Midtown St. Joseph Neighborhood Revitalization Analysis

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    Buchanan 1

    Matt Buchanan

    UBPL 715

    November 7, 2012

    Neighborhood Analysis: Midtown St. Joseph, MO

    1) Primary and Secondary Source Photographs: Normative Values and Judgments

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    Richardsonian Romanesque style. I chose to highlight this illustration because the architect is clearly

    emphasizing the McAlisterswealth and class. Rather than feature the houses front entrance, the

    architect chose to showcase the back entrance on Felix Street where apparent servants are tending to

    multiple horses and carry hay. Additionally, the architect may be trying to emphasize the McAlisters

    wealth and status by emphasizing the homes size. Due to the shape of the lot, the house appears much

    larger on Felix Street than it does from the front entrance on 19th

    Street. Although the home was built

    on a smaller scale one year before this sketch was published, one might postulate that the larger, more

    elaborate sketch was published deliberately to portray St. Joseph as highly affluent to a national

    audience. Another thought is that they are trying to shed St. Joseph of its cowboy and Indian frontier

    image by demonstrating that the community is home to a well-to-do civilized society with servants. This

    is also a major message in the image below.

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    and upper-income homebuyers. Although the Gateway plan has been long-gone dead and buried, the

    photograph represents the communitys organized and passionate character which remains today.

    Additionally, the photo captures the social struggles and gentrification concerns that are still being

    contended with currently.

    Rather than choose to photograph one or two picketers for an up-close shot, the photographer opted

    for a wider shot and included about a dozen picketers. This decision resulted in an image that stresses

    the community backlash. The image also captures what many of the signs read, allowing the reader to

    ascertain a fuller understanding of the communitys struggle. Such decisions reveal that the

    photographer sympathizes, if not fully supports the picketers and strives to spread their message across

    the city.

    2) Field GuideWhen studying an aerial map of the Midtown neighborhood, the most apparent characteristic is the pre-

    World War II neighborhood design, with small lots, densely laid out on a grid of square blocks. There is

    one major deviation from this design, where it appears obvious that a set of four blocks have been

    reconfigured to accommodate a relatively newer apartment complex. From my own experience living in

    Midtown, I am aware that this complex is a Section-8 multi-family housing complex named the Oakridge

    Apartments. The clear distinction from the rest of the neighborhood in structural layout as well as

    aesthetic appearance leads me to wonder if the residents of that complex experience the same issues

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    lived in a socio-economically homogeneous environment, Midtown seemed completely foreign. Over

    the following two and a half years I became more acquainted with the residents of Midtown and

    observed a major divide in the two dominant groups of people that live therethe preservationists and

    the low-income renters. Nowhere else is this divide more apparent than on the landscape. The level of

    home maintenance/upkeep and other clues that reveal pride in home/community are the most

    apparent indicators to determining who lives where. These diverging influences that form the landscape

    personify the clashing cultures and agendas that exist within the neighborhood and give it its unique

    (and arguably schizophrenic) identity.

    Someone who walks through Midtown for the first time will be overwhelmed with an array of emotions

    ranging from astonishment, concern, anger, confusion, and heartbreak all within the range of a few

    short blocks. The abandonment and decay of dozens of architecturally significant homes creates a

    greater sense of understanding and appreciation for the tremendous and intense work the

    preservationists have done to revitalize parts of the neighborhood. These properties are scattered

    throughout the neighborhood, with perhaps the majority located in the Museum Hill neighborhood near

    the Wyeth Tootle Museum. Not only are the homes restored, but they clearly convey a sense of

    homeowner and community pride through the maintenance and upkeep of their lawns, decorated front

    porches, flowers, ornate fencing and statuary, etc. These front yard outdoor spaces appear more than

    just attractive, but they look lived-in and well utilized. Such clues reveal the homeowners are proud,

    involved community members who are passionate about their neighborhood

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    There are quite some serious eye sores that dot Midtowns landscape that further reveal the issues at

    stake. The many old vacant houses (both grand and modest in character) generate a sense of despair or

    misfortune. These feelings are partly relieved when you see a restored home a block away, however,

    widespread improvement has been slow. To the rest of St. Joe, Midtown is not viewed as an up and

    coming neighborhood. Instead it is still seen as that forlorn, crime-ridden neighborhood with the

    boarded up houses. This sentiment will likely remain until visual reminders of neglect and despair dont

    overshadow the visual cues of neighborhood vitality and pride.

    4) Neighborhood as a Distinct Place and CommunityPhotos of Midtown as a distinct place:

    Slide 1: All photos

    Slide 2: Museum Hill MansionSlide 3: Harris Kemper Mansion

    Slide 4: Derelict structure

    Photos of Midtown as a community:

    Slide 1: None

    Slide 2: All photos except Museum Hill mansion

    Slide 3: All photos except Harris Kemper mansionSlide 4:All photos except derelict structure

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    energy into home maintenance or yard clean up. This is the same story with the photo of the multi-

    family dwelling on the same slide. The building is architecturally significant, but its owners and/or

    tenants do not show the same appreciation for the building as their preservationist neighbors. With

    these photos, my personal dissatisfaction residents poor treatment of the neighborhood may be

    apparent.

    In Slide 3, Im trying to portray the vast distinctions that exist in the built environment. The grand Wyeth

    Tootle Mansion (now a museum), is only a few short blocks away from boarded-up shack-like structures

    that most wouldnt believe are in the same neighborhood. Also, the Oakridge Apartments, a Section 8

    multi-family housing complex, has been constructed to accommodate low-income families. This complex

    appears to have been constructed in the 1970s or 1980s, and is therefore vastly different in appearance

    than the rest of the neighborhood. Even the configuration of the complex breaks away from the pre-

    World War II neighborhood grid structure, to further differentiate the area from the rest of the

    community. I borrowed an image from Google Maps in order to show an image of a chained gate in

    front of the complex, which illustrates the physical barriers that separate the housing complex from the

    neighborhood.

    Finally, I included Slide 4 to share images of important landmarks in the neighborhood, as well as the

    existence of another Section 8 housing complex. Midtown is home to some of the most magnificent

    churches in the region. Like Midtowns mansions, these churches both help and hurt the neighborhoods

    image due to the same issues of abandonment and decay. The derelict structure photographed on this

    slide was included because it has been identified by the St Joseph Landmark Commission as one of the

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    Works Cited

    Bothwell, S.E., Gindroz, R., and Lang, R.E.. "Restoring Community through Traditional Neighborhood

    Design: A Case Study of Diggs Town Public Housing." Housing Policy Debate 9, 1 (1998)

    City of St. Joseph, Missouri. 2008. 2008 St. Josephs Most Endangered Properties List. Accessed

    November 4, 2012.http://www.ci.st-joseph.mo.us/planning/Endangered-2008.pdf

    St. Joseph Museums, Inc. 2009. Wyeth Tootle Mansion. Accessed November 3, 2012.

    http://www.stjosephmuseum.org/wyeth_tootle.htm

    St. Joseph News-Press. Hackley, C. June 12, 1987. St. Joseph, MO.

    Sketch for Residence of J.W. McAlister. July, 1890.American Architecture and Building News, Volume

    759. Saint Joseph, Missouri. St Jo Mo Museum Hill Bed & Breakfast Historical Archives-Pictures from the

    Past of St. Joseph MO. Accessed November 3, 2012.

    https://picasaweb.google.com/106806075418621570232/StJoMoMuseumHillBedAndBreakfastHistorica

    lArchivesPicturesFromThePastOfStJosephMO#5357073576816171186.

    Wyeth-Tootle Mansion. Unkown year. St Jo Mo Museum Hill Bed & Breakfast Historical Archives-Pictures

    from the past of St. Joseph. St