Bluffs and Piasa Bird, 2016

Lee Wright Homes

December 9, 2021

Last modified: December 9, 2021

Located in Venice, Illinois, the Lee Wright Homes was a public housing project owned and operated by the Madison County Housing Authority (MCHA) from the late 1940s until its demolition at the end of the 2000s.  Established in 1939, the MCHA received funding from the federal government for over 700 units to be built across Madison county, creating communities in Alton, Wood River, Venice, Collinsville, and Madison, beginning construction in the early 1950s.1

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Lee Wright Homes provided 88 units of affordable housing to low income families in the Metro East area, frequently offering educational activities for its residents including courses on sewing and proper household management.2 However, the de facto segregation of the era relegated the community of predominately African Americans further into isolation and poverty as detailed in the oral history of Bryan Mathis.

Complaints of maintenance problems, pests, and structural issues eventually led to a federal investigation of the MCHA in the late 1970s, resulting in charges of discrimination with the near cancellation of federal funding.3 Though the problems were corrected to meet the government’s standards, over time the Lee Wright Homes developed a reputation for crime and trade in illegal narcotics. One resident, Florence Williams, recalled frequent sightings of drug dealers going door to door, plying their wares and causing mischief.4

By the early 2000s, city officials endeavored to fully rectify the problematic situation. Rather than revamp the aged structure, the Lee Wright complex was demolished and replaced with the new $15.6 million Meachum Crossing Apartments.5

Meachum Crossing, formerly the Lee Wright Homes. Image by Andrew Niederhauser for Madison Historical.

A gated community of 78 units named for Mary Meachum, a member of the Underground Railroad who help escaping enslaved persons across the Mississippi not far from Venice, the new development opened to fanfare in August 2009 after receiving public and private funds through the MCHA.6 Meachum Crossing Apartments, along with seven other properties, is still operated by the MCHA.7

 

 

Endnotes   [ + ]

1. “Housing Units for County and City Approved,” Alton Evening Telegraph, November 15, 1949. For more information regarding government assisted housing, see Margaret M. Brassil, Creation of a Federal Partnership: The Role of the States in Affordable Housing(Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010); Nicholas Dagen Bloom, Public Housing That Worked: New York in the Twentieth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008); Larry Bennett, Janet L. Smith, and Patricia A. Wright, eds., Where Are Poor People to Live?: Transforming Public Housing Communities (London ;: Routledge, 2015).
2. Scott Cousins, “New Life For Troubled Venice Corner,” St. Louis Today, August 11, 2010; “County Mothers Receiving State Aid Shown How to Run Good Household,” Edwardsville Intelligencer, April 20, 1963; “Learning to Sew: Haste Wastes Beginners’ Time,” Edwardsville Intelligencer, May 9, 1969.
3. Terry Hillig, “Housing Authority Denies Charges of Discrimination,” Weekend Alton Telegraph, May 23, 1981.
4. Cousins, “New Life.”
5. Terry Hillig, “Venice Celebrates Housing Development,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 30, 2010.
6. Cousins, “New Life;” Hillig, “Venice Celebrates.”
7. [7] “Public Housing,” Madison County Housing Authority, accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.mchail.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=123.
Cite this article: Andrew Niederhauser, "Lee Wright Homes," Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive for Madison County, Illinois, last modified December 9, 2021, https://madison-historical.siue.edu/encyclopedia/lee-wright-homes/.
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