#TBT: What Does a 1930s ‘Redlining’ Map Show about Minneapolis?
The short answer is “lots.” The newest project from American Panorama, “Mapping Inequality,” digitizes maps created for the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) between 1935-1940. Of course, color-coded credit-worthiness and risk is not a neutral analysis; HOLC maps and their biases have been evidence for countless studies examining 20th century patterns of housing discrimination, uneven urban investment, and other spatial developments in America’s largest cities.
The Introduction to the American Panorama site contains a more thorough treatment of the HOLC maps and their significance.
For us, committed as we are to understanding the “water landscape” of the Twin Cities, the Minneapolis map is a gold mine of spatial information. Sure enough, much of the Minneapolis riverfront is cross-hatched showing “business and industrial” land use. Radiating outward, though, are broad swaths of red “hazardous” and yellow “definitely declining” blocks. Only a small part of the Mississippi River-adjacent city shows as green “best” or blue “still desirable.”
Creeks feed into rivers, though, and all surface waters are connected, so it’s important to look at the areas around Minnehaha Creek and the Chain of Lakes south and west of downtown. These areas show most of the city’s “green zones,” which is no surprise to historians of the city’s park system: building infrastructure for attractive neighborhoods by protecting water bodies was a big part of what the Minneapolis Park Board intended during its earliest decades.
There is much more that can, and I hope will, be said about these maps. As always, comments are welcome, and if a comment/analysis proves extensive enough, we can post it as another blog entry.