The Ever-Changing ‘Urban Blight’


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Back when utility poles were constructed in the mid-19th century to accommodate the telegraph system, people weren’t thrilled either. Now, no one hardly notices them. But back in the 1880s people protested their construction citing aesthetics and property values…sound familiar? Eula Bliss’ Harper’s Magazine article, “The War on Telephone Poles” explains the hatred these towers brought. “By 1889, the New York Times was reporting a ‘War on Telephone Poles.’ Wherever telephone companies erected poles, homeowners and business owners were sawing them down, or defending their sidewalks with rifles. Property owners in Red Bank, New Jersey, threatened to tar and feather the workers putting up telephone poles. A judge found that a man who had cut down a pole because it was ‘obnoxious’ was not guilty of malicious mischief. Telephone poles, newspaper editorials complained, were an urban blight,” Bliss wrote. Back then telephone poles were an “urban blight,” now cell towers are. What will be next?

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