60 Years of Urban Change
January 5, 2015 11:56 AM   Subscribe

Use a slider to compare aerial views of major US cities from c. the 1950s and today from the Midwest, Oklahoma and Texas, and the Southeast. From Shane Hamilton at the University of Oklahoma's Institute for Quality Communities.
posted by Tsuga (17 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I remember in the early/mid 90s seeing signs "For sale: entire city block" on Indianapolis's near eastside. I think that's one of the areas that is now a parking lot.

Wish I had taken pictures.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 12:12 PM on January 5, 2015

Much faster, smoother and cleaner than Historic Aerials, but the latter offers the ability to move, zoom and change years. Quality vs. quantity, I suppose.
posted by Longtime Listener at 12:32 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nice link. I'm going to be spending some time on this one.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:38 PM on January 5, 2015

It's shameful what we've done to our cities. A pox on urban highways, suburban sprawl, and mid-century urban "renewal."
posted by entropicamericana at 1:24 PM on January 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

to my eyes, it looks like huge chunks of cities are just gone. Empty lots, parking lots, fields. And, of course, enormous highway contraptions.
posted by rebent at 1:42 PM on January 5, 2015

I found it interesting that the deep Ellum area directly East of downtown Dallas has not changed that much. The buildings and street layouts are exactly the same, but the freeway sprawl bordering downtown is frightening. And TxDot has decided to tear it all out and start over making the freeways around downtown even more monstrous. More of the core that was Industrial Avenue (now Riverfront Blvd....ha!) is being displaced for flyovers and seas of columns across the Trinity river. Yay progress!
posted by Benway at 1:50 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Indianapolis view was kind of disappointing. It was just the immediate downtown area. If you really wanted to see the city change, a wider view that shows the eruption of the ring of 'burbs in the surrounding counties and the encirclement of the city by an interstate.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:10 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised that the Midwest one omits Illinois and Chicago in particular, which might be an interesting contrast to Cleveland, Milwaukee, etc.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:16 PM on January 5, 2015

Interesting that for Columbus they chose the actual "Downtown" and didn't go slightly north to capture the Short North, which is, for all intents and purposes, the actual city center-- downtown is almost entirely office buildings, and shuts down after 5:00; the Short North is where actual urban living takes place and has seen significant changes over the last 60 years. They even mention the Cap at Union Station over 670 as something interesting going on, but the aerial photo they chose stops about 20 feet south of it.
posted by damayanti at 2:32 PM on January 5, 2015

Interesting. It would have been great if the 'before' photos were in colour, because the change from black and white to colour makes the newer shots look so different. The sprawl of highways is terrifying and, I think pretty much typical of any sizeable city. It's easy to see how they bisect whole neighbourhoods and cut residents off from one another, but hard to see what a viable alternative is in a world where the only alternative to suburban sprawl is higher urban densities in a society that values the car over humans.

It might even be much more obvious if the photos covered a broader area - the scope of suburban sprawl would make it clear why freeways have taken over the landscape so much.

What really did strike me, though, was a feature of every photo I looked at - the appearance of enormous stadiums. I wonder what impact this centralisation of facilities has had on neighbourhoods and if the mega-stadiums have taken cultural activity away from suburban areas, adding to the blight of suburban sprawl.
posted by dg at 3:15 PM on January 5, 2015

Interesting that OKC shows only two buildings from 60 years ago are extant. But I have a lot of photos I took of old brick buildings around there from 20 years ago!

But of course, I don't recognize much from aerial views.

The brickwork in that city is really awesome.
posted by CrowGoat at 4:11 PM on January 5, 2015

Wow - if you slide the bar over you can see that everything really IS up to date with Kansas City. Hell, I think they've probably gone about as far as they can go...
posted by symbioid at 4:26 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Related: parking craters.
posted by entropicamericana at 4:56 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Those are really interesting; like others have said being able to zoom out would be great, and of course I'd like to see it for western cities as well since I know the history here better.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:15 PM on January 5, 2015

Charlotte was a tragedy. The city had beautiful architecture, streetcars, an urban fabric. Now there are shiny skyscrapers and EIFS-clad apartment complexes.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:21 PM on January 5, 2015

entropicamericana: "Related: parking craters."

Oh man. I'm glad to know there's a name for this. The conversation about the FPP article on my Facebook turned immediately to surface parking lots, which are my SUPER PET PEEVE. There are a number of surface parking lots on Peoria's Main Street, and literally every single one is tax exempt and owned either by a non-profit (university, hospital, or church) or by the city. They city's property tax base is massively eroding, city services and schools funded by property taxes are hurting bad, and a dozen of the MOST VALUABLE PROPERTIES IN THE CITY are surface-level parking lots that pay no taxes and generate no revenue because the hospital can have doctors park there for free. Two lots down is a 12-story parking structure you have to pay to park in because if you have to pay TAXES on the land, you have to build it UP.

Worse yet, we're under a stormwater sewer remediation order from the EPA, so every non-revenue-generating, non-porous surface parking lot is costing us thousands and thousands of dollars in remediation costs.

Tax-exempt hospitals are one thing. Tax-exempt parking lots are AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT AND STUPID THING.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:43 PM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

For anyone still out there, the blog has now added pictures for various cities in the Northeast.
posted by Tsuga at 12:27 AM on January 31, 2015

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