Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Andrew Theising leads tour of East St. Louis

Theising at the Armour Meat Packing Plant

On Friday, October 30, my colleague Professor Andrew Theising gave a group of my colleagues and students a tour of East St. Louis. I've tagged along with Theising on tours of the city that he's given before, and really learned from and enjoyed the experience. So, when I realized I had a group of colleagues and graduate students who had not experienced the tour, I called on Theising to assist, to lead.

On the first stop of the tour, he took us to the old National Stockyards, where he talked to us about histories of factories and industry in East St. Louis. We stood in front of the long-abandoned Armour Meat Packing Plant. In a short article, "Ghosts of the Stock Yards,"  Chris Naffziger provides images and descriptions of the packing plant, which "still stands nearby in splendid ruination."

Armour Meat Packing Plant

In 1907, the owners of the Stockyards incorporated its own town, National City, as a way to ward off governmental intervention and oversight. Spurred by revelations and public response to Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle (1906), the federal government had begun seeking to institute food regulations. But cities had more autonomy to do as they pleased. Hence, the creation of National City.    

Next, Theising drove us to different sections and neighborhoods of East St. Louis. We passed through Goose Hill, Emerson Park, "old" downtown, and other locations. We took a look at Jazz at Walter Circle,  a state-of-the-art senior citizens apartment building.  

The Katherine Dunham Museum

Later, we stopped at the Katherine Dunham Museum, and Theising discussed the history of the mansion and homes in the area. We stopped by the SIUE/East St. Louis Higher Education Center, and we concluded at Malcolm Martin Memorial Park.

The view from Malcolm Martin Memorial Park

Theising's tour gave my fellow travelers and me more insight into the histories of East St. Louis. We gained a sense of useful and troubling decisions made with respect to city policies over the decades. We also got the chance to walk around areas to consider the changes over time.

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