Urban Renewal, we’re still hearing voices

by | Feb 25, 2015

Spirit Houses

Lessons learned from the tragedy of urban renewal has become my unofficial theme lately. Last month I wrote a post about Tallahassee’s Cascades Park and the commemoration of the award-winning “Spirit Houses” of Smokey Hollow.  This post is an update to the story. Smokey Hollow was a  community of mostly  African American workers who were employed by the nearby municipal utility department. From the point of view of an outsider, the homes were considered slums and were targeted for demolition in the 1960s so urban renewal funds were used to scrape the area. Shockingly, the residents were not compensated for their property, nor were they helped to relocate.  Tallahassee is now striving to resurrect  the memory of Smokey Hollow and atone for the past. The final phase of the “Spirit Houses” memorial at Cascades Park includes adding fruit trees and vegetable gardens typical of the kind the residents would have planted in their yards.  The gardens provided not only a cheap source of food, but the underpinnings for holding the community together.

Spirit Houses

The Smokey Hallow “Spirit Houses” Commemoration, honoring the African-American community that once stood in Cascades Park is reflected in a fountain.
Cascades Park, Tallahassee.
Photo by Colin Hackley

Kyle Pierson