The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

12 September 2004

Sunday spottings (for once more)

Someone once asked why I would go to the trouble of visiting parts of town that are generally considered, um, less desirable. It's simple: I don't want to get into the habit of thinking about a 600-square-mile city in terms of the few blocks that surround my house. Things happen all over town, and given the priorities of the press, which enjoys harping on tragedies even more than boasting about some dubious manifestation of "progress," I'd just as soon see for myself.

So I was near Linwood and Blackwelder today, where small firms under the general heading of "light industrial" vie for curb space with homes built around the time of World War I. And every other block, there's a church, and this being Sunday, those churches were busy. (I caught sight of an old-fashioned revival tent on a double lot.) A few black faces, but mostly brown; kids on bicycles, men unloading trucks, women in their Sunday best.

Now the roads through there aren't great, and I suspect the rest of the city's infrastructure is probably an upgrade or two behind schedule, but this struck me as a relatively nice, if obviously not at all upscale, neighborhood. (I spot-checked a couple of houses for sale, and you can still buy in around here for thirty-five to fifty-five thousand.) Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming "Blight!" and calling for intervention. And indeed, there's room for improvement, starting with what appears to be, at first glance, a higher-than-average crime rate. But I am becoming persuaded that the kiss of death for any neighborhood comes at the exact moment when the studies and the surveys and the recommendations start coming out and the focus shifts from "How can we make this area better?" to "How can we get these people out of here?" I, for my part, am loath to tear up an area of affordable housing just because it's not pretty.

Posted at 2:48 PM to City Scene

Great point -- Tulsa has done way too much of the "get these people out of here" approach to urban renewal.

Linwood and Blackwelder both had streetcar lines at one time, if I remember "When Oklahoma Took the Trolley" correctly -- probably that's an early streetcar suburb.

Posted by: Michael Bates at 10:54 PM on 14 September 2004

Linwood was one of the primary east-west routes in the trolley days; Blackwelder, at the halfway point between Western and Pennsylvania, would be a logical place for a spur line.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:43 AM on 15 September 2004

I have since consulted When Oklahoma Took the Trolley, and its map of the old Oklahoma City system verifies that Linwood did incorporate an east-west trolley line and that a spur line extended north from Linwood along Blackwelder.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:09 AM on 18 September 2004