St. Paul map shows how I-94 cut through heart of city's African-American neighborhood

Categories: Racism, St. Paul
94early.jpg
Minnesota Historical Society
I-94, during its early days, looking east toward from Midway toward downtown St. Paul.
Yesterday, we told you about the map cartographer Geoff Maas put together showing how Minneapolis's interstate highways cut through what were (and to a large extent still are) some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Maas recently gave St. Paul the same treatment. As you'd probably expect, the same conclusions hold true, though the severing of St. Paul's Rondo neighborhood provides perhaps the starkest example of how interstates disproportionately affected poor (and often minority) Twin Cities communities.

See also:
St. Paul streetcar: Council member would rather give each business $1 million than build line

First off, here's the 1935 Dr. Calvin Schmid map that served as Maas's source material:

STPAUL_OriginalSchmidMap1935.jpg
All images via Geoff Maas

And here's Maas's hybrid, complete with the Green Line:

StPaulMap_1935-page-001.jpg

For those who aren't familiar, here, via the Minnesota History Center, is a bit of background on Rondo and what happened to it:
In the 1930s, Rondo Avenue was at the heart of St. Paul's largest African American neighborhood that was displaced in the 1960s by freeway construction. African Americans whose families had lived in Minnesota for decades and others who were just arriving from the South made up a vibrant, vital community that was in many ways independent of the white society around it. The construction of I-94 shattered this tight-knit community, displaced thousands of African Americans into a racially segregated city and a discriminatory housing market, and erased a now-legendary neighborhood. While the construction of I-94 radically changed the landscape of the neighborhood, the community of Rondo still exists and its persistence and growth are celebrated through events like Rondo Days and the Jazz Festival.
Asked what conclusions he takes from his St. Paul map, Maas tells us, "They rammed the highway right through the Rondo neighborhood that was prominently African-American, and the repercussions of that are still being felt today."

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.






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86 comments
Jason Wittich
Jason Wittich

Duh 169 (18) separated the classes too. 2 car to 3 car garages! 394 (12) built only for people with enough gas to get to their lake home on tonka.

Sco Kel
Sco Kel

I blame the Democrats

IBNNNEWS
IBNNNEWS

Someone wake me up when Aaron writes a proactive story. 

Drew Rosdhal
Drew Rosdhal

seems like color only comes up for people who care about color. The rest of us just go to work and be us. I won't be defined by how I look what makes me is what I do. I mean "a racist freeway".

Sco Kel
Sco Kel

Yesterday you failed to blame white people for where highways are/were built in minneapolis. Today is the same thing, for st Paul.

Deborah Dopp
Deborah Dopp

The I94 and the 35W homes were beautiful and well built.

Deborah Dopp
Deborah Dopp

And 35W, and those were beautiful beautiful homes that got destroyed.

Delise Wright Anderson
Delise Wright Anderson

Someone needs to teach you about our neighborhood. Criminology hasn't taught you how to form a sentence.

Delise Wright Anderson
Delise Wright Anderson

We didn't have shacks we had a neighborhood. With very nice homes. Shakes were only in the trailer parks where we never lived. And is telling the truth being racist ? I don't think so.

John Bunch
John Bunch

Would you describe a part of town as "a white neighborhood"?

Cock_Tails
Cock_Tails

I don;t see what the fuss is about - smash down slums, build a road that everyone uses, and then gentrify the area.  It's all good, lower crime, less gang bangers....

AJ Cepeda
AJ Cepeda

TIGER JACKS STAND IS STILL THERE.

Reier Erickson
Reier Erickson

So sad I was right about the white outrage... But Ces't la Vie.

Ana Singleton
Ana Singleton

LOL, no one's denying this!! We are simply saying they chose the route out of racism. This was not the only route considered. This is super hard for you to understand for some reason...

Ana Singleton
Ana Singleton

That's right everyone!! Believing in 1960s racism makes you a sheep!!!

Ana Singleton
Ana Singleton

There were other routes that could have been chosen. This one was chosen because who cared about a black neighborhood in the 60s? You're really trying to deny rampant racism in the 60s?! That's a new one!!

Ana Singleton
Ana Singleton

African Americans are the only ones not allowed to talk about our history without inciting rage... Weird.

Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen

City pages is like most other for - profit 'news' agencies, they stir up the shit to create a story so people (sheeple) will read their garbage.. Create drama, not report the news. What ever happened to the integrity of journalism? Shame on those that call themselves journalists when they are really nothing more than just short story writers.

Joe Metzler
Joe Metzler

Why is it always about race? The reality is the locations just made the most sense from geographical and logistical perspective

Richard Danila
Richard Danila

The African American community was a thriving vibrant place on Rondo - with good family homes, not "crack shacks". One of the alternative routes was north through the Midway area, but no, businessmen with more political capital and influnece than the Rondo businesses fought it.

Bernadette Celine Benner
Bernadette Celine Benner

Jesse Meyer, you don't know the history we were hone owners with businesses. Joe the Rag man was poor, he'd come around yelling "rags any rags" by the way, he was white. We had white, Jewish and black business. By the way the Benners movies their home from 672 St Anthony to 1037 W Central, why don't you go by and see the "shack". Please don't talk about my history until you have walked in my shoes.;

Bernadette Celine Benner
Bernadette Celine Benner

You are so right Marion we had a thriving community with businesses, beautiful homes, two parent families, faith communities etc...

Adrienne E. Reed
Adrienne E. Reed

the man who founded Rondo Avenue, Inc. the timeline that was illustrated was amazing and very informing...i got answers finally!

Brandon Helland
Brandon Helland

baaaaaaaaaaaaaa sheeeple baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Brandon Helland
Brandon Helland

And I state again Omg my diversity 101 course prof at scsu tried to pull this bs the first day of class. I quickly called him out and stated the freeway system *act of 1956 was developed for more efficient travel and possible atomic attack evacuation routes. Or swift military convo routes aka the autobahn. If you want ppl driving down lake street at 70 well then allow that. Bunch of Crack jobs looking for any "racist" thing possible....

Delise Wright Anderson
Delise Wright Anderson

Number 1 white people don't care about ruining your life or your neighborhood. When they want something it's to better themselves. In the 60s They move out to the Suburbs because they don't want to be around us. Then build a damn. freeway and tear down our houses. Now they move back in our neighborhood and want us to move out. But you know as black folks our dumb asses.we don't stick together as one. So they do as they please . Concordia Ave is the only stretch of freeway that does not have any wood barrier to stop the noise. Oh but wasn't it one of the first freeways? See white folks don't give a damn. My mother has put in 3 sets of windows our house shakes. And guess what don't think you are going to put a new lane in a white neighborhood and not protect them. Why did the light rail go through our neighborhood and now they want to raise our property taxes 25%. What in the hell is wrong with this picture? Yes ask me please.

Jesse Meyer
Jesse Meyer

I never said they weren't hard working, and I'm not foolish enough to think that low wages means easier jobs (I find that those jobs tend to involve a lot of physical labor and frequently unpleasant and even hazardous conditions). But according to the article, they were poor neighborhoods.

Marion Dooley
Marion Dooley

Most of them weren't poor. They were hard working people.

Marion Dooley
Marion Dooley

So maybe, for the next project your house could be torn down so the people with the mini mansions can save their homes.

Marion Dooley
Marion Dooley

Ask my mom Lynn Michelle Wright or my aunt Delise Wright Anderson how they felt about the freeway. Maybe Elaine Benner-Minus or Bernadette Celine Benner could tell you something. Cornelius W. III Benner, I bet he could tell you something too. I get tired of white people asking why things are always about race, because they are. If you've never been on the other end of, or you've never experienced racism, then you would always wonder why race is a common theme in America.

josephechristopher
josephechristopher

Yes, it happens all across America. There are ' White Neighborhoods'


josephechristopher
josephechristopher

@Cock_Tails False, false, false. Have you ever been in the rondo neighborhood? If you had been, you wouldn't called the houses slums, when a majority of them are Victorian era homes. 

josephechristopher
josephechristopher

At the time when you have to decide where to build a highway, the black neighborhood was the choice. About race, At that time, you bet cha.

josephechristopher
josephechristopher

Why couldn't they go a few blocks south? Oh that's right Grand/Summit neighborhood. What do those houses look like? 

Onan
Onan

While you do give a brief narrative regarding the Federal Interstate Highway System, you fail to marry that topic with the actual route a particular highway is to be built through a city, which is what this conversation is about.

For a little more information regarding one of these routes, the I-94 route through the Rondo neighborhood, I'd suggest looking through supplemental research materials supporting this exhibit from the MN HIstory Center:

http://www.minnesotahistorycenter.org/exhibits/then-now-wow

It's pretty interesting.

Cock_Tails
Cock_Tails

I thought "your people" as you put do stick together, it's a shame that some of you like to gang bang and ruin it for everyone else.  I don't think this is a race issue at all, it's maybe a class issue or a money issue.

You had all the time in the world for "your people" to protest and actively participate in the light railway investment.  I only assume most of you didn't because you didn't feel compelled to.  If you don't like something about your community - change it!!! get off your ass and do something about it.


The other alternative is to sell your house and move, which could be a good thing, if you do not like the community.

Cock_Tails
Cock_Tails

If that was the case, since I am a home owner, I'd request adequate compensation.  If I rented, I wouldn't have a say and I wouldn't care.

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