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St. Paul map shows how I-94 cut through heart of city's African-American neighborhood

I-94, during its early days, looking east toward from Midway toward downtown St. Paul.
I-94, during its early days, looking east toward from Midway toward downtown St. Paul.
Minnesota Historical Society

Yesterday, we told you about the map cartographer Geoff Maas put together showing how Minneapolis's interstate highways cut through what were (and to a large extent still are) some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Maas recently gave St. Paul the same treatment. As you'd probably expect, the same conclusions hold true, though the severing of St. Paul's Rondo neighborhood provides perhaps the starkest example of how interstates disproportionately affected poor (and often minority) Twin Cities communities.

See also:
St. Paul streetcar: Council member would rather give each business $1 million than build line

First off, here's the 1935 Dr. Calvin Schmid map that served as Maas's source material:

St. Paul map shows how I-94 cut through heart of city's African-American neighborhood
All images via Geoff Maas


And here's Maas's hybrid, complete with the Green Line:

St. Paul map shows how I-94 cut through heart of city's African-American neighborhood


For those who aren't familiar, here, via the Minnesota History Center, is a bit of background on Rondo and what happened to it:

In the 1930s, Rondo Avenue was at the heart of St. Paul's largest African American neighborhood that was displaced in the 1960s by freeway construction. African Americans whose families had lived in Minnesota for decades and others who were just arriving from the South made up a vibrant, vital community that was in many ways independent of the white society around it. The construction of I-94 shattered this tight-knit community, displaced thousands of African Americans into a racially segregated city and a discriminatory housing market, and erased a now-legendary neighborhood. While the construction of I-94 radically changed the landscape of the neighborhood, the community of Rondo still exists and its persistence and growth are celebrated through events like Rondo Days and the Jazz Festival.

Asked what conclusions he takes from his St. Paul map, Maas tells us, "They rammed the highway right through the Rondo neighborhood that was prominently African-American, and the repercussions of that are still being felt today."

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.




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