For Release Friday, July 5, 2013
In the mid- and late 1960s, while many cities and towns were still tearing their hearts out for the false promises of urban renewal, all sorts of people, young and old, saw the beauty, value and promise of gracious living in historic buildings in the places left behind by suburban development. From San Francisco to Louisville to Providence to Brooklyn to St. Louis and beyond, urban pioneers stripped, cleaned and restored the irreplaceable artifacts of bygone eras of quality and taste.
Those pioneers were the vanguard of the regeneration of neighborhoods and cities that, today, many people do not remember were considered a blighted lost cause.
Washington’s Georgetown. Park Slope in Brooklyn. King William in San Antonio. The Garden District in New Orleans. The Victorian Districts of San Francisco and Savannah. Who remembers that those neighborhoods were once considered “blighted,” over, finished?
Surely, this is the most compelling storyline of the second half of the last century. The rebirth of today’s thriving cities started with the rediscovery of yesterday’s discards. That, as they say, is history. But history has a funny way of repeating itself. Today, one finds examples of that organic renewal process re-emerging.
Many cities have lost more than what remains of the authentic architecture on which to build a new momentum. Miraculously, one that survives with an amazing rich legacy to work with is St. Joseph, Mo.
Set on a bend in the Missouri River and almost equidistant from Kansas City and Omaha, St. Joseph was a railroad, lumber and banking center and, most importantly, the last full provisioning point for the Westward Expansion in the mid-19th century. It’s the birthplace of the Pony Express, the site of Jesse James’ demise, home of Stetson Hat, Saltine crackers and Aunt Jemima.