Pruitt-Igoe (St. Louis, MO)

Whether it was because I just got distracted with my busy work week, or because I simply forgot about today’s exploration, it was not until late last night I remembered I was going to explore the infamous ruins of St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe housing project. I had semi-recently discovered the place thanks to a terrific documentary on Netflix, called The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. (Watch it.)

Built in the 1950′s, St. Louis built the Pruitt-Igoe projects to essentially rid the city of slums, and to ultimately create something attractive and something pretty to look at, despite the fact it was for people who were very poor. In fact, the thirty-three building property was said to have been on the same scale as cities and buildings in the city of St. Louis itself. In other words, the government spent a ton of money to make these new buildings look pretty damn attractive.

Minoru Yamasaki, the architect behind Pruitt-Igoe, also designed the World Trade Center towers and the main terminal for the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
Minoru Yamasaki, the architect behind Pruitt-Igoe, also designed the World Trade Center towers and the main terminal for the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

Time carried on and these projects quickly became notorious for absurd amounts of crime, murder, poverty, and a long list of most anything that related back to what they wished to eliminate in the first place: slums. Aside from the segregation already present, Pruitt-Igoe managed to escalate it even farther. Residents of the city itself wished to eliminate the projects completely, as it only made the city look worse than what it really was. Because, as far as the rest of the city saw it, Pruitt-Igoe was not St. Louis, Missouri.

Fun fact: police and fireman stopped going out to calls by the early 1970′s. They were either getting injured or attacked each time. Sounds like a swell place, huh?

By 1972, the place was an absolute hellhole. Pipes had frozen over in the winter, sewage was spewing out of the ground, murders were happening daily, before eventually…

The demolition of the first building in 1972 was shown live on national network television. It was that notorious.

…Pruitt-Igoe was no more. The one thing the city and the government wanted to fix was the thing that ultimately ruined their dream of a better, more secured way of living for those involved.

Skipping forward 2013, the remains of Pruitt-Igoe are both a bad taste in the city’s mouth, and what could most likely easily be mistaken for a forest, sitting calmly and peacefully amidst the lifestyle sitting in the streets of Cass Avenue. Lives go on, people do business and time moves forward, but Pruitt-Igoe is nothing more than a piece time left behind.

The small power plant still in operation.
All that’s left.

The entrance is ‘blocked off’ by nothing more than two poles, a chain and a sign warning of high voltage ahead. That was it. Sure, there were fences blocking off the rest of the property, but it’s almost welcoming us in. And, surprisingly, whether it be the fact Fall is in full swing, or it’s just nature being nature, nothing was creepy. Would I go there by myself? Definitely not. But would I go back with others? Absolutely.

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Like I said, Pruitt-Igoe is now nothing but a forest. You can still make out what used to be sidewalks, asphalt and the like, but it’s mostly unrecognizable. Many areas were covered in rubble that looked to purposefully built to keep people from climbing over and continuing on. And while our small group of seven did do that some, the sad fact of the matter is that there just isn’t too much to see. It’s very pretty, but more sad than anything else. Where we were walking once stood the same souls that were, at some point, happy, cheery and having fun. It’s very unfortunate what happened to the property. It could have really been something special had they, both the residents and government, kept it up. They learned their lesson, albeit in the worst possible way.

The baby stroller sitting in the middle of God knows where was the point we decided to turn back before we got lost.

Hidden way behind some thick bushes was a tree, growing through a very old tire, sitting on top of tunnel access to the property.

Hidden way behind some thick bushes was a tree, growing through a very old tire, sitting on top of tunnel access to the property.

Coming and going.