As someone who has been trying to figure out Phoenix history, one of the most common things I hear from people who were there in the 1950s, is that "everyone left". Businesses moved out of downtown into the new shopping malls, people stopped going to restaurants there, and "everyone left". Well, of course, not everyone. And the people who stayed behind are the type of forgotten people who had to move along when downtown Phoenix started getting "cleaned up" in the 1970s and '80s. And yes, a lot of it was because of buildings that were condemned, that were unsafe for people to live in, fire hazards, that sort of thing.
If you're familiar with the new and improved downtown Phoenix, it may be just about impossible to believe that the photo at the top of this post is 7th Street and Jefferson. You know, where the baseball stadium has been since 1994. And yes, there were people there who had to move on. That's just how it works. Most of the people I know have never experienced living in a "less than fashionable" neighborhood, which is what was happening to downtown Phoenix after the 1950s.
|Walking across 7th Street just south of Jefferson, Phoenix, Arizona.|
I spent a very small amount of time in a "less than fashionable" neighborhood in Los Angeles in my late twenties. The neighborhood wasn't anything to brag about, but it was cheap, and I could afford the rent. My neighbors were "colorful characters", which is a polite way of saying that they were kinda iffy. Some I knew were outright criminals, drug dealers, that sort of thing. And they were all squeezed together in crowded conditions. The city tried to do something to control it, but to this day it's not really possible. This is where these people live, and this is how they live.
So, it's fair to say that the more "fashionable" society, and businesses, left downtown Phoenix after the 1950s. But many people stayed, and did the best they could. This was their neighborhood, their home, and there are people now who remember this area very differently than most, and they miss the old 'hood.
Image at the top of this post: Looking north towards Jefferson on 7th Street in the 1960s, Phoenix, Arizona.
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