Monday, January 14, 2008

Y'all Like a Project, Doncha?

Let me start off by saying that I'm sickie-poo. In fact, we're the sickie-poo family...Ma and Ma Sickie and all the little Poos. Carrie has strep throat, Katie is getting over a cold, and I've just acquired it from her via the Virus Exchange Program, which is sort of an illness cooperative that people join when they have children, whether they'd like to or not.

Anyway...we're sick. All except Lori, but I'll probably lick her tongue or something equally juvenile. There's no use suffering alone when you've got a perfectly suitable life partner in robust good health to drag down with you.
And becau
se I'm sick, I took off from work tonight. I normally try to avoid that because I like to save up my ETO time for when I'm really burned out, which is approximately every week. But this time I decided to take it off, because in addition to a luxurious day on the couch drowning in phlegm, I'm going to set aside a few hours in the evening to save Cairo.

Cairo, IL (pronounced KAY-row), is a beautiful old river city at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, that just happens to strongly resemble Beirut after the bombings. Picture the London Blitz or Dresden at the end of WWII. Okay, now picture them with lots of liquor stores and a good barbecue joint, and you've pretty much got Cairo.

Cairo was a racially mixed Southern city that just happened to be located on the wrong side of the river from Kentucky, in Illinois. Prior to the 1960's and it had a population of 20,000-ish people, pretty evenly divided between blacks and whites. After the unrest that followed the 1960's civil rights movement, there was a massive "white flight" which resulted in the almost total abandonment of the city by whites. It also took most of the city businesses with it, and left a devastated, impoverished city made up of all the people who didn't have anywhere else to go after the city died.

But Cairo was once a prosperous river city, so after the rioting and the abandoning, the empty city and it's beautiful architecture and all it's boarded-up antebellum mansions remained. Okay, this is where we get to the "us" part...

We love Cairo. Lori and I drive down their frequently to admire the architecture and the rivers and shake our heads at the devastation. The building to the left was the old trolley depot. it's available, with it's 5 upstairs apartments, for $15,000.

This week we became aware of a Cairo restoration group called Vision 20/20. They're trying to catalogue the unique buildings and revive some interest in the city before all the cool buildings either fall down of their own accord or get burned down by people with a book of matches and too much time on their hands.

So since the yard work is pretty much squared away and I was looking for a new cause anyway, Lori wrote to the organizers and signed us up. We're going to our first meeting tonight, so I figure we ought to have Cairo pretty much saved by the weekend if we're efficient with our time. I'm bad with posting pictures, but the house at the left is a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home for $20,000. Below it is the second most expensive house on the market in Cairo. It's a 6 bedroom on 4 lots for whopping $120,000.

So who wants to come on down for the Gay Mecca/Urban Pioneering? We'll supply Shemwell's BBQ and cold beer if you'll bring your money, business ideas, tool belts and a few gay men...we're going to need some help with the decorating.


Jazz said...

Beautiful houses, but I gotta ask, how long have they been empty?

Can the city really be revived do you think? Have other cities been saved?

I'm curious, but i'd probably be late for the meeting since I'd have to drive down from Montreal and all...


How much work needs to be done on these places and what is the closes area where there are jobs?

Ev said...

Some of the houses have sat empty for a year or more, some a few weeks. But housing prices are so depressed that those prices are the going rate in Cairo. We were talking to a woman when we were watching an old wreck being torn down, and she told us she'd bought 5 properties in the last couple of years, one for $1000.

The nearest real city is cape Girardeau, MO. It's 30 miles away. Paducah, KY is the same distance in the other direction.

Linda said...

Wow, I've been too busy to read for a couple of days but this is big stuff! Hey, in case you didn't know, aside from being the superhero "Downtown Dad", in real life my hubby is an honest to goodness Downtown "urban strategist." He works as a consultant with towns like Cairo on revitalization. We even participated in a Vision 20/20 a few years back. I'll be watching to see how things go!