Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Where did all the density go?

Aerial image of Capitol St in 1946. (Courtesy LeFleur's Bluff Heritage Foundation)

From 1940 to 1950 the population of Jackson increased by 58% from around 62,000 to 100,261 as a result from the post-war baby boom. Jackson was on its way to becoming a thriving modern city which could have been comprised of walkable communities and public trasportation being an essential part of life. In the 1960's the Interstate was introduced and suburbanization became the more apparent life choice. Why did the people dissipate?


Anonymous said...

Being honest--The crime that the black population brought as that population spread east pushed the white population out. I watched it grow from one coridor to the next. I am an old guy. Honest, the black skin has nothing to do with it. The culture of intimidation on the old and or weak is the black culture. The hard working black folks moved out with the white and are fully excepted in suburban life. A good case study is Sprinfield MO where there is a very small bkack population and the young couples are able to move into the older neiborhoods and fix up/modernize those houses so that the neighborhoods still thrive. Don't opine before honest

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! The previous comment is really racist. The crime rate in Jackson is not only committed by the "Black Population". Crime is committed by all races that dwell within this city. The fact is that the "Black Population" are the one plastered all over the news more than the other races that committ the same crimes. There are as many Whites in jail maybe more. There are as many Whites on welfare and food stamps as blacks. The problem is, this is not a Black or White thing, it is an American thing, a citizen thing, a community thing, a neighborhood thing. When we stop focusing on just the black and white of things and look at the whole picture. We all are to blame for alot of the things that are taking place. We allow our children to do what they want, we give them almost everything they want.....we give them cell phones too early (I'm guilty of that), we let them watch whatever they want on television, we try to be friends with them instead of being their parents. We have to take responsibility ourselves and stop trying to lay the blame on some one else.Our churches don't reach out like they used to. People don't pray like they used to. We don't respect our elderly like we used to. I know that racism still exist, I am not dumb to that fact.....but we are using that as a crutch. When 9-11 hit us.....we came together..when Katrina hit us, we came together.....does it have to take a tragedy everytime for us to really see the big picture. If the law was enforced in the city as it should be some, crime would slow down tremendously, I mean look at the situation with the Mayor!!! need I say more, this is embarassing.

Bryan said...

anonymous 1: The shift in demographics in Jackson was not due to the white population being "pushed" out. Suburbanization is a phenomenon created and incubated by middle-class culture. It is not an issue of being forced out, but is the result of a number of other desires: the allure of the suburbs, owning your own house, the interstate and car culture, etc.

Cities don't die because crime increases, crime increases when cities die.

Anonymous said...

Are you inquiring as to the reasons which have stimulated Jackson's ongoing population losses or are you asking why Jackson's population is no longer dense? Those are different questions.

Crime may increase when cities "die" but to allude (your categorical "cities don't die because crime increases") that they do not continue down the path of decline because of crime is to disregard the well documented life cycle challenges that have already brought too many cities nationwide to their knees.

Suburbanization is one of many factors -- a significant one -- which have started the ball rolling for cities to decline. The broad stroke issue of "crime", in all its facets, is an unfortunate mid- and later-stage factor that keeps the ball moving forward and, as in Jackson's case, can accelerate the speed of population loss.

The decision making process to leave Jackson for the "suburbs" -- and Jackson's annexation history of the last 30 years has blurred the definition of "suburb" in this city and MSA substantially -- is a stratified one. Crime is not the sole catalyst but at this point in Jackson's struggles to survive (life cycle) it does more to stimulate the decision to leave than any "allure" of benefits resultant from the continuing suburbanization in Madison, Rankin, western/southern Hinds counties.

Chip said...

Let us look to the past for the answer to the question of why the population growth became decreasingly slower in the first place. Downtown was a thriving downtown; it was dense in both the sense of buildings and people. Goods were sold, business was done, and laws were made. Everyone was happy with their lifestyle, everyone of the caucasian ethnicity that is.

The civil rights movement began a shift in the lifestyles of all that lived in Jackson and the nation. This was a very significant moment in American history that would greatly influence the way our country is shaped to this day.

As great as the movement was in creating more equality in opportunities for people of any ethnicity, it placed a large burden on the establishments that attracted and accepted African Americans. All the businessmen and politicians that once filled buildings such as the King Edward Hotel began to cease spending their time and money in places that accepted "negros." It is this mentality that was created before us that has shaped the current situation with cities across the South.

Our ancestors were scared, they were selfish, they were greedy, and basically did not want to share their public amenities with those not like them. This mentality still exists in some people today. The scared decided to move away and try to form new "utopia-like" communities rather than try to make changes and better the place in which they lived.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the history lesson but I'm sure most Jacksonians have seen, read and heard all the above before. Is there a hypothesis y'all are working against? Is there a core physical geography that represents the baseline Jackson for your study?

Not sure where you've come up with the idea that population growth has become "decreasingly slower" nor over what time frame such an observation was considered. Jackson's population has been shrinking since the annexations of "suburbs" in the mid-70s. 1976 was the peak.

Not everyone's ancestors were scared, selfish and greedy.

Bryan said...

Jane Jacob's The Death and Life of Great American Cities does a good job of illustrating the fact that safety is the result of not having "eyes on the street." The increase in crime is a second or third wave effect because these eyes are no longer present. It is an interesting conundrum that crime rose because of the decrease in downtown activity, but now to increase downtown activity we must reduce crime. In a way, Jackson has to evolve backwards, a very hard thing to do, to resurrect itself.

The study we are engaging in is specific to the State St. corridor from I-20 to I-55 at County Line rd. The basic hypothesis is that the interstate has been the major catalyst in change in both Jackson and State St. over the last 40 to 50 years. The goal is to understand the causes and effects and theorize on the nature of the interstate.

Finally, I'm not sure where anyone has mentioned that population growth has "become decreasingly slower." Our basic time frame for study is from the 40's to the present. Jackson's population has been, as you say, shrinking since the mid-70's. This shift in population flow is one of the important trends we are looking to explain. Our main question is a question of population density.

Chip said...

The shift in downtown activity began with the civil rights movement and was further accelerated by the automobile.
Highways were once used to connect towns so that people could get from one to another, but now people move along at such a rate and distance that forces us to ignore the context. Today, the consensus seems to be that the fewer towns one must encounter, the better. Towns and cities founded after 1950, for the most part, are more like convenient stops rather than experiential communities.

cavett said...

I doubt this is what you're looking for, as Fazio has written an essay about the city plan of Jackson (1821) which i think has some interesting lessons, though possibly not helpful for your project.

Talk about density! Jackson was planned to be NOT dense, in fact pastoral. Following up on a suggestion made by T. Jefferson for Claiborne in New O, fifteen years later the commissioners to found and layout a new capital city revived Jefferson's green square plan where the town wold be laid out in squares with alternate squares remaining green or parks and trees. {Only Smyth Park of all those green squares, is left.)

Jackson was not very dense for a long time. Until the state built some permanent buildings (Capitol, gov's mansion and penitentiary, folks were shy about locating here. and the state gov't, the purpose of the town, only required a few months very year or two,leaving the town vacated.

Burning it down during the CW probably helped growth as the same helped Atlanta.

The growth took off about 1900 when the lumber industry took off in south Miss., needing railroads to ship lumber north, through Meridian and Jackson. Jackson even picked up a couple of lumber mills I believe. This was the growth that spurred the early subdivisions, West Capital St and B'Haven Heights and Gillespie St., etc. Until then residential construction had been extension of the original grid, to the north to Fortification (where it bums into a "rural" neighborhood and south of downtown to Silas Brown St. and beyond.

It is in the census' of 1900 and 1910 you see that Jackson is surpassing both Vicksburg and Meridian, up till then, Mississippi's largest cities.

Oh, by the way, my favorite urban space in the state is Natchez's spanish grid and the immediate few blocks around it. The garden park estates which form a green belt around this core is possibly the first subdivision, or 'rural neighborhood" But that's another story, another day.

Jackson's original three block by ten blocks, PLUS the mix of odd blocks and public greens of the east of state street section (the "Bluff") is a handsome city plan, and the additions of neighborhoods north and south, placed most folks within walking distance of downtown.

well, that's enough for now. I hope I can post this to you

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Jackson in the 50's and 60's. I can tell you the decline of downtown had nothing to do with the civil rights movement (not to denigrate the c.r.m.) nor the interstate system (the decline began before it was built). The decline began with the invent of shopping centers and ample free parking.

I loved going downtown as a kid. When I was young, any Saturday downtown was packed, and during Christmas, unbelievable. Very festive, crowded, and yes, diverse. It was like a big city.

But my father absolutely hated it. first of all finding a parking place was impossible, we had to park in pay lots and were lucky to find a spot in one of them. then you had a long walk to capitol street and then a long walk up and down capitol street. still, I loved it. But dad always said he'd rather take a butt whipping than drive down in that "mess".

When Northwood shopping center opened on State street between Meadowbrook and Northside drive, that essentially ended our shopping and going downtown.

I really miss how downtown was before Northwood, Meadowbrood mart, Westland Plaza, and others, opened.

downtown was never the same.

But I support all efforts to reinvent downtown into a viable neighborhood and entertainment and workplace.

darrell blanton