Libby Reuter and Joshua Rowan
6 a.m., July 4, 2015
North 40th Street and Morris Avenue
East St. Louis, Illinois
N38.642778 W090.11444

This Metro East neighborhood of small to midsized homes is located near the Jackie Joiner-Kersey Youth Center, Jones Park, and the JJKCenter MetroLink station. This photograph looks east in the very early morning as fog rises from a stream, flowing in the center of a long, freshly mowed park. A forest of trees separates this area from the railroad tracks to the north.

While the description of this neighborhood’s amenities suggests an ideal suburban community, the reality of its location in the city of East St. Louis is in stark contrast to that image. The stream in the picture is what remains of Schoenberger Creek, now channelized to act as a stormwater ditch feeding the Cahokia Canal; the canal was constructed after the flood of 1903 devastated the cities of East St. Louis, Venice, Madison, and Granite City. Schoenberger Creek drains this area where former industries including stockyards and meat-packing plants, dumped their waste on the ground. This legacy of pollution, coupled with St. Louis’ history of racism and East St. Louis’ contemporary violence and corruption, isolates the city from the region’s economic progress. The result is a cycle of decay and poverty. In the Park Bridge #1 neighborhood, 1,455 people in 507 households have a median income of just $10,648,* just one-fifth of the $53,505 average family income in the whole St. Louis Region.**

* In 2013, the 20 blocks bordered by Lincoln Ave. on the south, 36th St. on the west, and 46th St. on the east. The median family income for all of East St. Louis’ 26,708 people is $18,236.

** Data from 2012.