On a search engine, I chanced across an unlabeled photo that showed a bustling, prosperous American Main Street full of small businesses and activity. Judging from the cars and buses, the photo looked to be from around the 1940s. I immediately wondered, being the curious sort, what city this was and how it looked today.
I noticed one store sign that said “Ohio” (on the left) and that the one street sign visible was Butte St. which I figured wasn’t that common a name, especially in Ohio. The main street led to a bridge and Butte St. runs alongside a railroad track so I thought I had a chance of tracking down the location. So I searched Google Maps for “Butte Street Ohio” and found the Ohio city with a Butte Street running along a railroad track. Google Streets showed how that same street looks today.
I was stunned and saddened. The street we are looking down is Market Street in Steubenville, Ohio, looking toward the bridge over the Ohio River. Click on the images for larger views.
The 1940s photo:
This is not progress. An American city’s main street is essentially gone; the heart of a city now dead.I am not picking on Steubenville. That city and its citizens are the recipients, not the cause of the loss of prosperity caused by corporatism and 60+ years of letting corporations and conservative economic policies run the United States. This same result can be found all over the country, especially in the eastern cities, where once small businesses and good paying jobs created a vibrant middle class.
In 1940, 37,000 people lived in Steubenville, Ohio. Today, only 18,000. Today in Steubenville, instead of locally-owned shops supporting families, there are minimum wage jobs at the Fort Steuben Mall, anchored by WalMart, four miles out of town. No bus service in Steubenville anymore, so you have to walk to the mall. There were five buses running along Market St. when the old photo was taken.
This is the Google Street view I screen captured. Feel free to look around at what has happened to a once prosperous American city and ask why it happened and how we can recover.