South Street: 1950 - 2020
So, welcome back to our two parter on South Street. By the 1950s, South Street was mainly a garment district, with stores for men's suits and other clothing, while the more western areas around South Street served as a cultural and commercial center for South Philadelphia's African American community. Real estate values plummeted after city planner Edmund Bacon and others proposed the Crosstown Expressway connecting the Schuylkill Expressway and I-95 that would have required the complete demolition of South Street and Bainbridge Street. The fight to stop construction went on for decades. Fear of the highway and mounting racial tensions caused an exodus of businesses and families from the area. This sent property value plummeting and the suddenly cheap real estate attracted artists and counterculture-types.
Check out the visual companion bellow. Lots of the photos of 70's South Street are by Denise Scott Brown, who authored the study that saved South Street from demolition.
And here's a link to the WHYY South Street documentary (not by Ken Burns' brother) with lots of great archival footage.