Part I
The Discovery of
Urban Blight 

In 1944 Lancaster's citizens began planning the transition from war to peace. In that year an investigation undertaken by the Housing Committee of the Post-War Planning Council determined that 85% of the dwellings occupied by the city's African American population were substandard, many of them unfit for human habitation. The following year, in A Comprehensive Municipal Plan: City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Michael Baker, Jr. pointed to state and federal legislation then being considered and called for an aggressive program to eliminate "blight."


Lancaster's efforts to improve housing conditions at first focused on forcing landlords to undertake major repairs to substandard buildings. The two most notorious neighborhoods were Barney Google Row and Shantytown, but the Board of Health identified 178 other residential properties that needed significant rehabilitation. Between 1950 and 1957 the city's slum improvement program met with little success. Finally, in 1957, the Citizen Housing Committee recommended the creation of a Redevelopment Authority to begin an energetic program of slum clearance and redevelopment.


 Part I of the exhibit illustrates the city's most notorious slum, Barney Google Row, as well as other dimensions of residential blight.

Part II: Imagining a Revitalized City
Part III: A New Commercial Center
Part IV: New Neighborhoods for Old
Urban Renewal in Retrospect