The Public Interest

The lessons of Pruitt-Igoe

Lee Rainwater

Summer 1967

The Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project is in St. Louis. Built in 1954, the project was the first high-rise public housing in the city. It consists of 33 eleven-story slab-shaped buildings designed to provide housing for about 2800 families. At present, it houses about 10,000 Negroes in 2,000 households. What started out as a precedent-breaking project to improve the lives of the poor in St. Louis, a project hailed not only by the local newspapers but by Architectural Forum, has become an embarrassment to all concerned. In the last few years the project has at all times had a vacancy rate of over 20 percent. News of crime and accidents in the project makes a regular appearance in the newspapers, and the words “Pruitt-Igoe” have become a household term – in lower class Negro homes as well as in the larger community– for the worst in ghetto living.

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