What U.S. CIty Has Had The Worst Decline?

Some rules:

  1. For my ease, only cities in the US will be discussed, and the decline must have been between 1950 and now.

  2. This is worst decline, NOT worst city. The likes of Cicero, Illinois will be thrown out, as they were never good cities.

  3. When you post, give reasons why the city/cities you picked have had the worst decline, instead of just saying a city name.

Between 1950 and now I’d say Newark, NJ- my mom grew up there and has told me that it used to be a nice place to live (in the 50s). At the turn of the century it was an industrial center and had a booming economy. Things were going downhill in the 60s but things hit bottom after the 1967 race riots- pretty much everyone who could pull up stakes and leave, did.

If you said the last 20 years, I’d say Baltimore. It was a decent city in the 80s, but now they’re in the top 3 US cities for violent crime rates and heroin.

What about Detroit? While I am not so familiar with that city, I have heard that its downtown area used to be very nice. I now some current Detroit residents who are so afraid of the crime downtown that they only go there on VERY rare occasions.

It might be helpful if you give us a definition of what you mean by “worst decline”. Do you mean a decline in population? An increase in unemployment, crime, and taxes? A decline in public services? A decline in the moral fabric of the community?

Depending on how you define it, then one can better access which city in the US has had the worst decline since 1950. If I had to pick one, I would guess that it would be a major metropolitan area in the “core” - roughly defined as the region encompassing the old industial belt (New England, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes area). Many of the cities in this region of the US have seen substantial declines in their population base due to numerous factors. A biggie was the shift in the US economy towards tertiary sector activity (services, transportation, tele-comminications, etc.) from a predominantly secondary sector-based economy (manufacturing). With the upheaval wroght by changes in the national/local economies comes the subsequent decline in other areas (decline in population, higher crime and taxes, loss of services, crummy infrastructure, etc., etc.)

Off the top of my head I would guess that those cities that relied extensively on manufacturing activity as part of their economies have experienced noticeable declines - however you define it.
As I have never been to Newark, NJ I can’t say for certain that the city has been able to transition to a “post-industrial” economy as well as some other cities have (say, for example, Pittsburgh, PA).

I’ll give you two - Flint, MI (see “Roger and Me” by Michael Moore to gain a glimpse of the devistation wrought by changes in the manufacturing base of the city) and Youngstown, OH. I know personaly that the suburbs of Youngstown aren’t too bad but the central city of Youngstown is a shell of it’s former selve.

Excellent post Eponymous. It very much depends on your definition. The worst I’ve seen is Allentown, PA. I grew up in DC during the Barry years so I know bad when I see it. I spent a day in Allentown that left me depressed for weeks.

As an aside DC may once have been in contention, but I don’t think people realize how much it has changed. I am a DC resident and am shocked at how much more livable the city get with each passing year.

Pittsburg, PA.

Once King Of Steel.

Now, king of… nothing.

Empty mills… abandoned foundries… ghosts, ghosts.
The spectre of the American Dream, sobbing through every empty workshop.

Rust, dust, and the death of hope.

I’ll second that. Me and my SO went to school near there and i just find the whole A.B.E. area to be depressing (much worse than Pittsburg). Worst of all, she is considering moving back there because she doesn’t like the high cost of NYC. Maybe she’ll like being single again and going on dates with steelworkers to Chilie’s or Red Lobster.
I’m going to have to say Hartford, CT. I went to a training course there 5 years ago and the city was depressing as hell. I was back there last year and it was 1000 times worse. There’s nothing sadder than the little Civic Center with its closed up shops and bars and $0.99 stores.

I would vote that Reno has lately been falling quite fast. The central reason most people went there was to gamble obviously, and it doesn’t have the glamour and glitz of Las Vegas. Now that most of its main customers are staying close to home, it’s slowly being eaten alive.

This was the first city I thought of when I read the title too. Although the recent influx of Casino-based dollars has improved things a bit, it’s still pretty much a wasteland of abandoned buildings, dirty streets, broken down factories and cracked-out residents. Not to mention the heroin hub for the entire tri-state area.
I haven’t travelled extensively, so I can’t say for sure that it’s the “worst”, but it’s definitely the worst I’ve encountered.

There are much worse cities than Detroit. While it’s true that my fair city has not aged particularly well, people make it out to be much worse than it is. I live in the suburbs and I go downtown probably 2 or 3 nights a week. I have never been a victim of any crime, nor have I ever felt unsafe. During my raver days, I hung out in pretty much the worst neighborhoods this city has to offer, and other than some mildly racist anti-white remarks, no one ever bothered me. the Greektown area is very safe, and a lot of fun. Now, Flint, on the other hand, is a festering boil of a city with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. And yes, I’m told it used to be nice.

Hah. First, ignoring that it’s “Pittsburgh,” Buffalo is jealous of its economic success over the years.

Second, Buffalo has lost about half of its population in the last forty years.

Third, Buffalo is looked at longingly by Niagara Falls. Once the honeymoon capital of the world, with top-class hotels, thriving businesses like Nabisco, Occidental Chemical and Carborundum Company, now the home of…nuthin’. So desperate has N.F. been after losing the above-mentioned companies, becoming the first Superfund site (remember Love Canal?), and ceding the honeymoon crowd to more exotic locales like Paris and the Carribean, that it’s tried (1) demolishing the whole downtown tourist area, (2) throwing millions of dollars at a hole in the ground that was supposed to be an aquarium (who the hell wants to go to an aquarium up here?) and (3) and most damningly, has staked its future on a casino.

All this for a town that’s lost about 75% of its population since its boom times, has the worst potholes in the nation, and signed away its biggest asset, the hydroelectric power plant, to the State of New York for a song! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my nominee: The City of Niagara Falls, NY!

My definition is a combination of population decline, public service decline, crime and unemployement increases, and a collaspe in the community.

I’m suprised that no one has suggested St. Louis. In 1950, it had 900,000 people, and was one of the biggest and best cities in the US. Since then, the population has fallen to 370,000, and, community-wise, has ended up being (this is from people that have been there recently) 1950’s Birmingham in race relations.

Dude, you’re stoned. Violent crime and heroin addiction rates have been dropping in the last few years. Have you ever been here? It’s beautiful city, right on the bay, teeming with things to do. You want wasteland, look to DC. They outta nuke everything but the Mall down there, it’s a pit.

Are you kidding? I was down there last year and center city DC is as nice as any city I’ve seen. And the Georgetown area has great nightlife. If anything it was too quiet.

Detroit is…weird. It’s not making an economic recovery so much as a patchwork repair. I’ve driven through it and seen four blocks of abandoned buildings, a nice new hospital, another ten blocks of abandoned buildings, another nice new building, etc.

The new ballpark is right across the street from a gorgeous, 100-year old theatre. They’re completely surrounded by slums.

I worked downtown this semester at the GM Building, which is part of a lovely complex of several buildings surrounding the “New Center” (which has crappy shopping, but anyway…). It’s nice, but again, it’s surrounded by slums.

Like I said: it’s weird. I suppose if they keep building like this, they might have a decent city someday…in like, 30 or 50 years.

*Originally posted by Governor Quinn *

Thanks for the clarification. St. Louis would be a good choice, but what about East St. Louis? I recall reading about it being one of the “worst” cities to live in the US (high crime and unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, corrupt/ineffective city government, etc.).

From what I’ve heard Camden, NJ has pretty much tanked. (But maybe it gets disqualified under the Cicero Rule.) They used to have Campbell’s Soup, GE (I think) and the shipyard. Not much going on these days. On top of it, they bungled several recovery plans and had one or more major corruption scandals.

Duke, as a guy who’s way into history, it breaks my heart to hear about Niagara Fall like that.

Being from Britain I cant really comment, I just wanted to remark that pound stores (£0.99 stores) are quite literally the final nail in the coffin for an area in decline in Britain - when they outnumber regular stores and the Bingo hall has finally closed down you may as well just hand the town over to the junkies and crackheads.

(Emphasis mine.)

That must be one big coffin. I wonder what they use to hammer those stores in.

…is certainly the worst city I have ever seen. It was a thriving milltown from around 1840 to about1920-then the decline setin. The wool and cloth mills closed down, and the middle class moved out. Now, the downtown has a handful of marginal stores-mostly boarded-up buildings. The majority of the residents are on public assistance, and drugs are readily available on the street. The city government is a mess-most recently the school superintentdent went to jail for embezzling money.
All in all, one of the most depressing places you will ever see…and nothing will ever bring it back…the whole place should be dynamited, and the city dissolved.