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Monday, March 21, 2011

Ghost Town: Cairo Illinois

"Cairo was founded by the Cairo City & Canal Company in 1837, and incorporated as a city in 1858. For fifteen years, the town grew slowly, but the sale of lots (commencing in 1853) and the completion of the Illinois Central Railroad attracted settlers and merchants. By 1860, the population exceeded 2,000.

During the American Civil War, Cairo was a strategically important supply base and training center for the Union army. For several months, both General Grant and Admiral Foote had headquarters in the town." -Wikipedia

At its peak, Cairo was a thriving community with around 17,500 inhabitants. There is a lot of interesting and historic architecture throughout the town indicating the prosperity once enjoyed here. Cario, however, has a turbulent history especially in regards to racial issues. Race relations were tense as early as 1909, when the lynchings of two black men took place (both accused of murder) in a town with a rather large black population. Eventually, the civil rights movement in the 60's reached Cairo: "On July 16, 1967, Robert Hunt, a 19-year-old black soldier home on leave, was found hanged in the Cairo police station. Police reported that Hunt had hanged himself with his t-shirt, but many members of the black community of Cairo accused the police of murder" (wikipedia) This sparked riots which resulted in several buildings being burned to the ground. These events, combined with economic woes, precipitated the exodus of most of the towns inhabitants. It is certainly evident that this town has been in steady decline since then. Storefronts are in disrepair and the streets are eerily quiet.

This post is a celebration of Cairo's rich architectural history. Much of what you see below, however, has since been demolished..

Source(s): 1, 2, 3

This was essentially "Main Street" (aka Commercial Ave). Now gone:

Benevolent Protective Order of Elks Lodge 651:

The Gem Theater was originally constructed in 1910 and could seat almost 700 people. At some point, it was gutted by fire and rebuilt. It closed in 1978. Preservation attempts started a few years ago and soon stalled.

The Southern Medical Center, originally St. Mary's Hospital, opened in 1958. It closed in the mid-1980s.

The Church:

Old Warehouse:

Cement Plant:

Train Car:

Miscellaneous:

The lonely Maytag repairman pretty much sums it all up.

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