Pruitt Igoe: Housing Failure or Beloved Home?

What would you do if the place you called home was demolished?

Pruitt Igoe Collapses, Wikimedia Commons

This past Tuesday evening my classmates and I had the opportunity to watch a screening of a new documentary entitled, “The Pruitt Igoe Myth.”  The documentary revolved around the Pruitt Igoe public housing complex that was built in St. Louis in 1954, and talked about the problems surrounding urban poverty and the failures that can accompany public housing initiatives.  However, the underlying story of Pruitt Igoe is not one of failure, it is the story of those who lived in the building, the people who called it home.  Their lives were dramatically affected and changed when the decision to demolish Pruitt Igoe was made, because while they had experienced the poverty, crime, and substance abuse, they also remembered a place that had been their home, filled with memories of good times, as well as bad.

While watching the documentary I started to wonder how I would feel if my childhood home was no longer standing.  The place where I experienced many firsts:  my first birthday, my first Christmas, my first day of school.  How would it feel to lose a place that holds so many memories?  Would I no longer feel like I had a place where I belonged?  Would my sense of security be taken away?  I can only imagine how the residents of Pruitt Igoe felt as they watched their home destroyed in a single moment.

Therefore I ask, what would you do if you could no longer visit the home you grew up in, the schools you attended, or the church you got married in?  How would that change and affect your life?

2 thoughts on “Pruitt Igoe: Housing Failure or Beloved Home?

  1. When CRG@CGP popped up in my Facebook newsfeed and I saw this post, I perked up. Having graduated two years ago, I debated on whether or not it would be weird to post a reply, but at the risk of said weirdness, here goes:

    As a native (and current) St. Louisan, the existence and legacy of Pruitt-Igoe doesn’t make me proud of my hometown. And as huge a complex as it was, it was really just a microcosm of the city’s larger issues with racial conflict and segregation that have existed for generations.

    That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. This post caught my attention not only because it involved St. Louis, but because artists that I am collaborating with in my current job are working to make the Pruitt-Igoe site a community engagement/education space:
    http://pruitt-igoebeesanctuary.com/
    http://temporaryartreview.com/pruitt-igoe-bee-sanctuary-a-conversation-with-juan-william-chavez/
    http://www.stlmag.com/St-Louis-Magazine/November-2011/Q-A-Juan-William-Chavez-Pruitt-Igoe-Bee-Sanctuary/

    The project is still in its early stages (you can follow the beekeeping on their Facebook page), but I’m hopeful that it will eventually transform what was widely considered a blight on the moral and physical landscape into a space that can both memorialize the past and also contribute to the city’s ongoing revitalization.

    Claire
    CGP ’10

  2. Thanks, Claire! It’s not weird at all for you to comment. In fact, I’d love it if more alums chimed in from time to time. This is a great postscript to the film (which I’d encourage you to check out if you haven’t done so already). One thing that the film does not really address is future plans for the site, so it’s encouraging to hear about this project. Keep us posted as things develop. ~Will

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