promoting a plan born of local retailers' efforts to renovate their business district, the URA emphasized residential problems and solutions that would most likely appeal to the federal agency's housing-oriented goals. At its core, the URA's ideas about blight sprang from a tension between miscegenation and segregation. Its fears of heterogeneity as a source of blight led to a plan that segregated the neighborhood in numerous ways. At the level of zoning, the plan concentrated the residential and commercial areas by removing non-conforming and vacant uses. It also affected residents' and visitors' personal geographies, transforming a bustling jumble of urban activity into a rational and efficient machine. Crowded sidewalks and streets with trolleys, cars, trucks, and people were antithetical to the clean efficiency of flows promoted in the URA's modern plans for the area. The Authority's efforts to address this mixture, which it understood as a factor of blight, transcended physical planning and trod into the management of people and their activities. It would also, through relocation, segregate the poor and people of color. The plan and its

implementation engendered both support and dissent in public discourse. It is to these debates that we now turn. East Liberty Blight and Renewal in the Press The press drew public attention to East Liberty's problems during late 1950s. While each newspaper acknowledged area blight, there was no consistent agreement about its nature. The Courier, which touted East Liberty as a land of opportunity for African-American potential homeowners in 1954, regarded it with increasing disfavor by the end of the decade. The paper quoted William S. Howell, president of the Homewood Community Improvement Association, who noted that the notorious 6200 block of Frankstown Avenue in East Liberty had become "a haven for intoxicated individuals, loafers, and shady characters who have no respect for themselves or for the good citizens of the community."40 Police raids of "joy huts" and "sin dens" where numbers rackets and other vices ran rampant marked the area as a haven for crime and danger.41 Other voices decried the lack of residential amenities serving the growing African-American community displaced by renewal activities in the Hill District. Mrs. Helen Watson, a concerned citizen, believed the neighborhood was unprepared for arriving families: To my notion, we need more recreation centers and the greatest need is in Homewood and East Liberty because the Hill District is being depopulated and our children are being moved with their families into these precincts in East Liberty and Homewood.42 The dearth of amenities and neglect by public works departments led to a severe decline in living conditions for East Liberty African-Americans. On July 26, 1958, the

Pittsburgh Courier, "HCIA Prexy Says Neighborhood Burdened With Taverns, No Police and Youth Mobs," October 19, 1957. 41 Pittsburgh Courier, "Police Hit Joy Huts, Sin Dens," May 9, 1959. 42 Pittsburgh Courier, "Pittsburghers Speak Up," June 7, 1958.


Courier accused city planners of skipping street improvements in African-American parts of East Liberty and other neighborhoods, while authorizing projects in the wealthier and primarily white sections of Oakland and Squirrel Hill. It stated that homes in predominantly African-American parts of East Liberty "are reached over a pavement of cheap asphalt, with countless seams which will eventually widen into hazardous holes." With no improvements planned, the streets would only worsen with wear.43 As information about the renewal plans emerged, the Courier highlighted the poor residential conditions that such a project might address. Referring to the neighborhood as a slum, it exposed East Liberty's "rundown and blighted areas" through photos betraying neglect and decline. Rickety porches and roofs dominated the images.44 For the Courier and its readership, blight in East Liberty afflicted its residential functions. Their concerns transcended physical conditions to address residents' quality of life. To meet their standards, blight remediation needed to address a wide variety of issues including crime, recreation, roads, and housing. A vociferous approach to publicizing the area's shortcomings could draw attention to both the neglect and inequalities that threatened their homes and lives. The business-friendly editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, took a measured approach. Although it exposed the neglect and poor planning that menaced the neighborhood, it also highlighted positive characteristics that made East Liberty worthy of investment and patronage. Touting the area's retail-sales volume and its many conveniences, the paper assured readers that the neighborhood was a good place to live and shop. It described East Liberty's problems as small and manageable, using the
Pittsburgh Courier, "Planners Skip Over Negro Section in City's Program for Improving Streets," July 26, 1958. 44 Pittsburgh Courier, "Slums in Two Areas Will Be Eliminated," August 16, 1958.

friendly end Mnintimidating rhetoric of landscaping in lieu of more disturbing allusions to disease or decay: The redevelopment work in this instance will not feature so much a tearing down, as a judicious weeding out. Relocating a small industry that may have sprung up in a residential area, raising a decrepit house which taints a whole block with blight, concentrating store units that are now scattered ~ this is the sort of gardening that will have to be done extensively. This explanation emphasized the mixing of incompatible uses and conditions, following the logic of the URA's plan. Blight remediation meant segregating, concentrating, renovating, and protecting homeowners and the retail core.45 The Pittsburgh Press, in its coverage, promoted the plans, claiming they would give planners a "rare chance" to introduce renewal to the city. The paper asserted that the public misunderstood redevelopment and renewal. Quoting from the June 1959 newsletter of the Pennsylvania Economy League, it presented renewal in a favorable light as a less drastic, yet effective, measure against blight and decline: "The new form of progress renewal ~ is oriented toward saving whatever can be saved from demolition." Not every neighborhood could benefit from renewal, according to the report, thus it would be reserved for sections "that have slipped but not to the point where total clearance is the only practical or more desirable solution."46 In this regard, it presented renewal as a subtler and potentially more palatable solution to urban problems for neighborhoods like East Liberty that were not beyond the point of salvation.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "East Liberty's Future," August 11, 1958. Pittsburgh Press, "East Liberty Renewal Gives Rare Chance," June 17, 1959.

Public Relations and Puhlir Honripgv

The press was not the public's only source of information. The LIRA reached out to the community through a number of other means. It collaborated with the East Liberty Renewal Council, to educate the public about renewal plans and procedures. The Council was not a pre-existing group of concerned citizens, but rather an outcome of the renewal effort. ACTION-Housing, a non-profit advocacy organization, recruited members of the East Liberty business, religious, educational, and residential communities to serve on the Council. It provided public information and assistance from its project area office. Together, they produced a pamphlet, entitled "What You Should Know About East Liberty Renewal." It answered questions about urban renewal agencies, plans, and procedures. It briefly explained the choice of East Liberty as the city's first urban renewal project, stating that "in recent years, however, both the residential and shopping districts of East Liberty have been deteriorating noticeably." Citing concern over the "social and economic effects of this deterioration," it deemed East Liberty to be the "most logical choice" for the city's federal renewal debut.47 The pamphlet provided more detail about neighborhood problems when describing the benefits of renewal, emphasizing commercial redevelopment and its residential benefits. The project would recreate East Liberty as a ".. .handsome, modern community, with an up-to-date shopping area, surrounded by fine residential neighborhoods. Renewal will correct unsatisfactory housing and living conditions; eliminate traffic congestion; provide off-street parking, and for the first time in its history give East Liberty parks, playgrounds, and open green space."


Urban Renewal Authority, "What You Should Know About East Liberty Renewal," (Pittsburgh- URA June 1960).

291 Tt described sJionninaLareHsJhat^'OiiULattracLpeosle through^sse ^fsccess, rn&vsmsnt^ and parking. It promised neighborhoods that would attract new residents and "hold those now living there," cautiously distinguishing the project from the razing and relocation disasters of the Lower Hill.48 In addition to the pamphlet and public relations through earned media, the URA produced a weekly column in the local neighborhood newspaper, the East Liberty Tribune, to promote its plan, reduce neighborhood fears of renewal, and generate consensus about blight and renewal amongst community stakeholders. While most agreed that East Liberty needed help, they wrangled over the nature of the problem and its resolution. Although varied opinions about East Liberty's blight existed before the dissemination of renewal plans, conflict grew more pointed after their publication, and turned acrimonious in the days surrounding a series of public hearings before City Council in June 1960. The hearings exposed the diversity of opinion that existed even among members of the ELCOC. Small business owners were particularly concerned about the traffic revisions and the creation of a pedestrian mall. To these proprietors, automobile traffic was their lifeblood. Shoppers were more likely to visit East Liberty for a larger, destination store than for a specialized local boutique. These small businesses survived on foot traffic. Some local merchants like Irwin Price, owner of Price's Dress Shops, argued: Under the renewal plan parking will be three, four and five blocks away from some of the stores. People will not walk that far in rain, sleet and snow. Merchants need traffic going by the front door to attract some customers. The mall


would cut this off.49 He presented a petition containing the signatures of one hundred merchants requesting revisions to the plan. More significant action against the plan came from Sachs Restaurants, Inc., owners of the Marbett's restaurant chain. David Olds, of Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, the legal firm representing the restaurant, argued against the URA's efforts, stating that the city was "not obligated to accept what they've done."so Together with a local drapery company and the owner of an adjacent vacant lot, the restaurant hired a planner, George Gordon, to examine the area. Gordon surveyed people in the area and of 206 respondents, all but six expressed interest in preserving the restaurant. Marbett's served the general public, while the URA's plan would replace it, the drapery company and a vacant lot with a luxury restaurant and apartments. Gordon also contested the decisions of Allan Jacobs, the project's planner. Jacobs claimed that Baum Boulevard, a large automobile strip in the neighborhood, was a dying area, but Gordon disagreed, accusing Jacobs and his staff of making arbitrary decisions that unnecessarily threatened a number of local businesses.51 In addition to local business owners, local religious and residential communities spoke in opposition to the plan. Rev. John M. Nycum of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church fought its demolition, stating "our church is needed where it stands." He asserted that no one consulted with him and that "no church would be expendable and that [the

Pittsburgh Press, "East Liberty Feels Renewal Needed," June 17,1960. William Allan, "Renewal Plan Hit For East Liberty," Pittsburgh Press, June 16, 1960. Interestingly, Ralph Demmler, a lawyer with Reed, Smith, Shaw, and McClay had previously represented the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, the developer of the Pittsburgh's Gateway Center approximately a decade earlier. 51 Ibid.


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also objected to a proposed six-lane bypass in close proximity to schools. "One child killed is not worth the money spent to widen the highway," he argued.52 Residents also expressed concerns to City Council. Arguing that her property was not blighted, Louise Marchesiano, a homeowner facing relocation, protested the project. "I have just remodeled the entire inside of my home and halted plans to fix up the outside because I learned my home was to be taken. We were ignored."53 Although protesters came from many parts of East Liberty society, they were a minority in the hearings as other members of the business, religious, and residential constituencies argued in favor of the plan. Sigmund Hahn, owner of a large furniture store and a leader in the ELCOC, countered small business complaints, claiming "the redevelopment of our section would benefit the small merchant more than the big one because the bigger stores do not need any help." This was likely an exaggeration, as the ELCOC, run primarily by the larger retail interests, brought urban renewal to the neighborhood. According to the Pittsburgh Press, Hahn's testimony emphasized how poor conditions affected local commerce: "He said that there are 400,000 persons living within a few miles of his business district, but they are not shopping there because of the blighted conditions, old buildings, heavy traffic, poor parking facilities."54 Others supported the plan as well. Dan Pietragallo of the DuLuca Shop claimed that it would attract a better class of store.55 Reverend Lawrence Bair, pastor of St. Peter's Evangelical and Reform Church stated that, "the plan is socially, spiritually and morally


"East Liberty Feels Renewal Needed." Allan.


pertinent to our situation in East Liberty." Rev Ralph L_ Hayes, pastor=oSaGred4Jeart Church, delved further into neighborhood conditions, claiming that, "there are many churches in East Liberty that are assets to the City's cultural well-being. You would not want to see them decay and become parts of a run-down neighborhood." Decay also weighed heavily upon some area residents like Marie Bour. He supported the plan, even in the face of eviction, stating, "The slum is seeping in, but it will not take much to get the people back to East Liberty. Those who have moved to suburbia, especially the women, miss the East End."56 These supporters bolstered the testimony of planners and officials. C. Ronal Woods of the City Planning Department spoke in support of the project, stating: "Today, depressed, blighted and slum conditions generally permeate many sections of the commercial and residential area of East Liberty and will require a major effort to be made to overcome them." Patrick J. Cusick, the executive director of the PRPA was much more succinct: "East Liberty is sick, sick, sick. It is at the crossroads of life and death."57 Few testifying before Council were against the concept of renewal. According to the Pittsburgh Press, "Everybody in East Liberty is for renewal of the area, but some of the residents who appeared at the public hearings in Council Chambers spoke against certain facets of the many-phased program."58 Differences hinged on the details. Traffic was contentious, with some arguing that it repelled shoppers and others presenting it as critical to survival. The types and density of stores also generated debate. Some decried vacancies and called for concentration of the business district while others felt that too many marginal shops lowered the overall quality and reputation of the commercial core.

"East Liberty Feels Renewal Needed."

295 Varied interests positioned their understandings of blight on opposing sides of a number of dichotomies: dearth and excess, order and diversity, and common and elite. Their circumstances influenced the solutions they supported. Outside of council chambers, those with less access to wealth and power expressed a more critical perspective regarding the plan. According to the Courier, The picture painted by the parade of witnesses in City Council chambers last week was generally one of convenience, beauty and even a little luxury for all. But interviews with several affected citizens indicate that they are concerned with more dire matters than beauty.59 Many working class African-Americans in the neighborhood feared that the project would result in the loss of their homes. This meant forfeiting both shelter and investments of money and time in upkeep and maintenance. Mrs. Frances Rodgers lamented the potential loss of her daughter's investment in a family home: My daughter's been working hard to keep this place up, and now she has to move. We like progress - if after you are forced to move, you could buy a decent house. After my daughter moves, she will never step foot in East Liberty


again. While Mrs. Rodgers did not see her daughter's house as blighted, others recognized the substandard nature of their homes, but judged their condition relative to the limited stock available to African-Americans at the time. Paul Vaughn's family lived in five different places in a period of two and a half years and only two of them contained a bathtub, including his home in East Liberty. He noted that "[e]very place where they put the Negroes seems to be slumy (sic), and the rents are sky high." Considering many African-Americans' limited options and resources, the physical condition of their
Harry Brooks, "East End Negroes 'Lukewarm' To Urban Renewal Program," Pittsburgh Courier, June 25, 1960. 60 Ibid.


apartments and houses represented a symptom, rather than the cause of what blighted their quality of life. Reverend LeRoy Patrick, the pastor of Bethesda Presbyterian Church, brought this to city Council's attention at the public hearings, testifying that "the fundamental purpose of city renewal is for the benefit of the people who live in that community." The Courier reflected on this, asking: "Is the Council keeping the people in mind?" It understood East Liberty's blight differently than did businesses and the URA, and thus called for a very different set of remedies. Bulldozing houses and evicting residents would not solve the structural inequalities in the housing and job markets that underlay their problems. East Liberty resident Julia Evans stated these concerns succinctly. According to the Courier: "Mrs. Evans believes the majority of people don't want to move, especially since they don't know where they are going. She said the East Liberty section was being fixed up for the white people and not the colored who now live there."61 The Courier feared that planners saw not only structures, but the residents themselves, as factors of blight to be swept aware for new, richer, and whiter occupants. Small business owners also feared replacement. In addition to new traffic designs and pedestrian malls, they faced eviction through the concentration of the commercial district. Some saw this as an opportunity to improve their enterprises. Irwin Price, owner of Price Dress Shops, banded together with other small businesses into a syndicate to purchase property in the renewal area. The URA offered them priority on available properties because they were relocatees.62 Others, however, saw renewal as threat. The Sachs Restaurant chain threatened to take the Authority to court after city council approved the renewal plan, claiming that "property will be taken under the principle of

William Allan, "Council Backs East Liberty Plan," Pittsburgh Press, June 29, 1960.

297 eminent domain, and in renewal, this must be based on blight." Sachs claimed that the Authority agreed that the restaurant did not constitute blight and therefore its actions could result in litigation.63 In this way, blight and renewal both created and constrained opportunities for local business owners. Race, Relocation, Delays, and Blight East Liberty's fortunes would be jeopardized by delays. In the time between its announcement and its implementation, the impending plan discouraged investment and accelerated the spread of blight. For East Liberty residents, two significant types of uncertainty emerged. The first was relocation. Residents worried about where and when they would move. In an interview with the Courier, Mrs. Stanley Tolliver said "I haven't heard anything from anyone lately. I wish we would find out, because the anxiety of not knowing when it's all going to take place gets on a person's nerves." In another interview, Mrs. Emma McKee lamented that her landlord changed her lease to month-to-month after the announcement of renewal. She was not sure of when she would be forced to relocate. She was, however, looking forward to a move, stating, "The sooner I can move the better, because the area has gone down and no one is making any repairs or any improvements."64 Her words exposed the second uncertainty that impending renewal brought to the neighborhood. Would any investment in the neighborhood be lost with renewal? Mrs. Tolliver summed it up when she said: People don't want to undertake repairs or paint or anything like that, because the buildings could be torn down in a short time. It just doesn't seem to be worth the money and


Ibid. Harry Brooks, "East Liberty Residents Explain Their Problems, Anxieties in Redevelopment," Pittsburgh Courier, January 28, 1961.

298 effort to fix up something that won't be here very long.65 None of those interviewed were against renewal, per se. They looked forward to improvements in their living conditions, but lamented the blight that spread in the interim. Like the Hill District and the Lower Triangle, decay had become part of the slow renewal process between the announcement of a project and its completion. Other residents of East Liberty, particularly many African-Americans, were less enthusiastic about renewal and relocation. They feared that the project would result in another Hill District and wondered if the URA considered them part of the blight. The Courier asked critical questions: Will there be room for all the present residents in the future of clean streets and uncrowded buildings? Will the Negro concentration be broken up to such an extent that the character of the area becomes alien? Will the East Liberty project be little more than an encore to the chaos that was visited upon the now-demolished Lower Hill when the bulldozers had finished their work?66 Of particular concern to the Courier's Phyl Garland were those who did not fit the mold of the deserving poor: "unwed mothers, 'winos,' extreme nonconformists, 'welfare' cases not quite old enough to be considered aged, and low-income legitimate families too large to fit into existing housing project units."67 He feared that wealthier, whiter residents would replace current ones, effectively treating relocatees as factors of blight. To decelerate the spread of substandard conditions and calm fears, the URA contracted with a local settlement house, the Kingsley Association, to educate residents about how to improve their properties and avoid clearance. The Association formed

Ibid. Phyl Garland, "Will East Liberty Project Be Repeat of Lower Hill?" Pittsburgh Courier, October 28, 1961. 67 Phyl Garland, '"HELP, US!' Urban Renewal 'DP's' Plead: City's Redevelopers Admit Shortcomings," Pittsburgh Courier, December 23, 1961.

299 teams consisting of a staff member, a health department inspector, and a representative of the URA.68 These experts explained code requirements, demonstrated economical repairs, and provided financing information. To compel compliance, the city reassigned school crossing guards during the summer recess to inspect properties throughout the city for garbage and other nuisances. Offering both the carrot and the stick, the city and its neighborhood allies pushed renewal into people's backyards, involving willing and reluctant participants in the process of rehabilitation.69 Residents also took initiative. In 1963, grassroots activists, local churches, and social institutions protested the opening of additional taverns and bars in East Liberty. They surprised local restaurant owners George and Dora Jones at a state liquor control board application hearing, where Reverend Clarence E. Burrell of the Mt. Ararat Church argued that neighborhoods like theirs "do not go down but rather are pulled down by certain forces." 70 The protestors submitted a petition with over 170 names to the Board, ultimately blocking the application. In a statement to the Courier, the coalition assured the Joneses that the protest was not a personal attack: The Joneses are reputable people, they said. But the fight is being waged because residents are working hard to keep their neighborhood respectable and another liquor dispensing establishment in the area would lead to deterioration.71 Although they struggled to defend the physical and moral character of their neighborhoods, African-Americans in East Liberty ultimately paid the price of progress at the expense of their communities. In an editorial dated November 16, 1963, the

68 69

Pittsburgh Press, "East Liberty Renewal Pact Signed," Feb. 8, 1961. Pittsburgh Courier, "20 Guards To Conduct City Cleanup," July 28, 1962. 70 Pittsburgh Courier, "East Liberty Group Fights Tavern Bid," April 13, 1963. 71 Pittsburgh Courier, "East Liberty Couple Denied Liquor Permit," September 28, 1963.

Courier argued that renewal, which sought to retain Pittsburgh's top wage earning, and white, former residents was resulting in additional decay and suffering. In making the city more attractive to suburban whites, renewal relocated non-white residents, their businesses, and their social institutions into even more densely over-populated neighborhoods, accelerating the decline of places in a "near-blight stage" and the "further deteriorating of both moral and property values."72 Pointing to a less obvious form of blight, the paper referred to a U.S. Department of Labor Report that ...revealed that social and economic blight has been manifest on the North Side, in the Hill, and in the East Liberty, Brushton, Homewood sections. While the average family income in Pittsburgh is $5,605 per year, the average non-white family has a mere $3,833 to enter into its coffers.73 Concentrated neighborhoods of low-income families generated fewer tax revenues for the city and African-Americans' sacrifices did not yield dividends in their neighborhoods. The Courier pointed out that due to renewal: ...many acres of residential ground lie fallow, bare, and are overgrown with weeds. Large sections in East Liberty, the Hill District, the once-teeming Manchester section of the North Side lie bare and flattened. In summation, the paper exposed the costs of renewal: "... our urban renewal planning has been inadequate and inhumane in its jarring effects on Negro citizens." Thus, the failed attempt to renovate a neighborhood for the benefit white suburbanites resulted in vacant lots, crime, and deterioration in the project area and physical, social, and economic blight in relocation areas. Non-white families ultimately paid for the project with their communities.
72 73

Pittsburgh Courier, "An Editorial: Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction," November 16, 1963. Ibid.

301 Returns and Reckoning: Facing Failures in East Liberty By 1964, the URA was looking for a return on its investments. Twenty-one acres of land had been cleared and buildings were rising on some of the lots, including public housing units. Others were sold or committed to developers.74 In Greater Pittsburgh magazine, Pease offered record construction and improvement activity as a sign of physical and economic recovery. He also cited business volume, up from $42 million per year to $50 million. This was lower than its zenith of $70 million per year in 1946, but he predicted that area retailers would surpass that record by 1970. Additionally, he praised the project's use of rehabilitation and its community relations. He claimed that 1964 would "dispel doubts as to East Liberty's ability to regain its strength of the past as a vital city organism."75 Unfortunately for the URA, the city, its residents, and its relocatees, much of that success failed to materialize. By 1969, the Urban Redevelopment Authority found that: ...after nearly $60 million in public investment in the urban renewal area (including new housing construction) there is no indication that commercial core (sic) has stabilized. There has been no major private investment along the retail strips of Penn and Highland avenues. While new private investment has occurred along the loop (AAA Office Building, Hahn Furniture Store, etc.) the center of East Liberty has not improved. Replacing the street grid with a beltway around the core facilitated bypassing traffic but hindered access to the neighborhood. To solve the problem, the URA recommended starting over with a marketing study, traffic analysis, and market analysis. The marketing study and traffic analysis questioned the work of renewal efforts in the 1960s. The market

"Barr Predicts Building Boom," Pittsburgh Courier, April 18, 1964. Robert B Pease, "A Community Shapes Its Future," Greater Pittsburgh, May 1965. 76 Urban Redevelopment Authority, East Liberty Mall, (Pittsburgh: Urban Redevelopment Authority, cl969), 1.


analysis would examine its effects on local population. In restarting, the URA planned to examine factors of decay similar to those it studied previously. Unfortunately, it did not reevaluate its understanding of blight and its nature. The Authority examined similar metrics hoping for a better result. Over time, parts of the original plan disappeared. The city eventually removed the pedestrian malls and opened some streets to vehicular traffic. Renewal's retail champions, including Hahn's furniture store, Sears, and Mansmann's department store, either closed or relocated. Those who worked and sacrificed, willingly and involuntarily, for a blightfree East Liberty saw the plan dismantled piecemeal. History judged the URA and its leadership. In 2000, the Post-Gazette took a tour of the neighborhood with Robert Pease, executive director of the URA at the time of renewal: Circling the business district on a one-way loop, Pease pulls his car into parking lot after parking lot, pointing to the places where store owners promised to build back-door entrances but never did. He drives down Negley Run Boulevard, a road he widened, and points to deserted grass patches that failed to lure wealthy shoppers from Point Breeze and Fox Chapel. Pease passes trash-choked Broad Street, where the vacant Bell-Stern Furniture store, a bar and a fitness center sit amid litter. On Penn Avenue, he passes the East Mall Apartments, a 17-story, low-income housing complex that is a host to drug dealers, crime and vandalism.77 Long time residents blamed the URA. Floyd Coles, a seventy-five year old lifelong resident put it succinctly: "They ruined East Liberty." Many of those involved felt responsible. Dave Craig, city solicitor in the 1960s, said: "It seemed like a perfect plan. It just didn't work the way we planned. I feel, in a measure, guilty." Pease stood by his work. Of his critics, he said that they "weren't there." He reflected on the demolitions

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "The Story of Urban Renewal," May 21, 2000.


and relocations, stating: "These are things that when you do them, really serious and good people question you. You have doubts, but you do the best you can to achieve the results you want to achieve. Things are never perfect." Post-Gazette staff writer Dan Fitzpatrick wisely cautioned: It may be easy to lay blame for what happened. But Pease's story - and that of urban renewal ~ defies easy explanation. To pin East Liberty's demise on one person or one agency is to ignore the influence of the federal government, the growth of suburbs and a post-war faith in institutions and planning.78 In its complexities and failures, the East Liberty project provided a window upon the contested and dual nature of blight as a concept. Blight's role and definition in local policy changed dramatically under federal urban renewal. The program destabilized both the actors and the emphases that identified blight at the local level. Although the PPC would eventually return to its role as an arbiter of blighted conditions under the Urban Redevelopment Act, the introduction of federal requirements assured that it would no longer be the only official judge. Through application forms and program policies, federal criteria shaped official descriptions of local blight but did not break the city's independent streak. The URA used narrative to transcend the constraints of bureaucratic forms and lists, just as the PPC had previously. Representationally, the role of blight in public relations was more complex than it was in Gateway Center or the Hill District. Renewal in East Liberty had its origins in the rhetoric of blight as representation. The ELCOC lobbied government agencies and made appeals in the press to rouse Pittsburgh's redevelopment agencies to action. Once the process began, the URA had to sell different visions of blight to the federal government,



the ELCOC, the citizen's groups that it created in the course of renewal, residents, and small business owners. While most of these actors agreed that East Liberty was blighted, they understood the concept differently and thus, expected different solutions, complicating public relations efforts. Among those who lived and worked in East Liberty, ideas about blight differed according to one's interests in the neighborhood, sometimes leading to open conflict. Commercial interests wanted to clear away the residents and businesses that they saw as repellent to their customers. Those residents and small enterprises who originally hoped for better housing, convenient access, parks and institutions not only failed to realize their goals, but eventually came to understand renewal as a source of deterioration affecting their living conditions. Ultimately, all these visions faded. The official blight of planners inspired solutions that satisfied no one and East Liberty diminished both commercially and residentially. Civic Square Blight and renewal also reshaped Hamilton's central business district. The transformation of 43 acres of downtown retail space into Civic Square, a modern commercial and institutional district, illustrated the dual and contentious nature of urban blight while exposing the contrasts in each Steel City's approach to the concept and its remediation. As with East Liberty, retailers rather than municipal or corporate elites initiated renewal. They promoted their vision of a modern central business district in the press and through their own publications. They also pressed City Council, the Urban Renewal


Committee, and the Board of Control to eliminate blight and enhance downtown's ability to compete with new residential and commercial sites in the suburbs and beyond. The Hamilton Downtown Association (HDA) led the effort. In 1957, it lent resources and clout to the creation of an urban renewal study. Although it examined the entire city, the HDA focused its promotional efforts on the core by exposing its problems. In 1957, Hamilton Spectator business correspondent Milford L. Smith painted a depressing portrait of downtown: People have been saying for years that this or that group of buildings in the downtown area should be sold to the wreckers. No one disagrees. But the buildings; some of which seem to be held together by cobwebs, continue their rickety reign over tracts of land that should be making money for Hamiltonians.79 This was a slight exaggeration, as conditions were not sufficiently dire to make renewal obvious to everyone. Smith admitted as much, stating: Everyone is aware that some buildings on Hamilton's main streets are vacant. Are they signs of bad times? Ask business people. They will tell you they are making money, that business is good. They will tell you buildings become vacant because they do not lend themselves to the functional needs of fast-changing business methods. They are sealed from the sun on three sides. They have no parking space, no offstreet shipping area. He argued, however, that "a city does not have to have slums to require renewal. But slums are bred of conditions that develop when renewal isn't practised (sic)." A city need not be on the brink of oblivion to benefit from renewal. Indeed renewal could prevent those conditions from developing.


Milford L. Smith, "Looking at Business: Urban Renewal Plan Offers Perpetual Solution For Sound Civic Development," Hamilton Spectator, February 2, 1957.

The HDA was also concerned about commercial and residential flight to the suburbs. The Spectator feared the immigrants settling in near-downtown neighborhoods where wealthier residents of British origin or descent once lived, believing that they required more services and earned less money, leading to disastrous consequences: Less tax money leads to blighted areas, and blight brings human misery, lower property valuesthe cycle is vicious and unendingand breeds juvenile delinquency, vice, and crime. These, in turn, lead to extra police and health expense, and more welfare disbursements.80 The city and its core, both residentially and commercially, shared a fate that worried downtown retailers. The Spectator acted as a public relations wing of the HDA, promoting its concerns, ideas, and solutions. This close relationship assured that their efforts would be aligned and ultimately, effective. Bringing Renewal Downtown: Building Allies and Consensus In 1957, Hamilton's Board of Control asked the City Planning Commissioner to initiate an urban renewal study. The study, under the leadership of professional planner Mark David, primarily investigated residential conditions outside downtown. Without a thorough investigation of the core, the study listed it as the city's second renewal priority, right behind Van Wagner's and Crescent Beach, where redevelopment was already in progress. Thus, of the areas not already undergoing renewal, the study recognized downtown as the city's primary problem. Due to the residential focus of federal renewal policy, however, it did not recommend a renewal program for downtown. Rather, it suggested the creation of nine project areas, eight of them surrounding the core.81

Frank Oxley, "The Explosion In Our Cities: Rush To The Suburbs Sets Off Vicious Cost-income Cycle," Hamilton Spectator, July 4, 1957. 81 Urban Renewal Study, 1958, (Hamilton, 1959), 22-25, 30.


The HDA reacted with excitement. F. W. Farrar, chairman of its parking committee, claimed, "the Downtown or core area was not mentioned in the study that wa[s] carried out by the city planning department but it would be vitally affected by what is done in blighted areas."82 His statement pointed out a connection that retailers were attempting to draw between housing and commercial blight. According to the Spectator: Mr. Farrar was critical of downtown premises where, he said, business men worked under conditions that they would not tolerate at home. He deplored the existence of 'ramshackle, rundown, dirty, smelly premises' which, he charged, would doom downtown unless they were razed and replaced with buildings in keeping with the types of houses business men proudly call 'home.'83 Farrar's reaction associated retailers' goals with policy realities. Although the federal government was willing, after 1956, to participate in renewal programs that did not create housing, the province of Ontario was not.84 Thus, the study examined many residential, commercial, transportation, and other aspects of the city's functions, but it primarily recommended housing and road improvements. Reinforcing the connection between eligible residential areas and the city's commercial heart, Farrar compared downtown to the home, aligning the understandings of residential blight that informed provincial and federal policies with the HDA's goals. Farrar also requested protection from tax increases due to renewal. Before the study began, the Spectator publicized the connection between poor conditions, the flight of the wealthy and diminishing municipal tax rolls. Renewal would help city finances. Farrar's request ran counter to this logic, styling a commercial blight that selectively

Milford L. Smith, "Plan Campaign to Spruce City's 'Blighted Areas,' Hamilton Spectator, May 5, 1959. Ibid. Urban Renewal Study, 1.


referred to older planning ideas about residential blight while supporting retailers' financial interests. The city was not quick to act. In the interim, private industry took steps to protect itself from public sector involvement in the real estate market. In August 1960, the Spectator noted the addition of several banks and a new professional building to the skyline. These demonstrated that "private capital has shown faith in central Hamilton." The Chamber of Commerce preferred private action, recommending through its municipal affairs committee that: ...any program of urban redevelopment be kept separate and distinct from any public housing program, in order that any lands made available through redevelopment might be developed by private enterprise.85 To this end, commercial interests promoted private development as well as public projects downtown, including apartment complexes, office towers, and cultural amenities. They also encouraged the city's steel giants, Stelco and Dofasco, to move to their offices to the core were they would "benefit from the convenience and prestige of central locations."86 In recruiting allies, they were careful to deemphasize their stakes in renewal. Not only did they avoid discussing the retail benefits of renewal, they made a statement of solidarity with the city: Every goal which the downtown businessmen will pursue in this campaign will have in mind the good of all citizens of the city, for it is a well-known fact that a decaying downtown means a decaying city with resultant general blight and ruinous taxation. 7

Hamilton Spectator, "On Urban Renewal ~ Action Overdue," August 18, 1960. Hamilton Spectator, "Urban Renewal Program Launched for Hamilton." February 14, 1961.

Unlike Pittsburgh, where corporate elites called the core home and supported its health and its public image, Hamilton's industries had less allegiance to downtown. Thus, the HDA faced a struggle on two fronts. It had to appeal to the city and the people for public improvements, and it had to court industrialists that preferred factory-adjacent offices and interpreted downtown renewal as public assistance to retailers. The HDA actively sought allies in the struggle. One such ally was the Hamilton Women's Civic Club. It also prepared an urban renewal study, presented as a window display in the downtown branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia.88 Based on a survey of Hamilton's businesswomen, it explored housing, public safety, and cultural amenities. It argued for a minimum standards bylaw to protect housing and municipal legislation to enable rehabilitation and conservation projects. It also promoted the construction of public housing before any large-scale demolition of "substandard and blighted housing" began. Regarding the commercial core, the report focused on what it lacked rather than any extant blight. For example, downtown had no senior facilities, yet housed 7,500 elderly residents. Additionally, Hamilton could not compete with Toronto for cultural events without a concert hall or civic auditorium. The report also examined aesthetics, arguing that Hamilton did not possess "one wide attractive boulevard." It recommended widening Park Street from City Hall to the bay, which would create "additional green space, upgrade the area, clear blighted housing and ease the north-south flow of traffic." Finally, it tackled taxes, requesting that industrial and residential taxpayers split the burden equally. Another ally, Milford Smith and the Spectator, continued its support of the HDA's efforts. While the city's fledgling Urban Renewal Committee was planning the

Hamilton Spectator, "Hamilton's Heart Neglected Last 10 Years, Says Study," June 13, 1961.

310 North End renewal scheme, Smith encouraged "Hamilton folk to take a look at the downtown area and assess the effect its pockmarked face can have on their own interests."89 He decried the demolition of buildings to save money on maintenance and taxes through strong medical imagery: "Like pockmarks, they are evidence of an illness that is forcing every owner of property, every business proprietor and ever tenant to pay higher taxes as the result of assessment losses." He claimed that "the illness is psychosomatic... between our ears," thus blaming Hamiltonians for downtown conditions. Some in government heard these pleas. At a meeting of the Canadian Federation of Mayors in Winnipeg, Controller Jack MacDonald announced a plan to unite merchants and property owners at the block level into limited companies with the goal of rebuilding their own stores. The city would seed financing by offering the first loans, expecting private lenders to follow. Additionally, the city would provide parks, open spaces, solve traffic problems, and build public and cultural institutions. MacDonald argued that the maintenance of property values in a city is as much a part of public affairs as servicing lots with utilities.90 While this project would empower downtown retailers to start their own efforts, it would not engage the city's industrial giants and their economic, social, and political capital in service of renewal. The participation of wealthy and influential industrialists would facilitate a complex and costly urban renewal scheme and might win the approval of Hamilton's homeowners. According to the Spectator, from 1954 to 1958, the share of the city's tax load carried by homeowners increased from 50.4% to 52.2%, while the

Milford L. Smith, "Ugly, Empty Scars Cost Us MONEY!" Hamilton Spectator, May 9, 1962. Hamilton Spectator, "Renewal Plan. Aim to Redevelop City's Business Core," June 14, 1962.

commercial and industrial burden decreased from 49.6% to 47.8%.


involvement in renewal could benefit industries by improving their image as good citizens, but earning their support would prove to be difficult. Albert A. Takefman, president of the HDA, pointed toward Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle as an example of what Hamilton could become with industrial involvement in renewal. Downtown interests were "gently wooing" industrial leaders, but they were reluctant to comply.92 To help with its industrial relations efforts, the HDA invited William Zeckendorf, Jr., president of Webb & Knapp, the developer initially in charge of the Hill District redevelopment project, to speak at its annual meeting. He argued for the relocation of industrial home offices to the core, claiming that change required cooperation between government, industry, and business leaders. In his comments, he offered the Golden Triangle as an example of what Hamilton could do to "rid its downtown area of the archaic and degrading elements and revitalize it" and revealed some of his understandings of the nature of blight and how to eliminate it. He asserted that '"one block will not solve the problem. You should expropriate 20 to 30 acres of land in the downtown area," indicating that blight was not a discrete problem that one could excise with surgical precision. The bulldozer was the proper tool for the job, but not the only one. He cautioned that renewal was not a final solution as it could only cure a city's basic ills. Eliminating blight was not enough. One must revitalize the entire core. Too much decentralization, too little construction, and too many archaic structures plagued Hamilton, necessitating a concerted effort.93 Hamiltonians feared that the growing

Milford L. Smith, "Ugly, Empty Scars Cost Us MONEY!" Hamilton Spectator, "Big Firms Shun Move Downtown," June 26, 1962. Hamilton Spectator, "Sees City's Core On Brink of Decay," June 26, 1962.

emptiness at the core was transforming the city into a "doughnut community" with growth around the outside and a hollow center.94 To help the HDA in its industrial and public relations efforts, Mayor Jackson invited Hamilton's industrialists to meet and discuss the city's downtown problems.95 He argued, "Hamiltonians have heard too much talk about downtown redevelopment being the selfish concern of retailers who want someone else to pull their irons out of the fire." He credited the HDA with moving beyond its own concerns to work on issues like the decline of the core, which affect everyone in the city. Altruism pervaded the HDA's rhetoric to such a degree that the Spectator claimed, "the subject of retailing has become taboo at the meetings of the association's downtown redevelopment committee."96 The efforts of the HDA and its allies appeared to bear fruit in March 1963, as talks opened on two fronts. The city's former mayor, Lloyd Jackson, announced the formation of a citizens' group investigating a new performing arts center. At the same time, Hamilton's new mayor and former controller, Victor Copps, announced that talks were underway to change the skyline.97 Those discussions halted abruptly at the end of the month when the Board of Control discovered it could not afford to expropriate the land. It still owed 2.5 years of payments on a new City Hall building that already needed repair due to faulty construction and engineering.98 The HDA soon reignited interest in redevelopment through a report presented to the Mayor and City Council. Entitled Enrich Our Leisure Hours, it used forward-looking
94 95

Hamilton Spectator, "City, Business To Map Renewal Of Downtown," June 29, 1962. Milford L. Smith, "Corporate Executives Aid Planning of Toronto Downtown Redevelopment," Hamilton Spectator, July 21, 1962. 96 Ibid. 97 Hamilton Spectator, "City May Build Home For Performing Arts," March 8, 1963; Globe & Mail, "Will Change Skyline, Hamilton Mayor Says," March 8, 1963. 98 Hamilton Spectator, "'Horrible Truth' Sinks Civic Plan," March 29, 1963.

and hopeful language instead of the rhetoric of decline and decay that the Association previously deployed to promote redevelopment. Rather than focusing on the physical condition of the core, it emphasized amenities and cultural competition. It claimed that A cultural void exists in the life of Hamilton which deprives its people of many of the leisure-hour developing opportunities available in other communities on this continent possessed of economic and geographic assets less favourable than this city's. 10 Tying growth to cultural and athletic amenities, it imagined a sports and exhibition center at Hamilton's core. Deploying futuristic imagery to link its suggestions with "Space Age achievements and the continuing advances in science and technology," the conceptual plan included the first planetarium in the country ("Canada's first platform to the stars"), sports fields, an auditorium, a national science and technology center, and a giant steel pylon representing the city's role as the nation's steel city. The plan appealed to almost every constituency that the HDA courted. Lloyd Jackson and his supporters could look forward to an arts center. Industrial leaders that previously ignored Downtown would find a showplace for their achievements. Even those who labored in the factories could anticipate watching and taking part in sporting events. The HDA would need the support of these groups in its efforts to lobby the municipal government to steward the costly project to completion. The Slow Road to a Plan While this particular scheme would never come to fruition, many of its elements appeared in future plans. A few stand in modified form today. As it had previously, Hamilton acted on the suggestion at a glacial pace. Approximately one month after its

Hamilton Downtown Association, Enrich Our Leisure Hours, June 1963.

314 publication, the Board of Control gave the city's planning board approval to create a master plan for Hamilton's development over the next 20 years. The board estimated that the proposed study would take two years to complete, prompting protest from the Mayor and some Controllers. The situation downtown was urgent and they believed that the city could not wait two years to take action.101 This basic tension between comprehensive city planning and timely renewal was potentially divisive and could stall progress on both fronts. The HDA addressed this in another publication, provocatively titled, Hamilton At The Crossroads: Development or Deterioration. It presented a darker picture of the Ambitious City, in both its text and its visual imagery. The cover depicted the two alternatives. New buildings under construction stood prominently above a diagonal line bisecting the cover, while below lurked a dingy alley, broken windows, rickety wooden fire escapes, and a foreboding notice of condemnation from the medical officer of health. The images of progress featured large, bulky buildings most likely for business, commercial, or industrial use, while the pictures of decay depicted dilapidated residential uses. Before opening the document, the argument was clear: to survive, Hamilton must replace outmoded and unsanitary residential buildings and uses with modern and profitable ones. Once inside, the document revealed the HDA's savvy awareness of the challenges that it faced. It immediately recognized the need for a master plan for orderly cultural and economic development, but also represented the core's fast declining health as a "barometer of our economic growth." Its recommendations reconciled the two by framing the choice between development and deterioration as the acceptance or rejection of a series of general principles. A comprehensive metropolitan plan and a concentrated and

Hamilton Spectator, "Want 'Core Area' Priority In Development Planning," July 18, 1963.

315 efficient commercial core lay at the heart of its solution. Additionally, the HDA called for a modernized public transportation system, attractive parks and boulevards, and Norwichstyle storefront remodeling. Also listed were ideas similar to those that guided the East Liberty project, including pedestrian malls, the separation of various modes of transportation, and the concentration of retail land use. According to the HDA, these principles, combined with the primarily residential suggestions in Hamilton's previous renewal studies would reduce blight, assure economic growth downtown, and produce orderly and planned regional development. The HDA was not alone in its concern with inaction and the uncertainty that surrounded the city's fledgling renewal efforts. The core continued to decline during the start of the North End project and the city's negotiations with Murray V. Jones, a Toronto planning consultant, to prepare a downtown study. From the outside, it looked like inertia, prompting Stan McNeill of the Spectator to criticize the city mercilessly in a series of articles published in 1964. He felt it was odd to talk about face-lifting Hamilton in a country less than 100 years old. Continuing the metaphor, he likened planners to doctors and nurses working to "hack away the wrinkles of old age." His critiques of renewal and inertia focused on various aspects of the city's problems. In an article dated April 22, 1964, he criticized the cultural void in the core, claiming that renewal and planning efforts to this point had led to dollars and cents while the city's "cultural coffers have remained relatively empty." Creatively, he argued, "for years, it seems, Hamilton has been on the verge of a colossal redevelopment that, like Cinderella's fairy godmother, would transform this pumpkin city into a glittering vehicle for all branches of the arts."1 2 Later that year, he criticized the core itself, calling it:

Stan McNeill, "Face-lifting? Forget It!" Hamilton Spectator, April 22, 1964.

316 A hodge-podge of ill-assorted, unlovely buildings; congested streets; soot-grimed, out-of-date office blocks; shabby stores; parking lots; and a scattering of blighted areas as mean as any in Ontario.103 He summarized the repeated promises and halted efforts in the North End and downtown in three terse sentences: "In business and in commerce it's going ahead at half speed. Residentially, only now it is trying to make up for wasted years. Culturally, it's a flop."104 For this he blamed the city and municipal governments across Canada. He also criticized Hamilton's business community, claiming Who is to blame? The city, for refusing to give leadership? Or the merchants for refusing to prod the city in to leadership? More than likely, the answer lies somewhere in between. Apathy breeds apathyand no one can duck the blame.105 This accusation was harsh given the efforts that retailers and government had put into preparations for the launch of the downtown urban renewal program, but outside of committee rooms, both appeared to be disengaged. According to McNeill, the city's inertia-born blight was multivariate and complex. It involved a dearth of cultural amenities, lagging commerce, and poor residential conditions, but at its heart, the blight was social and reared its head as a form of apathy. This perceived apathy would not last long, however, as the first of a series of reports emerged in 1965 that provided the foundations for downtown renewal and developed the city's rhetoric around downtown blight. In spite of McNeill's criticism, HDA and its allies promoted a representation of blight and decline that favored renewal and led to concrete action. This representation launched the search for the official
Stan McNeill, "A Study of IntertiaPart I. The Unlovely City On Aimless Course." Hamilton Spectator, September 8, 1964. 104 Ibid. 105 Stan McNeill, "Core 'Spark' Needed - Who's To Blame," Hamilton Spectator, October 2, 1964.

meaning of commercial blight, starting with a number of planning reports and culminating in an application for federal renewal assistance. The Search for an Official Version of Downtown "Blight" In 1965, Toronto planner Murray V. Jones authored a series of reports that eventually established two urban renewal schemes: York Street and Civic Square. The process began on September 29, 1964, when City Council approved a resolution authorizing the creation of an urban renewal scheme for Downtown Hamilton. Changes to the National Housing Act in 1964 granted federal renewal assistance for projects that involved no existing or planned residential uses.106 The Council worked with Ottawa and Queen's Park under these new, more permissive, rules to create a combined Downtown107

York Street project area. On November 3, 1964, the Council engaged Jones to produce studies of the area and a plan. The first of his documents, an interim report on the Downtown-York Street Urban Renewal Area, appeared five months later in April 1965. Jones produced this short report to ...acquaint the various authorities concerned with the present status of the Downtown-York Street urban renewal scheme and to recommend certain action which appears to be required as a result of the studies carried out to date. It consisted primarily of a field survey examining the location, use, and condition of structures in the area and the compilation of social and economic data from numerous

Stanley H. Pickett, "An Appraisal of the Urban Renewal Programme in Canada," Univerity of Toronto Law JournalXVIII, no. 3 (1968): 235. 107 Hamilton Urban Renewal Committee, Application For Designation: Hamilton Civic Square Redevelopment Area (Hamilton: Urban Renewal Committee, 1965), 1.


318 public and private agencies.108 Surveyors identified five land uses in the area: residential, commercial, industrial, vacant land, parking, and institutional. It is interesting and novel that the researchers isolated parking as a land use. In previous studies of Hamilton and in renewal surveys of Pittsburgh, planners regarded parking as a commercial and, to a lesser extent, a residential amenity, rather than as a distinct use of land. Under this rubric, a dearth of parking would represent a problem in the distribution of land use (too little for parking and too much for other uses), as opposed to a deficiency in the quality of commercial or residential areas.1 An assessment of the condition of individual structures came next. Because the comprehensive data in the 1958 Urban Renewal Study was out of date, Jones conducted a cursory field survey that examined only external deficiencies. Like previous surveys under Faludi and David, it categorized structures as good, fair, or poor. Jones claimed that while good and poor were easy to identify, the fair categorization broadly encompassed a wide variety of actual conditions. Jones defended his approach , claiming that his results would be, .. .as valid within the simplified classification as a more sophisticated survey and effectively serve the purpose for which they are intended as background material to the preparation of a conceptual plan and further urban renewal policies for the area.110 While he is correct that simplifying the categories would not necessarily harm the validity of the results, the decision to examine only exterior conditions biased them in favor of particular factors of physical blight. The survey would miss owners' investments

M.V. Jones and Associates, Interim Report: Downtown-York Street Urban Renewal Area, City of Hamilton (Hamilton: Urban Renewal Committee, April 1965), 1. 109 Ibid, 2. U0 Ibid.,3.


319 of money and effort to improve the safety, sanitation, and quality of life within a building. Conversely, buildings with entirely respectable exteriors could be overcrowded, lack basic plumbing facilities, or possibly be unsound at their foundations. The report continued with a conceptual plan for renewal based upon four "principles of development and redevelopment," that reflected the area's characteristics and problems. First, there were few areas of well-defined land use or condition. Unlike Pittsburgh where incompatible uses demarcated unhealthy patches, the heterogeneity of Hamilton's downtown complicated the search for blight. Next, there were no concentrated areas of substantial blight; rather, it asserted: "the renewal area as a whole (apart from a few blocks in the core) is suffering from a degree of physical and economic debility which is remarkably uniform."111 This would render surgical change less useful. Just as white noise is the melding of infinite variety into near uniformity, the peaks and valleys of age and condition and the heterogeneity of uses spread pallor over Hamilton's core, particularly when compared to modernist visions of rational land use separation. The third and fourth principles asserted that little demand existed for additional high intensity uses like large apartments or office towers and that there was no need to expand the core's boundaries. The conceptual plan exposed the ideas about blight and its remediation that lay at its foundations. It emphasized the rational arrangement of land uses, but warned that drastic reorganization should be avoided. Most significantly, it recommended separating the project into two separate areas: York Street and Civic Square. Aesthetics dictated renewal along York Street, as it was the gateway to the commercial core, while downtown renewal addressed Hamilton's presumed lack of a clearly defined cultural and

Ibid., 4.

administrative heart. The Civic Square scheme was to rectify that situation while improving Downtown's position as a regional commercial engine. The Application for Designation as a Renewal Site Civic Square was the first to progress. In June 1965, the city applied to the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs to designate it as an urban renewal site, presenting evidence of the blighted and inadequate nature of the area. It juxtaposed photographs from the 1850s and 60s with contemporary images to visually establish its claims: The functional, economic and physical obsolescence of the area is clearly evidenced in the age and condition of buildings, (PLATE 3) the vacancies at and above the first floor level (PLATE 5) and the number of sites cleared for (4) use as parking lots. (PLATE 6) This condition is further indicated by the extremely low assessments and annual tax return from the area. These photos brought a striking physical realism to the problems detailed and quantified in the application's statistics. It began with data about structures. The area was primarily commercial in use, with 125 out of 215 buildings so employed and another 67 occupied by mixed commercial and residential uses.113 It cited data from the interim report, establishing that 17% of buildings were in poor condition. Another 52% were in fair condition, with a subset requiring substantial repair to meet modern standards. The data only accounted for individual structures' exterior characteristics, and did not reveal "such other factors as the small size of most buildings and lots and the effects of frictional blight through the


"Application For Designation," 3-4. Ibid., 5.

juxtaposition of incompatible uses through much of the area."

Age also factored into

decline. Assessment records revealed that 82% of area structures were built before 1900. Only 12% were built after 1930.115 While it was difficult to accurately quantify downtown Hamilton's physical condition, it was safe to claim with certainty that it was old. In addition to physical conditions, the application included a brief mention of social conditions. It cited public and private social welfare organizations that considered Downtown, including Civic Square, "to be a heavy case district."116 A survey of these organizations exposed that downtown housed between 12% and 66% of the annual caseload of various charities. Among those with the largest percentage of clients downtown was the John Howard Society (66%) and the Children's Aid Society (46%).117 The application also included a Social Planning Council study on juvenile delinquency as an appendix that implicated downtown and the north end as problem neighborhoods. In addition to physical condition, age, and social circumstances, the report also examined tax assessments. Although the HDA resisted tax increases, an application for financing had to demonstrate potential return on investment. According to assessment records, the entire area excluding the Eaton department store and the farmers' market parking garage totaled only $4,767,480. The estimated taxable realty assessment after redevelopment was $19 million.118

Ibid., 6. Ibid., 7. 116 Ibid., 1. 117 Ibid., Appendix H; The John Howard Society is an organization that mentors and advocates for incarcerated and recently released individuals. 118 The report did not explain the exclusion of the department store and garage, but it was unlikely to have significantly affected renewal's assessment benefits.



In its narrative, the application depicted Hamilton as old, economically inefficient, and decaying. It mentioned blight only once, in terms of land use miscegenation, but it mapped a number of factors related to the concept, such as residential overcrowding and vacancies. This application, however, was a request to start studying, rather than an application to start redevelopment. In this regard, it was not Hamilton's ultimate policy statement about downtown blight. That would develop through a subsequent urban renewal study, the Civic Square Urban Renewal scheme, and ultimately, in an application to the federal government under the National Housing Act. The study and scheme came first. Although published approximately one month apart, the authors directed their audience to read them together. For this reason, and due to significant repetition between the two documents, I will examine them simultaneously. The Urban Renewal Study and Scheme The September 1965 Urban Renewal Study arose from an agreement between the city and the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Canada's national housing and urban development institution. It facilitated the development of a renewal scheme, published in October 1965. Both efforts addressed issues and statistics from the application, but provided greater detail and analysis. As a persuasive document, the application presented statistics, summaries, and maps to justify additional study of decay in the urban core. The study was an analytical tool intended to facilitate the development of an urban renewal scheme, which in turn detailed and defended specific remediating actions. The scheme used the study and built upon its findings, stating: In more definitive terms the Central Hamilton Urban Renewal Study indicated the Civic Square area to be extensively blighted, with a mixture of obsolescent commercial, warehouse, wholesale, manufacturing and


residential buildings in generally poor condition,"119 The greater level of detail in these two reports helps us to discern which specific urban problems Hamilton's planners considered to be part of that extensive blight. The study began with a review of the area's condition and history, detailing how both development and neglect contributed to its age and decay. Redevelopment efforts since 1914 were dispersed and obscured among older and neglected buildings, covering downtown in an aged patina. Owners razed other properties for tax-efficient parking lots in lieu of maintaining them, demonstrating a lack of interest in investing downtown.120 While the scheme noted the effects of these processes, describing the area as: ...uniformly old, with rows of obsolete 2- and 3-storey structures lining the street frontages, punctuated by numerous parking lots. The latter, being in the heart of the central area, are indicative of a lack of interest on the part of private enterprise to invest in new construction in an uncertain and poorly organized environment.121 The reports presented a dire diagnosis: Civic Square was too old and insufficiently planned to attract investment. Thus, federal and provincial funding was required to find and finance a cure. Blight was not the sum of these conditions, but rather one factor among many leading to a grim conclusion. While these documents examined a variety of problems, many of which Hamilton's previous planners regarded as factors of blight, they applied a limited definition of the concept. To understand Civic Square and its blight, one must also examine which urban problems resided outside it.

Murray V. Jones and Associates Ltd, et. al., Civic Square Urban Renewal Scheme City of Hamilton. (Hamilton: Murray V. Jones and Associates, 1965), 4. 120 Murray V. Jones and Associates, Central Hamilton Urban Renewal Study: City of Hamilton. (Hamilton: Murray V. Jones and Associates Limited and the Urban Renewal Committee of the City of Hamilton, September 1965), 4. 121 Civic Square Urban Renewal Scheme City of Hamilton, 3.


One of the most significant of these problems was the intermixture of land uses. The study located a number of remarkable examples. More troublesome, however, was the uniform level of disarray throughout Civic Square, as previously indicated in the application. Many planners since the turn of the century understood the intermixture of incompatible land uses to be a significant blighting factor, but Jones failed to draw the connection in either the application, the study, or the scheme. The scheme, however, did link incompatible land uses with physical dilapidation. The blocks furthest away from James Street were excellent examples, housing a great variety of disparate activities. Much of the area was used for parking, punctuating the landscape with vacant parcels. Among the buildings, it was possible to find manufacturing operations occupying upper floors. Warehouses and wholesalers peppered the area, sometimes in imposing refrigerated buildings and often with "drive-in trucking." All of these commercial and industrial uses were in "obsolescent buildings whose main attraction is low rent."122 The mixture of land use could also apply to the types of homes and businesses, connecting "lower quality" uses, and users, with dilapidation. In describing Downtown residences, the study indentified advanced age, undesirable dwelling units, and equally undesirable residents. The majority of these individuals were of the working classes with dwellings that reflected their socioeconomic status. A large proportion of the housing was in multi-family buildings and semi-detached units with no significant clusters of more desirable, larger, single-family housing.123 The scheme expressed similar concerns over commercial uses. It found quality businesses paying high rents for well-located and better-maintained older buildings on

Central Hamilton Urban Renewal Study: City of Hamilton, 4.


King Street between James and MacNab, often with a modernized ground floor and facade. Lower quality retail enterprises, by contrast, existed throughout the project area: Most of these are small owner-operated businesses, frequently long-established, and offer varied and specialized products at low cost and with low profits. They occupy old converted buildings varying in condition from fair to very poor.124 This associated lower quality businesses with poor physical conditions, connecting retailers' practices, merchandise, and fortunes with their accommodations. Both the scheme and the study emphasized the quantity, quality, and juxtaposition of land uses, but never specifically linked them to the concept of blight. This was also true of automobile and pedestrian traffic. Both documents found that much of the road and sidewalk system was in disrepair and had few remaining years of expected life.125 Traffic was voluminous and inefficiently directed. The scheme found a large volume of automobiles turning on and off of King and Main streets throughout the core, indicating an inefficiency that could be remedied through redesign. The study added that heavy traffic in and out of the core indicated the need for greater arterial capacity.126 Moving cars also represented danger. Both reports cited traffic accident statistics. In 1963, approximately 10,000 incidents occurred in the city at large, with the greatest
1 97

proportion in the core, particularly along arterial routes.

A 1961 transportation study

also identified a significant clustering of traffic accidents downtown.128 Cars at rest were troublesome as well. This was not due to a lack of capacity. Offstreet parking spaces were four times as numerous as on-street ones, but received less use
124 125

Civic Square Urban Renewal Scheme City of Hamilton, 6. Central Hamilton Urban Renewal Study: City of Hamilton, 12-13. 126 Ibid, 16. 127 Ibid, 21. 128 Civic Square Urban Renewal Scheme City of Hamilton, 9.

326 at peak periods. The study estimated that on-street parking was primarily used for short visits due to their proximity to shops and attractions.129 This heavy use created an artificial scarcity. The scheme briefly noted that off-street parking was located farther from the retail corridor, leading to longer walking distances, but lower daily parking rates. This made it more attractive to employees and long-term shoppers, but not to the casual visitor interested in convenience. Foot traffic was important as well. Too much could prove inconvenient and too little could be unprofitable. The scheme noted that pedestrian traffic was relatively light along most streets downtown, save for the intersection at James and King Streets in the commercial corridor.131 Just as with mixed land uses, previous studies of both Hamilton and Pittsburgh listed traffic and parking problems as factors of blight, but neither report associated them with the concept. Both documents addressed living conditions, but did not consider them to be part of blight. The area offered inadequate and substandard residential amenities. There were no parks or playgrounds, and the public schools were physically obsolete and suffering from declining enrollments.132 Planners attributed enrollment decline to the arrival of Catholic Europeans and the institutions they build. The study noted religious changes through an examination of area churches, indicating that downtown's church denominations reflected the "high proportion (36%) of renewal area residents who were born outside of Canada."133

Central Hamilton Urban Renewal Study: City of Hamilton, 19. Civic Square Urban Renewal Scheme City of Hamilton, 9. 131 Ibid., 10. 132 Ibid., 28; Central Hamilton Urban Renewal Study: City of Hamilton, 25-26. 133 Central Hamilton Urban Renewal Study: City of Hamilton, 29.

The treatment of residents marked a functional difference between the study and the scheme. The study made them part of the problem referencing their class, ethnicity, religion, and use of social welfare and public health organizations. The Board of Health estimated that area school children had 30% more health problems that the city at large.134 Additionally, the municipal Welfare Department noted that downtown and the north end, comprising only 10% of Hamilton's total land area, represented between 24.5% and 38.7% of its caseload for the previous five years. Private welfare associations also contributed data supporting that the area was home to a many of the city's most needy.135 Although some of the data inaccurately described downtown by including the North End, it successfully depicted downtown residents as a factor in the city's decline.136 In contrast, the scheme analyzed downtown's population to gather data for relocation. This function emphasized more flattering demographic information. Planners surveyed residents with a questionnaire and four teams of field workers. It was not compulsory, but 71% of the 201 households contacted responded with detailed information.137 In addition to those who refused or could not be contacted, surveyors omitted those deemed irrelevant to the study, including families with definite plans to move out within two months and those living in rooming houses and hotels due to their "predominantly transient nature."138 With these exclusions, the picture of residential Downtown was surprisingly family-oriented. Married couples comprised 60% of households, and 32% had children.
Ibid., 33. Ibid., 35-38. 136 Ibid., 35-36. 137 Civic Square Urban Renewal Scheme City of Hamilton, 16. Ui lbid., 17.
135 134

In comparison to the city as a whole, area family members were more likely to be employed with 63% over the age of 14 in the work force. The city average in 1961 was 56% over the age of 15.139 Most of downtown's unmarried residents also worked. Two thirds had jobs, primarily as manual laborers. The other third was retired, with nearly half of those not living in family units were over 60 years of age.140 Only one unmarried resident was unemployed.141 Tenure of residence is a measure of interest, if not investment in a neighborhood. The survey found that only 20% of households had moved within the year. Among unmarried households, 54% had occupied their current location for more than five years. Although it excluded the most transient elements of the population, the survey demonstrated that those who chose to settle downtown planted firm roots.142 Almost unanimously, they preferred their neighborhood and current accommodations to other options.143 They had few complaints and those who did had special circumstances. For example, families with children bemoaned the lack of park and playground space, and recent arrivals found unfamiliar traffic sounds disturbing. Even if they did not acknowledge it to field surveyors, residents faced many challenges. The core was dangerous. Police patrol districts covering the renewal area comprised 45.6% of the city's blotter occurrences. Limiting the boundaries more strictly to the area bounded by Queen and Cannon Streets, Ferguson Avenue, and the mountain yielded 29.6%.144 It was also a fire hazard. Although it housed less than 12% of the


Ibid., 18,21. /2>/J.,28,23. 141 Ibid., 23. 142 Ibid., 25. 143 Ibid., 28. 144 Central Hamilton Urban Renewal Study: City of Hamilton, 40.


city's population, it was responsible for 20% of its conflagrations.145 Viewed another way, the project area contained only .3% of all structures in the city, but was responsible for 2% of the 1,179 fires in Hamilton in 1964. While this may not seem significant, Civic Square's boundaries were relatively small, thus these fires occurred in a tightly constrained space. According to the fire department, Market Square was a particular problem "due to the congestion of small buildings with steep, narrow stairwells and upper apartments with rear lane access."146 Downtown life was dirty as well. The scheme cited Health Department data that showed Civic Square to be one of the city's most deficient housing areas, with significant vermin and cockroach infestations. Apartments hidden over stores received little maintenance and many area rooming houses just barely met minimum health standards.147 Depending upon emphasis, the data could show the plight of the poor, or blame them for conditions. While the study did paint the local population in a negative light, it failed to link residents or their living conditions to the concept of blight. The scheme represented downtown residents far more charitably. Blight was not absent from these documents. They applied it very narrowly to a specific problem: physical deterioration. The study constrained the concept most, although both restricted the definition of blight more than previous planning efforts in both Hamilton and Pittsburgh. The study examined blight cursorily. It reviewed the 1958 Urban Renewal Study, which was no longer applicable to present conditions, partly due to changes in the neighborhood between 1958 and 1965, but also because of its definition
145 146

Ibid., 41. Civic Square Urban Renewal Scheme City of Hamilton, 15. H1 Ibid., 14.


of blight. It used a "dual standard of determining blight" that awarded buildings penalty points for potentially reparable faults and deficiency points for conditions requiring clearance. These included damaged foundations or walls, sagging roofs, water damage, and rot.148 Jones' more recent field survey from the interim report lacked this useful complexity. Because of this, the study called for further investigations of "structural and social conditions of a comprehensive nature" that would better inform a renewal scheme.149 In its discussion of the concept plan, the study maintained a narrow definition of blight in residential areas and slightly expanded it in commercial areas. It claimed "the degree of blight within the study area is relatively high, but it is dispersed throughout the 1,150 acres as opposed to being concentrated in limited portions thereof." This heterogeneity complicated geographic division of blighted and sound, so the study categorized by land use. Residential sections would benefit from spot clearance and rehabilitation. Commercial areas, with the exception of a segment of the retail core, were "more often structurally and functionally obsolete and offer little scope for rehabilitation on an economic basis."150 The inclusion of functional obsolescence widened the scope of the concept, but only in passing, as there was no analysis of it elsewhere in the study. The study's concept plan also argued that deficiencies in the city's services and infrastructure created blight, listing a dearth of adequate schools, sewers, roads, local off-street parking, and recreational amenities as factors that led to and maintained blight. It recommended upgrading them to stop blighted conditions from developing and spreading.151

148 149

Central Hamilton Urban Renewal Study: City of Hamilton, 42. Ibid, 43. 150 Ibid., 45. 151 Ibid., 45.

The scheme also relegated blight to the analysis of "substandard conditions," but included a broader range of factors. It divided "blighting influences [that] can only be removed by large-scale action to change the nature of the entire area at one time and in accordance with a comprehensive plan of urban renewal," into three categories: physical conditions, building design, and the neighborhood's general environment.152 Regarding physical conditions, the scheme described structures that were: in very poor repair, both inside and out, and lack some of the amenities (such as central heating, adequate wiring, complete plumbing and level floors) of modern commercial structures.153 Civic Square contained many such deficiencies and in the absence of technical reasons for neglect, the scheme estimated cost to be the prohibitive factor. This could lead to severe neglect. One tenant claimed that his landlord had not made a single repair during his thirty-two years of tenure.154 The scheme noted: Rehabilitation of buildings is normally only justified if its cost can be recovered by rent increases. It is quite apparent that many of the building owners in Civic Square have felt for many years that extensive rehabilitation is not justified; the low level of rents in most of the area has already been mentioned.155 In addition to physical deterioration, the scheme identified design flaws as a characteristic of blight. Many flaws were related to age, as over 80% of buildings dated from before 1900, with most over a century old.156 Designs for previous uses did not always fit current needs. The scheme identified numerous conversions, many ill-suited to their present function. By framing them as a design flaw, rather than an effect of

Civic Square Urban Renewal Scheme City of Hamilton, 40. '"ibid., 35. 154 Ibid., 35. 155 Ibid., 37. 156 Ibid., 38.


inadequate planning or zoning bylaws, the scheme presented this kind of blight as a physical problem best addressed by renewal rather than a policy problem best solved with better planning or stricter regulation. Finally, the scheme included substandard environmental conditions as a factor of blight. This broad category transcended individual structures to examine entire blocks and neighborhoods. It included aesthetic failings, mixed and inefficient land uses, heavy traffic, insufficient green space, poor quality stores, inadequate crowds of consumers, multi-use buildings with factories above retail spaces, a poor road system, a high percentage of land used for streets, small blocks, and buildings without adequate access to the street. In two short paragraphs without significant analysis, the scheme cited most of the concerns addressed by Fauldi's and David's studies of Hamilton. It summarized these harms as a discouragement to investment: No private developer would consider rehabilitation, not to mention new construction, in Civic Square given the impediments. Only public, planned, and swift renewal could reverse the pervasive damage of these "blighting influences."157 This final category was the first to associate blight with a wider array of urban problems in either document. By classifying environmental deficiencies as factors of blight, the scheme recognized a wide variety of its causes while retaining its physical character. This is significant given the freedom that Jones and the Urban Renewal Committee had in the application process. None of Hamilton's renewal documents used government-mandated forms. Free of their influence, the city could have crafted a blight that encompassed all of the area's deficiencies.

Ibid., 40.


The Final Application Blight was a powerful, although somewhat marginalized, concept in the study and scheme. It was more prominent in the Hamilton Civic Square Application. This request for federal funding was the last in a progression of documents that detailed problems in the commercial core. Its description of conditions was brief and frequently referred to the scheme and study. Unlike these documents, however, it emphasized the concept of blight and folded into it many of the deficiencies that the study and scheme presented separately. Its cursory description of the project area analyzed only a few issues. It explained the physical survey detailed in the scheme, noting that more than half of the buildings in the area were in substandard condition based on both physical state and the estimated cost of repairs. It referred the reader to the scheme for more details.158 It also noted broader neighborhood deficiencies, such as the need to replace sewer system, local roads, and sidewalks. It briefly mentioned area land uses, describing them as primarily commercial, with "major intrusions of industrial warehousing and residential uses which are incompatible with the nature and location of the area."159 The report examined these issues under the heading: "1(c) Predominant Present Condition." A section named "Factors of Blight" immediately followed. Most likely this division was for emphasis, as it started with the "conditions set out in 1(c) above." These "actual physical conditions" served as primary evidence of blight, but were not the only factors examined.

Murray V. Jones and Associates, Hamilton Civic Square (Hamilton: City of Hamilton, 1967), 4-6. Ibid., 6.

As with the scheme, the application listed factors without much analysis, categorizing them as either "substandard building design" or "substandard environmental conditions." The first group contained: old structures, stores in converted row houses, narrow frontages, poor interior layouts, inadequate storage facilities, inadequate or unavailable loading facilities, insufficient parking, upper floor vacancies, inaccessible and unsound upper floors, substandard upper floor dwellings, and inadequate fire and safety egress.160 Each of these varied factors shared a unifying characteristic: the individual structure. Each was a flaw observable at the scale of the individual building. The second group of "substandard environmental conditions" included: shabby appearances, extreme mixture of uses, heavy traffic, insufficient parks and open spaces, overcrowded and poor housing, low quality stores, industrial use invasions, small block sizes, and high proportion of land used for streets. This group aggregated the factors of blight that could transcend the individual building. Some were subjective, such as shabby appearance and low quality stores, while others were more quantitative in nature, like block size and street design.161 These lists echoed the concerns of Hamilton's previous planning efforts and of twentieth century planners more generally. Only four of the factors in both categories received significant attention in the application: building conditions, street conditions, land use, and utilities. This pattern repeats throughout all three documents. Physical factors and land use reigned as the most important factors of blight, while the other concerns only clearly became part of Civic Square's blight in the application. As a document aimed at convincing the federal government of the great extent of Hamilton's need, the application collected as many

"Ibid., 6-7. 1 Ibid., 1.

varied grievances as possible into the concept of blight. This was in contrast to the more narrowly defined study and the scheme that facilitated local efforts at renewal. Thus, while blight was at the heart of Hamilton's request for help, it was more peripheral in its local redevelopment processes. Delays and Discourse Blight played a diminishing role in the public debates about the fate of the core. As with East Liberty, retailers' representations of blight inspired the Civic Square project. While representations of its most common factors continued their important function in public debates after the renewal process began, the term blight grew less common. Ideas that previously surrounded the concept took center stage. On April 9, 1965, in support of the interim report, the Spectator published a series of articles urging renewal. Quoting from the report, journalist Gordon Hampson noted that only one quarter of downtown Hamilton's buildings were in good condition and criticized the quality of its retail shops, calling the district "a collection of century-old retail outlets with no breadth of vitality." He saved his harshest criticism for York Street, with an offhand slight to downtown, calling it "a shabby entrance to nothing."162 He lauded the replacement of substandard housing and unattractive parking lots with a civic center and shopping mall at the end of a renewed York street, which would serve as a grand entrance.163 The plan was indeed grand. Stores would mingle with a library, art gallery, pools, lawns, and the first planetarium in Canada, courtesy of Salada Tea in

Gordon Hampson, "Blueprint For A City's Dream," Hamilton Spectator, April 9, 1965. Gordon Hampson, "Bold Downtown Plan Unveiled." Hamilton Spectator, April 9, 1965.

336 celebration of the Confederation's first century. Improvements would provide cultural

as well as economic capital with post-renewal assessments expected to quadruple. The Spectator's support continued through the publication of the study and the scheme. Referring to the study as a "grandiose effort to curb downtown decay and encourage revitalization of the city's core," the Spectator touted it as a catalyst to "get rid of blighted spots in the central civic landscape, set zoning patterns for sound development and recommend improvements, ~ such as the civic square project."165 Stan McNeill summarized it for the general public, linking mixed-use structures with slum-like conditions.166 The Spectator also regularly examined the city's public image. While both Pittsburgh and Hamilton sought outside investment, "Steeltown" consistently fretted over visitors' impressions and its "big city" status. According to the paper, downtown's "veritable slums" misrepresented the city as aging small town: As has often been pointed out before, a stranger to Hamilton, with no idea of the city's population, would guess that 'maybe 100,000 people' lived here. His guess would be based on what he saw in the downtown area of the cityour business district is generally so spread out, so run down, and so antiquated that a visitor is dumbfounded when a native tells him that Hamilton actually has a population in excess of 280,000.167 While city promotion efforts to attract investment were not novel, Hamilton was also concerned with cementing its position among Canadian municipalities as a significant urban community. According to the Spectator blight and decay made the city seem smaller.
Hamilton Spectator, "Renewal PaysAnd Well!," June 26, 1965. Hamilton Spectator, "Downtown Facelift Plan Handed To City Council," October 26,1965. Stan McNeill. "This Could Be City's 'New Look' Downtown," Hamilton Spectator, October 26, 1965. Hamilton Spectator, "A Plan To Inspire," October 27, 1965.


While the plans might impress outsiders, those touched directly by renewal were harder to impress. One of the most cantankerous of the constituencies in the Civic Square area was the local commercial community. The city made efforts to accommodate their needs, sometimes compromising the remediation plan. During initial relocation talks with merchants, Urban Renewal Committee Executive Secretary Graham Emslie stated that those displaced would receive the right of first refusal for space in the new development.168 This promise also appeared in the federal application for renewal assistance, even though the offer to retain marginal retailers failed to address a deficiency identified in the study and scheme.169 The city eventually reneged, but it is significant that civic leaders felt pressured to make the offer. They also constructed a temporary shopping center to house downtown businesses in the interim between demolition and reconstruction. While these steps brought hope to some merchants, the process of renewal generated problems and unexpected disinvestment downtown. Afraid of becoming "urban renewal guinea pigs," property owners and tenants in the renewal area formed a protective association in May 1966. Unlike downtown Pittsburgh's Property Owners and Tenants Protective Committee, the Civic Square Tenants and Property Owners' Association did not argue against renewal. It welcomed municipal assistance, but wanted greater transparency. According to John Farnan, acting chair of the association, information about expropriation dates and compensation was scarce. Additionally, although only one block had been sold, the entire project area was "under expropriation by newspaper."170 Renewal itself was creating disinvestment and economic strife. Owners were unable to rent vacancies because tenants feared an


Hamilton Spectator, "Ousted Merchants Get Choice Sites." June 26, 1965. Murray V. Jones and Associates, Hamilton Civic Square, 13. 170 Hamilton Spectator, "Owners, Tenants Buck Civic Square," May 3, 1966.


uncertain end to their tenure. Owners seeking mortgages were increasingly unable to obtain them while municipal take-over loomed over their properties. The situation brewed frustration within the project area's boundaries and beyond. Along Civic Square's periphery, land values skyrocketed in anticipation of renewal, making it difficult for businesses to relocate beyond the reach of expropriation. Without adequate information on timelines and compensation, owners and their tenants were powerless to plan, which fostered neglect, discouraged maintenance, and instilled a sense of hopelessness. Delays plagued the project, making it a less attractive to internal and external investors. According to Alderman Anne Jones, red tape made renewal risky. The project inched forward using city funds while provincial and national government agencies slowly approved funding. These delays hampered private funding as well. On what the Spectator called a "humiliating day" at the end of September 1966, the city announced the cancellation of the planetarium.171 It missed a deadline to acquire land for the project, enabling Salada, under new ownership and concerned about delays and project management, to extract itself from the arrangement. This embarrassed the city and created additional delays. The entire project stalled until November 14the city's deadline to submit altered plans. The negative news spread beyond Hamilton's borders, creating a public relations nightmare. Mayor Copps defended himself against the label "slowpoke" in the nationally circulated Globe and Mail newspaper, blaming instead renewal procedure and its complications. To counter his argument, the paper claimed that: Mayor Copps thinks there is nothing wrong with the planning process in Hamilton, although one planning consultant said he thought the outlook of the planning

Hamilton Spectator, "A Humiliating Day," September 20, 1966.


board is 20 years behind the times, still treating Hamilton as if it were a small town.172 It also gave national voice to local critics who complained that the plan was too institutional, particularly for a city as backward as Hamilton, "where culture is supposed to have long since expired under the massive onslaught of football." While this statement was harsh given local efforts to provide a new home for the arts, the article justly blamed delays for perpetuating unacceptable conditions: For more than a generation, Hamilton has tolerated in this area, and along its York Street approach, a depressing jumble of ugly, old-fashioned and dilapidated buildings. It is an area without parkland and too much of it has been given over to the automobile. In some buildings hopelessly inadequate living quarters exist above dingy old stores.173 Even its efforts to grow through private investment, such as apartment construction, were unacceptable to the Globe and Mail, which claimed that Hamilton's vertical housing was second-rate and that some "unsuccessful builders have left unfinished towers standing grey and ugly against the sky."174 It was a devastating image and a crushing setback for a city desperate for recognition and respect. The arrival of the November 1966 meeting of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) brought hope for the end of delays. Negotiations between the city, the OMB, and the Civic Square Property Owners and Tenants Association resulted in an agreement that enabled City Council to amend the plan, ensuring the start of the project. These changes would mandate a start date in the 1966-1970 budget window, allow for the purchase of properties in advance of their scheduled expropriation in cases of hardship, and create a zoning freeze to guard against speculation. They required OMB approval, which further


Kenneth B. Smith, "Now the Politicians Vie for the Label of Visionary," Globe & Mail, October 4, 1966. Ibid. Ibid.


delayed the project until December 5, 1966. On August 2, 1967, the provincial government approved the scheme, opening the door to a formal cost-sharing agreement between the city and the CMHC. As in Pittsburgh, intertwining governmental processes and requirements caused delays leading to stagnation, decay and frustration. The details of the plan would prove to be fraught with controversy. Among the first to offer a critique was the Hamilton Chapter of the Ontario Association of Architects. In a series of articles published in the Spectator, the organization analyzed Jones' work. It attacked the idea of obsolescence and the broad brush with which he painted the city's aging resources, stating: Perhaps it would awaken us to the sad fact that we have lost the greater part of our natural, and our architectural, heritage. On the pretext of "progress" we have allowed expediency and indifference to lose for us the amenities of our beaches, our Mountainside, our incomparable fruit lands, our best old buildings, and even our heart, the Gore.175 The architects criticized the destruction of older buildings that formed the city's heritage. While not against renewal, the architects asserted, "renewal can, and should, respect what is worth keeping."176 The architects continued the following day, accusing Jones of misunderstanding the relations between objects and activities or form and function, in the scheme. They claimed he failed to address the positions of pedestrians and vehicular traffic, individual

The Gore is a small park in the heart of Downtown Hamilton, which serves in many ways as the symbolic center of the city; Hamilton Spectator, "Hamilton Could Become The Envy of Millions," August 21, 1967.


buildings, and the spaces between those buildings in his analysis. It was a fatal error, they explained, as these relationships could potentially cause urban decay if mismanaged.177 Three days later, the architects published another story lauding the creation of pedestrian malls as a solution to the problem of positioning cars, buildings, and people. They promoted "unhindered pedestrian use" as the key to rejuvenation. Using medical imagery to illustrate their diagnosis and prescription, they warned that spaces between buildings were the "bloodstreams" that gave urban communities their character. To fill them with oversized roads was harmful, as the "no. 1 villain is the automobile."178 They continued: The motor car has been the greatest single factor which has contributed to the decay of the inner core of our cities. On the one hand, it facilitated the migration to the suburbs and on the other it destroyed the urban character of the city. The planning for automobile traffic, through the widening of streets, the narrowing of the sidewalks, the removal of the green boulevards, led to choking the arteries of urban life?79 While Jones examined various activities and flows within the city and called for their segregation, he emphasized land uses over car and pedestrian traffic management. The architects believed that his emphasis would miss the urban decline's automotive roots. While this debate raged in the press, another controversy loomed over the selection of a redevelopment company, creating another series of costly and dangerous delays. On September 11, 1967, both Triton Limited and the First Wentworth presented redevelopment plans to the city's Board of Control. A special forty-one-member review committee studied them and although it found flaws in both, ultimately recommended the

Hamilton Spectator, "Let's Not Fumble Civic Square," August 22, 1967. Hamilton Spectator, "Pedestrian Malls Lure Shoppers," August 25, 1967.

approval of First Wentworth's proposal on December 18. First Wentworth, related to Hamilton-based Pigott Construction Company, promised to pay full land taxes while Triton did not.180 During the nine-month negotiation period with First Wentworth, the Spectator decried the city's neglect of effective planning. It claimed that: .. .Hamiltonians have continued to pay the price of obsolete zoning. Property values are undermined as obnoxious businesses erupt in residential neighborhoods; potential tax assessment goes down the drain when developers can't find locations; traffic congestion and costs mount as nearly all new housing concentrates in outlying areas; Hamilton becomes an urban monstrosity with 12-storey apartments on Mohawk Road and two-storey slums downtown.181 Without timely renewal and effective controls on development, the entire city was virtually defenseless against decay. Conditions downtown grew worse with inaction and disorder, tangibly affecting local businesses. Those facing eviction and demolition lacked information about appraisals and compensation.182 Entrepreneurs planning to move in and around Civic Square were similarly aggravated by communications problems and delays. For example, hotelkeeper Samuel Stolman had announced ambitious plans to replace his "old and worn out" Waldorf Hotel on the periphery of the Civic Square development with a new two million dollar motel, but grew bitter at the lack of coordination between renewal authorities and private investors. The city's continually changing plans hampered his efforts. Originally, his motel would have been convenient to several important buildings

Hamilton Spectator, "Defeated Bidder Critical," December 19, 1967. Hamilton Spectator, "Hamilton Planning," January 11, 1968. 2 Hamilton Spectator, "City Council, Not Developer Gets Blame," August 1, 1968.


in the Square, but after three revisions, the site grew increasingly remote. Exasperated, he declared: I will not build a motel if this becomes the back end of everything. 'I'm in the middle of a junky neighborhood now. If there is no action soon my tent will be folded up and I'll quietly steal away. I'm too tired to argue.183 He also shared his criticism for the evolving scheme. "The buildings are lumped together like a piece of protoplasm, right up smack against city hall," he said. Funding and technical problems forced the replacement of some of the original plan's green space with commercial uses. Frequent and poorly communicated changes led to misunderstandings about how to solve downtown's problems, resulting in greater delays and declining conditions. The purpose and nature of Civic Square lay at the heart of another controversy. Expanded commercial uses addressed the project's financial goals but did not create a cultural heart for the people of Hamilton. City planners solidified the expansion of commerce on March 25, changing the project area's zoning from "used for recreational, civic and cultural purpose," to "a combination of commercial, light industrial and institutional forms of government."184 Concerns over this change inspired the founding of the Save Our Square (SOS) committee. Led by Mrs. Sheila Zack, a housewife from the Westdale residential neighborhood, the group began a signature gathering campaign to influence the fate of the project area. She stated: "It's essential that we get people aroused about the culture in Hamilton. It's desperate; you could call us a Save Our Soul group."185

Anne Moon, "$2 Million Motel in Doubt - City's Plan-switching Blamed," Hamilton Spectator, August 30,1968. 184 Hamilton Spectator, "The Unanswered Questions," May 6, 1969. 185 Hamilton Spectator, "Doctors protest lack of culture in square plan," April 21, 1969.

The group published a full-page protest advertisement in the Spectator with a mail-in ballot asking readers if they would prefer a "people's concept" for the Square over a commercial one. It demanded space for an art gallery, a library, the public market, underground parking, and safe traffic flow. This unofficial referendum pitted profit against the people's priorities and cast doubt upon public support for the project. Although the ballot concerned the future of the project, it also revealed conflicting understandings of the city's problems. The federal renewal application included a variety of factors contributing to downtown blight, privileging some while merely listing others. It lavished attention on physical dilapidation and decaying sewer lines. Poor quality stores also appeared as a factor of blight in the application, but without detail or analysis. While not emphasized in the federal application, commercial growth and retail quality became a primary concern as the plan developed. The attempt to make Civic Square economically feasible led the Spectator to wryly comment, "only the name's the same." Civic Square had become strikingly less civic, and SOS's campaign gave voice to an alternate understanding not only of the project's future, but also of its past. SOS's primary concern, the lack of open space, had appeared in the application's official list blighting factors, but like commercial concerns, it received only a passing mention. Appeals to the federal government and the public emphasized green spaces and residential amenities. They also appeared repeatedly in planning studies examining the area and in planners' and officials' public statements about the project. These disappeared, however, as commerce expanded. In response, SOS demanded "Green, not


Greed" and called for accessible public land in the Square.186 Its concerns emphasized a factor of blight that had alarmed some professionals and politicians, from the recommendations of William Zeckendorf, to the HDA calling for much of downtown Hamilton to become green space, to Mayor Copps' claim that renewal downtown would put the city "in a position to provide the green areas that are the feature of so many European cities."187 From the perspective of a number of Hamiltonians, a commercialized civic square plan betrayed what both planning experts and political leaders touted as a priority. More importantly, it failed to address what many understood to be a significant factor of blight. To prove its point, SOS deposited 1,099 returned ballots on the desk of deputy city clerk, with more than 96 percent of them supporting a "People Concept." Mrs. Zack hoped the ballots would encourage city council to defer a vote on the newly commercialized plan.188 Its limited green space situated between office towers did not placate critics. Attorney Herman Turkstra stated in an interview with the Globe and Mail that Civic Square should be more like Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, a large public plaza with a skating rink, than Toronto-Dominion Centre, a green space tucked between skyscrapers: "Perhaps it is no coincidence that the successful open space is named after a man and the failure is named after a bank."189 In spite of public protest, the city approved the plan. The Spectator suggested that fear of additional delays rather than support of the plan drove the affirmative vote.190

Hamilton Spectator, "Citizens favor 'People Concept' for Civic Square," April 30, 1969. "Sees City's Core On Brink of Decay"; Hamilton Spectator, "Mayor, Council Hail Core Plan," April 9, 1965. 188 "Citizens favor 'People Concept' for Civic Square." 189 Kenneth B. Smith, "Hamilton Square Without Square A Heartache For Some Residents," Globe & Mail, May 6,1969. 190 Hamilton Spectator, "Civic Square Decision," May 8, 1969.

Even with a rough plan for the Square, the city would have to wait for visible signs of progress. An OMB hearing on the revisions in May 1969 concluded without a decision, leading to additional delays.191 The slow pace fostered even more decay downtown and harmed its merchants. Some retailers who had relocated to the city's temporary mall suffered lost sales due to the distance between the mall and the commercial core.192 Demolition dogged pedestrians stuck in ankle-deep mud after rainstorms.193 Many of the buildings in the area had been razed and the land stood undeveloped and unproductive through three major delays in the project's timetable. The latest delay brought no good news for SOS. The OMB approved the commercial vision of Civic Square, overruling SOS's diagnosis of the area's problems and prioritizing the city's need for tax revenue over its residents' desires for green space.194 Despite this decision, more delays and disappointment awaited Hamiltonians. First Wentworth proved unable to obtain the funding necessary to meet its deadlines with the city, causing setbacks, angering aldermen, and depleting city coffers.195 Inflation made the project more expensive with each delay, and the city's economy would not benefit from increased sales during the 1969 Christmas shopping season due to its decision to start demolition without an agreement to redevelop.196 After cancelling its contract with First Wentworth in March 1970, the city issued another call for proposals and eventually named Yale Properties, Ltd. as Civic Square's new developer.197 Its vision of the Square would eventually become a reality, with a street level entrance to
Hamilton Spectator, "Civic Square plan delayed," May 27, 1969. Hamilton Spectator, "An experiment in temporary location," May 13,1969. 193 Hamilton Spectator, "Mudville," June 4, 1969. 194 Hamilton Spectator, "SOS Group May Appeal OMB Sanction," July 2, 1969. 195 Hamilton Spectator, "Square Project Again Delayed," July 23, 1969. 196 Hamilton Spectator, "Inflation Hiking Square Cost," August 27,1969; Hamilton Spectator, "Uproar Follows Blast Over Civic Square," October 1,1969. 197 Hamilton Spectator, "Council makes it official - Yale gets Square," May 15, 1970.
192 191


commerce and a plaza for public use one floor above. The end of the project did not solve the city's woes, but it did provide a cultural and commercial focus for downtown Hamilton. The mall would eventually suffer from the economic decline of some of its major tenants, such as the now defunct Eaton's Department Store. As it had in past developments, the city was forced to fill vacancies in its commercial centers with government offices. It also failed to solve the city's image problem. According to Arthur D. Little's 1968 report, "Commercial Development in Hamilton," the city suffered from the proximity of Toronto, poor physical conditions downtown, and a lunch bucket working class image.198 Blighted conditions outlasted Civic Square. A planning study published in 1971 during the Square's construction noted the dilapidation throughout downtown, even adjacent to the new development. The study showed photos of incompatible uses, some abutting the Square itself. The problem was both physical and perceptual according to the study, which stated "the often poor physical conditions and the flat, drab image of downtown Hamilton are in no way an incentive to major developers who recognize that amenable surroundings are of utmost importance in successfully attracting shoppers and office-workers."199 The word "blight" appeared directly in the study, as it had in every official planning document concerning the Square. It claimed The prevalence of blight is manifest in the extensive admixture of nonconforming uses; in the age, atrition (sic) and deterioration of all kinds of buildings; in the structural and architectural obsolescence of commercial properties in particular. The fact that such conditions of blight are not nodal ized, but rather are evenly distributed through much

City of Hamilton Planning Department, "Central Area Study," (Hamilton: City of Hamilton, 1971), 9.


of the Central Area (and beyond) makes them much more difficult to deal with. The need for a radically different approach to 'urban renewal' is intimated.200 The striking similarities between these statements and those in Jones' pre-renewal studies demonstrated Civic Square's inability to address blight downtown. Although blight was ever-present in official analyses and policy statements during the Civic Square project, it fell into disuse in public rhetoric about the project. Throughout the many controversies that arose after the publication of the study, scheme, and application, the word blight had virtually vanished from discourse. Journalists reported on and citizens argued over various problems that the city officially regarded as factors of blight, but failed to use the term as a label. It had not disappeared entirely from public discourse about redevelopment, however, as it still appeared frequently in discussions of the York Street renewal project.201 It also surfaced when new projects and new project areas came under consideration and when rehabilitation became a more prominent part of the URC's work.202 The absence of the term in later public debates about Civic Square is curious and points to a number of possibilities. First, it is possible that many of the post-application controversies centered upon personalities rather than the area itself. Questions about who should design the plans and who should build them lay at the heart of many of the disputes. Thus, the public and the press used terms that applied to people, like "greedy" or "unqualified," rather than terms that described spaces, like "blighted." More likely, the early demolition of buildings deemphasized blight in the project area. The disappearance
Ibid., 28. Hamilton Spectator, "York Street Blight To Go. New 'Door' For Downtown," May 30, 1966; Hamilton Spectator, "Give Us Action But Not Urban Renewal," September 4,1969. 202 Hamilton Spectator, "Downtown Redevelopment," December 17, 1971; Hamilton Spectator, "Polish, don't demolish - the new code for old houses," November 27,1971.
201 200

349 of the neighborhood and its structures shifted rhetoric toward the future of the site. This did not mean that the concept played no role in debates after demolition. While the press did not use the term blight directly, it did discuss the factors that contributed to it and that arose from it. The absence of the word blight from the debates surrounding the project's later years does not diminish its role in the origins of Civic Square. Its blight, as both a statement of policy and as a representation, exhibited some striking similarities and contrasts to blight in East Liberty. In both neighborhoods, representations of blight inspired urban renewal projects. Retailers took the lead and portrayed their respective commercial cores as blighted in order to attract those with the financial and political capital required to support a redevelopment project. The government would respond before corporations would. In East Liberty, corporate elites supported organizations like the PRPA, but allowed local businesses and public agencies to play leading roles. Civic Square received little corporate support, despite concerted efforts to attract it. In both cities, retailers used representations of blight to convince local government agencies to study conditions, officially confirm the existence of blight, and work with upper levels of government toward a remedy. Although local ideas and decisions had a powerful influence on understandings of blight, public policy at all levels of government constrained the shaped space in which those beliefs evolved. In Hamilton, retailers compared commercial conditions to residential slums while under a federal policy that tied renewal to housing. After 1964, when parliament lifted the restriction, retailers spoke more freely and broadly about commercial blight. In Pittsburgh, federal procedures profoundly affected blight's role in

350 local redevelopment policy, adding constraints to planners' efforts to define blighted conditions. By standardizing application forms and inadvertently disrupting local procedures, federal renewal changed the playing field and forced the city's planners to find novel ways to express their beliefs and assert their independence. In both cities, commercial blight was somewhat restricted in its meaning, primarily describing physical dilapidation at the level of individual buildings. The invasion of incompatible land uses also played a significant role in the concept. In Pittsburgh, the URA's understanding of East Liberty's conditions before renewal and its plans for remediation grew out of a tension between miscegenation and segregation. Separating land uses and traffic flows was the key to fix much of what was wrong with the area. In Hamilton, planners initially used blight almost exclusively to describe the physical dilapidation of structures. Earlier studies, like the interim report and the urban renewal study listed other problems like incompatible uses and the dearth of open spaces alongside blight as reasons for renewal. Later documents, like the scheme and application, that sought to demonstrate the extent of Hamilton's need and the appropriateness of renewal as a solution included a greater number of these factors within the concept of blight. Thus, the final application to Ottawa combined these factors into a general statement of blighted conditions, presenting a more expansive understanding of the concept to a federal audience than the city used internally. Once each project started, very few voices arose arguing against renewal in either city. Rather, they debated the nature of each neighborhood's unsatisfactory conditions and how to ameliorate them. The focus of debate was in the details, and if not blight, then its factors played a large role in the controversies.

351 Although this was also true of primarily residential renewal projects, like the Hill District and the North End, blight's role in commercial redevelopment had some striking differences. In residential neighborhoods like the North End and the Hill District, blight debuted in official documents and then became part of public discourse. In the commercial neighborhoods of East Liberty and downtown Hamilton, community voices decried blight to spur governments into action. This made blight's role in these two commercial projects in the 1950s and 60s, more like its role in each city's first efforts toward remaking themselves in the 1940s and early 50s. Thus, representations of commercial blight prompted governments to craft official studies and declarations. By contrast, residential blight was born of official proclamation, leading to debates over how it represented neighborhood conditions. Power lay at the heart of this difference. Residential projects presented those in control of planning and development with opportunities to address their greatest concerns about urban health, such as Downtown Pittsburgh's expansion and traffic and Hamilton's housing shortage. These goals suited the interests of civic and commercial elites in each city, encouraging the official blight certifications that launched renewal projects. Conversely, commercial projects primarily benefitted smaller retailers with less access to power. These businesspersons used representations of blight to convince those with power over renewal that commercial projects suited their interests as well. By linking their desires to those of the powerful, retailers were able to meet their needs and curtail accusations that they were using public resources for private gain. The similarities and differences between commercial and residential blight demonstrate the importance of understanding the concept in context. Beliefs about the

concept and its role in redevelopment and renewal changed over time, according to individual or collective interests, and the character of land uses. The exploration of these understandings enriches and adds complexity to the narrative of urban renewal and the conflicts that it engendered in US and Canadian cities.

353 Chapter 6: Conclusion

In 1955, to warn homeowners about the decay arresting American neighborhoods and to teach them how to address it, the American Council to Improve Our Neighborhoods produced a film entitled "Man of Action."1 It tells the story of a resident (the "Man") in a declining neighborhood who is visited by a demon foretelling neglect and decay. The demon announces that people are to blame for the city's problems and that their apathy and greed allows cities to decline. He summarizes the root problems affecting residential neighborhoods: overcrowding, crime, alcoholism, juvenile delinquency, and poor maintenance. Alarmed, the Man appears before city council to plead for neighborhood improvements, but is promptly removed from the council's chambers. Ignored until a chimney falls in a nearby slum, he eventually convinces residents to get involved in neighborhood revitalization, chasing the demon out of town. The film assumed that those living in declining neighborhoods were unaware of or unconcerned about the decay that surrounded them. This was likely inaccurate. Letters to the editor and opinion columns in newspapers throughout the mid-twentieth century demonstrated that they knew and cared. Many had their own ideas of what a comprised a strong and healthy neighborhood. Thus, what housing reformers, planners, and their allies understood as apathy was likely the result of conflicting interests, values, and ideas. This film was one of many public education materials that housing and redevelopment authorities across the continent created to teach residents about decay, decline, decentralization, and blight. While those living in slums and blighted areas may

The American Council to Improve our Neighborhoods, Man ofAction (Transfilm, 1955) in the Prelinger Archive collection, http://www.archive.org/details/ManofActl955 (accessed December 15,2010).


not have known the terminology, they were certainly familiar with the problems growing around them. Once redevelopment threatened their neighborhoods, they would learn quickly about how planners and their supporters represented them, their homes, and their communities. Residents attended community meetings, public hearings, and exhibitions where they listened to experts diagnose and prescribe treatments for their neighborhood's ailments. Blight was something intimately familiar to them, even if they had never used the word. Over the course of the twentieth century, Americans and Canadians from all walks of life grew familiar with the concept. As early as the 1930s and 1940s, newspapers reported on planning and urban decline. Authors produced novels and short stories set against gritty, decaying streetscapes. Movies and, later, television exposed through graphic imagery the city's blighted conditions. It was inescapable for those living in it and near it, as well as those who fled it for the suburbs. The concept's ubiquity did not mean that it was easy to define. By the midtwentieth century, blight had become a dual concept. As a form of representation, it provided a means to describe negative urban conditions. It was vague enough to apply to varied circumstances but universally recognized as an urgent and virulent problem. As a label, it damaged the reputations of neighborhoods and entire cities, deterring commercial, industrial, and residential investment. Blight could foster neglect and abandonment, thus perpetuating and intensifying the conditions it described. As a concept in redevelopment policy and practice, blight granted access to government funds and the power of eminent domainthe means and the muscle to redesign the urban landscape on an unprecedented scale. Blight in policy was extremely

powerful, transforming land and lives. Urban renewal reconfigured the urban landscape, replacing aged and unfashionable structures with a clean, efficient modernism. Large clearance projects displaced thousands of people, including low-income and racial and ethnic minority populations with limited options in segregated real estate markets. These individuals lost both homes and sites of neighborhood interaction, disconnecting them from the social and economic networks that sustained communities, families, and individuals.2 Blight in policy also represented and reinforced the authority of the planning profession over the urban environment. Legislators reacting to blight embedded planners in the development process through master plans and zoning ordinances. Courts upheld their authority to guide and direct renewal's mobilization of millions of dollars and people. Throughout the early and mid-twentieth century, planners solidified their position as the arbiters of urban health. Planners' understandings of blight enjoyed legal support, but they did not completely control the concept. In both of its forms, blight was highly contested. People knew of the concept, interpreting and applying it according to their interests. Redevelopment's supporters promoted definitions that facilitated and justified projects and planning efforts. Those who resisted either rejected the label, as did homeowners in Hamilton's North End, or embraced it as an opportunity to influence neighborhood improvements, as neighborhood activists did in Pittsburgh's Hill District. An individual's interests in his or her property and neighborhood are complex. One can hold multiple attachments simultaneously, each affecting one's understandings

For more information on the social and economic networks in blighted neighborhoods, see: Mindy Fullilove, Rootshock (New York: One World, 2004).

356 of blight and its application. For example, homeowners might see their houses as a homes, valuable investments, and legacies to descendants, while viewing the neighborhood as a liability. This "bundle of interests" influences understandings of blight. In this case, a definition that promotes selective change while protecting isolated but sound structures would serve the homeowner's interests. People invoked or rejected the concept in debates over urban redevelopment and renewal to preserve and further their stakes in a project area. The conflicts that arose were often heated as homes, businesses, livelihoods, and entire communities were at stake. Blight's great transformative power led to equally great contention. The power of blight was not without limits, however. Regardless of political and economic strength or the jurisdiction in which they lived, individuals were constrained in their use of the concept. If public policy did not clearly permit a project, its supporters had to reframe blight to match the law's requirements. This occurred at the start of the Civic Square project when Hamilton's downtown retailers initially referred to the area as a commercial slum in the years before federal renewal law covered retail projects. Pittsburgh's Planning Commission and Urban Redevelopment Authority also had to reframe their findings of substandard conditions when reporting to upper levels of government, tying their various concerns to the official definition of blight suggested by Pennsylvania's Urban Redevelopment Law. The need to form consensus among politicians and earn the affirmation of the general public could further constrain the definition and use of blight. To generate public support for the Gateway Center project, Kaufmann's Department Stores published a pamphlet linking tuberculosis and juvenile delinquency to a commercial and industrial

section of the central business district. In Hamilton, during the 1940s, planning and its association with the socialist Commonwealth Co-operative Federation party prompted members of the Town Planning Board to associate the creation of a master plan with the resolution of the city's housing crisis. Other constraints bound those who stood to lose their neighborhoods. Not only did they have less access to power than planners and politicians, sometimes redevelopment policies prohibited their participation in the identification of blighted areas. In Pittsburgh, the Urban Redevelopment Law allowed for public objections to redevelopment plans, but not to certifications of blight. Thus, those resisting renewal had to articulate their concerns in terms of future plans rather than present conditions. Local stakeholders also frequently found it difficult to obtain information about renewal and relocation, impeding their abilities to make decisions about their future and the future of their neighborhoods. For them, blight meant uncertainty in addition to declining conditions. Thus, by the end of the Second World War, individuals' understandings of blight reflected their interests, their opportunities, and the constraints that they faced. The high stakes of redevelopment and renewal in the 1950s and 1960s produced tremendous conflict as opposing interests clashed over the future of neighborhoods. Blight lay at the center of those debates, but it did not always enjoy that level of ubiquity. The history of its development is a narrative of increasing currency, power, and consequently, contention.


The Development of a Contested Concept Blight was pr