Fastcompany posted a photo essay of how highways have ruined neighborhoods in St. Louis. I saw some of this summer, but I also so a lot more. Here are few pics I took of two other places where highways ruined everything.
Welcome to Wheeling, West Virginia. Former capital of the state and home to the hall where the state was created. Pressed between the Ohio River and a classic West Virginia hill, the core of the town is a collection of great nineteenth- and early twentieth-century brick buildings. But the downtown is mostly gutted and home to the sorts of lost souls that keep people with wallets far away. People are trying to bring the town back but it is an uphill fight. But my word do they have some great buildings to work with. I hope they succeed. One big hinderance is the run of I70 which cuts the downtown in half. But unlike in the story of Solomon, there was no loving person to step in and stop the sword from killing the baby
Dark, urine reeking, and garbage filled, this horrible bridge ensures that people on the residential side seen here, will do most of what they can to not walk under the over pass and into the taller downtown as seen below.
Standing in this little slice of hell is like standing in some sort of WWI no man’s land, except instead of separating combatants, this glaring stupidity only keeps apart two stylistically linked parts of a city. Because the river and the hill make the city so narrow, I70 really did cleft Wheeling in twain, and left it to bleed to death like urban road kill. Cars whiz by all the live long day with no reason to bring people into this forgotten extended crack den. Thanks Highway! Well done!
Case Two: Zanesville, Ohio. As forgotten places go, Zanesville is pretty forgotten. In fact, most the city has been replaced by interstate exchanges. Big empty parking lots sit under and near them and where there once were homes and families, there now are ridiculously overpriced chain hotels which, sapropytically live off the cars zipping by that need to stop only for the night. So a living city was killed in part by highways that carved it up, but then the highways create an economy based on people getting past the place as fast as they can. Thanks Highways!
In Zanesville as elsewhere, an organically created city that took generations to develop was sliced in half by these covered deserts. Here though is a little hint of what the clearly inspired builders of old Zanesville created and what has been lost.
This imaginative little bit of vernacular whimsey now sits, alone, next to cars (and trucks (left, as in my photo) that whiz by uninterested. They don’t even stop for a sandwich.