site histories

I’ve been reading James Neal Primm’s Lion of the Valley and John Wright’s Discovering African American St Louis to get a better sense of the Gateway Arch and Pruitt-Igoe sites’ histories before urban renewal.  Today I found a new story from St Louis’ history has challenged me to rethink some of my assumptions.

In 1964, civil rights activists Percy Green and Richard Daly scaled the then-under-construction Gateway Arch to protest against discriminatory hiring practices.  [Learn more (and view a video, on right-hand side of screen) here.] This story has changed my perception of the Arch – I’ve always been confused by this “historic marker”s relationship to its site history, and now I wonder how this site might have figured in the civil rights struggle in St Louis, and might therefore carry a different symbolism for some segments of St Louis’ population.

This has also helped me to see a flaw in my assumptions and research methodology – I had conceived of site history as ending with urban renewal. This “discovery” points to a need to reconsider how the Arch and Pruitt-Igoe sites were used/appropriated/etc during and following urban renewal.

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