My hometown of Shreveport is a strangely layered place. Its development has lurched across the landscape in almost random fits and starts, leaving a trail of isolated and disparate clusters of buildings.
One of the legacies is wood-framed cottages and shotgun houses. They typically appear to be worker housing, built rapidly a hundred years ago. Most are raised a foot or two off the ground on cinderblocks. Many have been lost over the decades, and many of the survivors are following a common trajectory of deterioration, abuse, neglect and eventual abandonment
These houses often occupy the most forgotten, hidden, and overlooked streets of the city. They lurk in corners that you might never see even after a lifetime in the city. Like the houses, these streets are often physically under-built – lacking curbs, shoulders, and the other markers of modern development. Trees and plants gnaw at their fringes. They seem on the verge of returning to nature, teetering on the verge of total abandonment.
As they vanish, they take with them the physical record of a time and place, a lifestyle, a way of city-building. Whether built by corporations as worker housing, by low-end developers speculatively, or by owners who couldn’t afford more durable housing, they are a record of the city’s more hardscrabble side.
They weren’t necessarily made to last — but that’s not why they’re falling apart and falling down. We could have saved many of them, turned them back into productive buildings in attractive spaces, if we’d collectively decided to. But those resources moved on to outward expansion, to ever-larger, ever further-flung developments. Neighborhoods fade, die and vanish, empty land in their wake, a strangely blotched cityscape their final legacy.