The Full Force of Urban Renewal

Morning all and happy voting,

I’m working on a project that shows Mankato throughout the years. In this project I thought that I would try and show a more interactive version of what Urban Renewal did to Mankato.

A little backstory. During Urban Renewal Mankato ripped out five city blocks of historical commercial development in their downtown. They covered what was remaining with a “downtown mall” which did well until we built a new mall on the edge of town… and then we built another one…

Mankato received a good deal of money for Urban Renewal. Story has it that there was a politician when to downtown mall opened who said “This is an all-American mall because all of America helped pay for it.”

Anyway, I have a friend who is a good deal older than I am. In 1969 he went around and took pictures of Mankato side by side with pictures from 1905. He captured the change of those buildings in 60 years. I then took pictures of the same spots this fall. The results, shocking to say the least. Here’s an example:


pg 6b

South Front Street c.1905

South Front Street 1969

South Front Street 1969

Front Street today, a civic center.

Front Street today, a civic center.


I’ve also created a piece from Juxtapose JS which allows you to compare old Mankato, to essentially what Mankato looks like today via Google Earth. Unfortunately, isn’t letting it publish for some reason, if you’d like to see it you can click here.

As a consolation here’s a .GIF I made of the same three time periods.


Business & Apartments, Business & Apartments, Parking lots.

Mankato had a very sad history. Some people have argued that we used to have a downtown more beautiful than Galena, IL, but we threw it all away in the name of progress.

You can see in the image below how far it stretched.


This post is simply a reminder that wealth doesn’t spring up over night. It’s worked at for decades and then it is carried into the future. Same with sense of place. It’s hard to force a sense of place. It’s a culmination of different aspects that shape a city and a place, but buildings, undoubtedly, have a lot to do with it.

Something to think about going forward. I’ll never get to experience the old Mankato, I can just try and get a little of it back…with more parking I’m sure.

3 thoughts on “The Full Force of Urban Renewal

  1. David MarkleDavid Markle

    With memories of Mankato as it was many years ago, then as now a regional center of business and commerce, my recent visits have only saddened me. Economic growth continues, but the former downtown seems a mere relic, with much of the retail activity and development taking the form of strip development along Highway 22: Walmart, etc. And now the beautiful county fairgrounds at Garden City, a few miles to the south, won’t have their traditional use.

  2. Andrew

    You bring up the Blue Earth County fair – the Garden City location for the fairgrounds never attracted large levels of attendees because it is so far out of the urbanized center of the county which are the cities of Mankato and North Mankato. Compared to the Steele County fair, the Blue Earth County fair simply wasn’t very large. The fair board made a wise decision to move the fair closer to the Mankato area (sometime soon). While the Garden City location is both historic and pretty – it just didn’t meet the economic needs to sustain itself any longer. The annual North Mankato Fun Days was essentially used as an ad hoc substitute for a county fair for the area.

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