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History of urban renewal

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was submitted as part of the Trumbull County Historical Society’s efforts to bring awareness to local black history as part of Black History Month.

Most Warren residents have seen photographs of downtown Warren before the 1980s.

Commercial buildings on Main Avenue lined the streets as far as South Street, and residential houses and commercial buildings in The Flats created a vibrant neighborhood that no longer exists.

This past year, the Trumbull County Historical Society, along with the Trumbull County Land Bank, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and the City of Warren, documented Urban Renewal in Warren to better understand the demolitions that took place between 1965 and 1980.

This work has culminated in the launch of Warren Razed, a searchable, interactive map of photographs that shows the buildings in Warren that have been razed throughout time. The site also includes never-before-seen maps, blueprints and plans that were created during the Urban Renewal time period, and more than 800 buildings that have been demolished by the Trumbull County Land Bank over the past 10 years.

The Urban Renewal records that are now accessible to the public document government policy that funded large-scale demolitions. It all started in 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” passed the Housing and Urban Development Act, guaranteeing private financing to plan and develop new communities in areas that were targeted for redevelopment.

Cities like Warren applied for, and were granted, funds to demolish buildings along commercial corridors and industrial sites with the goal to uplift those areas through future development. Between 1965 and 1980, the city of Warren demolished more than 300 buildings, primarily in the historically black workers housing area of The Flats, as well as commercial buildings on Main Avenue, Franklin Street and South Street.

In 2020, the city of Warren and the Trumbull County Historical Society started reviewing the records compiled during Urban Renewal. In Warren, and in many cities across the country, the process of demolishing homes during Urban Renewal disproportionately affected minority communities. This was caused by the unwillingness of banks to fund loans for houses for minority applicants in other areas of town, or not to fund loans at all based on the color of the applicant’s skin.

The Urban Renewal Collection, now housed at the Trumbull County Historical Society, is a snapshot in time. For each building, the city of Warren recorded the names of the people who owned each building, whether they were racially white or nonwhite, whether they were a veteran, and who their employer was. Some of the photographs that were collected showcase a neighborhood where people ride bicycles and friends visit on front porches. Many of the people who lived in The Flats worked at Republic Steel, a few blocks away, or another of Warren’s industrial or manufacturing facilities.

This project was built with the goal of increasing transparency of policies that shaped the way our city looks today, and to create a space for current and future residents to delve into parts of Warren’s sometimes forgotten history.

To check out the project site, visit www.warrenrazed.org. To make an appointment to view the Urban Renewal Collection in person, contact the Trumbull County Historical Society by calling 330-394-4653 or emailing info@trumbullcountyhistory.org.

Reed is the executive director of the Trumbull County Historical Society.

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