Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.

FIGHT THE STIGMA!

FIGHT THE STIGMA!
Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Sep 12, 2011

Demolition of Housing Project is an Attempt to Erase History

by Rosemary Reeves


I heard the demolition of my old housing project had finished and there was nothing there but an empty field now.  I had not been to see the housing project during the course of its demolition, which took several months, though I viewed many pictures of each stage of the process on the Internet.   Then it was all over and it seemed there was no reason to go and visit the site anymore.  What was the point in looking at an empty field?

I happened to be in the area the other day though, and after I had accomplished what I set out to do, I had some time on my hands.  I decided to stroll several blocks toward the former public housing development that used to be my childhood home.  It had been cloudy earlier but the sun had come out and I felt a little self-conscious carrying a closed umbrella in my hand when the sun was beginning to turn my fair skin pink.  

I turned off Frankford Avenue to Megargee Street and in the short distance up ahead I saw the empty field surrounded by a chain link fence.  Suddenly, I got the disoriented feeling of being in the wrong neighborhood.  I came closer, placed my hands on the fence and peered between the links.  The open field that replaced the old housing project was lovely.  There were trees and even geese walking through the park-like oasis in the city.  Megargee Street was unrecognizable, but for the chain-link fence going along it.  It was taller than the fence that kept the public housing residents in so many years ago.  

They did a good job of blending the open field into the surrounding environment, but it was a sanitized carbon copy of any park or field in any city anywhere. I kept looking around at the familiar landmarks just beyond to convince myself this was the place.  Megargee Street where my old public housing unit once stood had been cleansed of its history.  The trees in the field had no tales to tell.  It possessed a hollow sort of loveliness, like a pretty girl with no substance.  I gazed at the empty field, trying to remember the sound of underprivileged children playing, boys shooting marbles and damp laundry pinned to clotheslines, flapping in the wind.  Our mothers’ voices calling us.  I could not conjure up a single memory.  I felt nothing.  “This can’t be it,” I said to myself, “I can’t remember anything.”  It used to be so easy to remember the past when the housing project buildings were still standing.  

The trouble is that trees don’t tell stories.  Buildings do, but mostly when they’re old.  The wear and tear of usage is the imprint of humanity.  Crumbling pavements are the artistry left behind by footsteps that walked upon them.  And when buildings become unfit to live in, they must be destroyed or restored.  However, not one building from Liddonfield Housing Project was left standing as a remembrance to those who lived there.  The bulldozing of Liddonfield Housing Project was not a demolition in order to improve the neighborhood.  It was an erasure.

“They have tried to erase us,” I thought.  We were erased even from my own memory upon looking at this green field.  Only with my eyes pressed tightly closed could the memories return...

To be continued Monday, September 19, 2011

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