|Southwestern High School - Detroit, MI|
It was really heart breaking to see destruction and waste of this magnitude in Detroit, even so, the abandoned parts are a fascinating aspect of the city to me.
Most of us have heard to some extent of the abandoned Detroit and it is no secret that a few years ago Detroit had no alternative but to file for bankruptcy, but just how did the city once known as the Paris of the west get to that point? Well, it was actually something that was decades and decades in the making.
In the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th century Detroit's economy was booming. It became one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the country drawing in people who were in search of a better life through manufacturing jobs from other parts of the U.S. and the world. This included Black Americans from the south. As a result redlining occurred and racial divide and conflict became very apparent with the race riot of 1943, but the race riot of 1967 is what seems to really have started Detroit's demise because people, whites in particular, started leaving the city for the suburbs. As Keith B. Richburg puts it in his article, "The white population's abandonment of the city left Detroit with a shrinking tax base and deteriorating, segregated public schools...."
Of course in later years globalization would only worsen Detroit's predicament. Since NAFTA came into effect in 1994 many auto manufacturers moved to Mexico to stay competitive with other foreign auto makers, forcing many, if not most of the factories to shut down, thus forcing people to leave Detroit and move elsewhere to find their livelihood. The fact of the matter is that it was not just the auto industry that was affected, but just about everything the U.S. once manufactured has been outsourced over seas. It is the cost of living in a world where we constantly demand goods for cheaper prices. Though I think this is only the tip of the iceberg. I'm afraid there are other factors that play into this as well.
Today Detroit has thousands, that's right, thousands of abandoned houses and buildings. It is incredibly astonishing to see so much ruin in a city with such a glorious past like Detroit's.
The reason I went to Detroit was to enjoy a special art exhibition for a weekend (see my blog post about that right here), which I very much did enjoy, but having been able to see the abandoned part of Detroit was just as fascinating and educational for me.
The first abandoned place I visited in Detroit was Southwestern High School. The school shut down in 2012, which was not long after a having had a $3 million renovation. Unfortunately, there was no choice but to shut down the school due to low attendance numbers. The cost of keeping a school open, especially during winter, was just not feasible for a much lower number of students than its capacity. As with most buildings that shut down and become vacant (because no one wants to buy them) metal scrappers make their way into them to steal the metals of value leaving the buildings completely trashed and only helping speed up the deterioration process.
|Southwestern High School Sign (just a bit of irony)|
|Southwestern High School Music Room|
|Southwestern High School Room|
|Southwestern High School Auditorium|
|Southwestern High School Hall|
|Southwestern High School Textbook|
|Southwestern High School Peeling Paint|
|Southwestern High School Room|
|Southwestern High School Crustaceans in Science Room|
The second abandoned site I visited was the Saint Agnes Catholic church and school. It was originally built early in the 20th century in a once rapidly growing neighborhood of Detroit, however, after the riot of 1967, the neighborhood never quite came back to life causing the population to decline. Eventually the church could no longer afford to maintain or fix some much needed, but costly repairs so it was sold to a different denomination at the beginning of the 21st century, but it was never used again, falling into ruin instead. Even so, this church is absolutely visually stunning. It was even chosen by a couple as the place for their marriage to take place.
|Saint Agnes Catholic Church|
|Saint Agnes Church Altar|
|Saint Agnes Church Tiles|
|Saint Agnes Church|
|Saint Agnes School Bathroom|
|Saint Agnes School Room|
|Religious Books in Saint Agnes Church|
The third and final abandoned place I visited was an old Fisher Body Plant. It was designed by Albert Kahn who was the best industrial architect of his day. Kahn's style was groundbreaking at the time and he sort of set the standard for industrial architecture. This six story building was originally built in 1919 and during the depression it served as a homeless shelter.
|Fisher Body Plant - Detroit, MI|
|Skate Park inside the Fisher Body Plant|
|Fisher Body Plant Rooftop|
|Fisher Body Plant|
|Blue Windows in Fisher Body Plant|
|And some life among the debris, a sign of hope perhaps?|
Aside from scrappers taking the metals from the abandoned buildings in Detroit, there is also a lot of vandalism that occurs, or in some cases art depending on how you want to look at it. Not only are windows broken (many more than are necessary to get into these buildings), but there is graffiti art all over these places and even skate parks are put together with whatever is around. Sadly, arson is also a common occurrence.
I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see just a tiny fraction of abandoned Detroit. If you want to see some of this I highly recommend going with a local who knows the area and can take you around considering most of these abandoned places are privately owned and you could technically be trespassing. You could also run into homeless people or drug activity.
I paid for a photography tour that was worth every single penny and more. I have to mention that I got a little nervous after booking my tour and reading the advisories. It wasn't the "bring a flashlight" or the "wear appropriate shoes," but the "we carry mace" (yikes!) that made me a bit nervous. Luckily all was fine and I felt safe going into these places especially as part of a group. Just keep in mind that you will have to sign a waiver.
That is all for this time. Thanks for stopping by!
P.S. The photos on this blog post are all mine so please do not use them without permission.