Funny that you brought that up about the contents of the buildings being abandoned. I was looking at the first pictures before scrolling down to the newest ones and thinking (about the Madison Lenox Hotel), "That's solid wood furniture!"
Then I saw the schools. That's downright bizarre. The blue room with all the computers looks like an auditorium. What were they saying, "Let's pile all the computers in one big room, then abandon the building."?
Beyond the tragedies of losing significant architecture and of letting parts of cities rot, you'd think there would be some regulation of owners allowing buildings to fall into such disrepair, for safety's sake, if nothing else.
I have taken my foreign exchange students to Detroit for the last four years. The first year they were shocked at downtown Detroit. There has been some improvement in the last couple years, but not much. I lived in Dearborn through the 50's and 60's. It has really gone down hill since then. I a happy to be living in Traverse City, Michigan now. God's country.
There are plenty of industrial ruins in France, but city cores have never been allowed to rot. In almost every part of France, it remains more prestigious to live in the center of the city rather than in the suburbs. Apart from places like New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago, it seems to rarely be the case in the United States.
bixaorellana: In the past 5 years I have had 13 exchange students from 16 to 18 years of age. I am also getting a Belgium college student for a 6 week work experience and maybe in the summer a couple collage age German students for a 10 week work experience coordinated with our local community college.
I took them to Dearborn to see The Henry Ford and The Greenfield Village. They all seemed to want to see downtown Detroit (I think because of the Hard Rock Cafe.).
Kerouac: Over a 100 years ago Detroit was an industrial center and the people lived as close as possible to their work. After the automobile arrived people started moving out to the outlining cities. The inter-city of Detroit was then taken over by the minorities, especially the blacks. The neighborhoods deteriorated greatly. The last time I was in Detroit I saw block after block completely void of buildings. Eventually this will be rebuilt.
I hope so. I drove through the Bronx a number of years ago, and a lot of it was mostly a grid of streets with empty lots, with just a ruined building here or there that had not yet been demolished yet. I would have taken photographs, but I did not dare stop the car due to the anxiety that the scene engendered.
Mmm ~~ Louis, just to clarify for people who've not visited the US .......... you are saying that the semi-abandoned inner city was then populated by the poorer and more desperate of the population, many of whom happened to be black, are you not?
If I'm not mistaken, at one time there was an migration of unskilled black laborers moving to Detroit in order to better themselves with industry jobs. Since racial prejudice is not confined to the American south, many of the transplanted workers were dismayed to find they'd not left injustice against their race behind. Of course, huge numbers of the transplanted black workers did achieve their dreams of better conditions, wages, etc. But as always happens, a disaffected class was left behind.
Checking what I wrote above, I found this article, which gives some insight.
Is it hard to explain to the exchange students how Detroit is both like and unlike other American cities?
Yes bixaorellana that is basically what I am saying. In the area near Detroit called Hamtramck and was comprised on mainly Polish migrants that worked in the automobile factories. After Henry Ford starting paying $5 a day the people had the money to buy a car and after WWII many of the intercity people moved into the outlying area that was less heavily populated. At this time many of the black people moved into these areas. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamtramck,_Michigan
I lived in Dearborn, Michigan from about 1950 to 1969 and have lived in Traverse City, Michigan since. In the 1950's downtown Detroit was nice and many people when downtown Detroit to shop in some of the large department stores. By the early 1960's the area surrounding downtown Detroit was a slum area and continued to decline. The downtown area is starting to come back and I feel in the next 10 or more years much will be rebuilt into nice homes or condos.
Where I lived in Dearborn we had a completely different situation. We had the famous mayor Orville Hubbard. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orville_Hubbard At that time Dearborn was 100% white. Orville was the reason. At that time the south east area of Dearborn had a population of people from the middle east. At that time they were referred to camel jockeys. At this time Dearborn has the highest concentration of people from the middle east of anywhere in the country. My last visit to Dearborn I could not beleive the difference. Most of old business are no longer there and how most are Arab owners.
Today on the radio, there was a major explanation of Henry Ford, much of which dealt with his support of the Nazis and his general anti semitism. It was mentioned that Adolf Hitler had a large photograph of Henry Ford in his office, because Ford was the person that Hitler most admired. I have not looked it up myself, but what I heard was pretty convincing.
However it was also mentioned that there was a gigantic difference between Ford and Wal-Mart. The Ford philosophy was to give employees a decent salary so that they could buy Ford products. The Wal-Mart philosophy is to keep all of the employees as poor as possible to oblige them to buy Wal-Mart products.
Old Henry was a strange man. I worked for Ford in Dearborn for about 8 years and heard a lot of stories about Henry Ford from the old timers. I have also heard about his antisemitism. He also did some questionable things fighting the labor unions. Ford did do a lot of good and put a lot of people to work. Read a biography of him, he is an interesting man.
Today Detroit announced that they will be closing 23 schools. Two reasons, Detroit like many cities is short of money and the other reason is that they do not have enough students to fill all the schools. The school system in Detroit is millions of dollars in debt.
I was glad to see bixa's article on the Great Migration. I knew that was what Louis XIV meant, but his post was a bit unfortunately worded (happens to us all). Doubt Kerouac remembers who was interviewed on French radio: I know historians in France who've been working on Henry Ford's Nazi sympathies. Grosse Pointe is an upscale Detroit suburb - think "Grosse Pointe Shores" is the really posh part. People of colour, usually domestic, or perhaps delivery people etc, were not allowed to be there after sundown, and there were committees with a screening system, including private investigators, to keep out Jews, southern Europeans etc as householders, even if they had the required funds and professional standing. There were jokes that Jesus Christ himself would not have been allowed in.
Jazz, one of those ironies of history. I'd be a bit afraid of security cycling round some areas of Detroit, simply because people with nothing can resort to crimes of opportunity. I'm sending it to a friend who actually lives in Detroit (works for some kind of community help programme there). Do hope people's lives can get better there, and that some of those gems of 19th and early-20th century architecture can be saved.
Remember, Detroit is right on the Canadian border, so a neighbouring city, especially for Ontarians. It used to be bigger and flashier than Toronto. But then, even Buffalo was 100 years ago.
I think racism played a major part in the decline of central city areas in the US. Of course there is also racism in Britain and France, but the historical circumstances are somewhat different. Most US Blacks were the descendants of former slaves in the South, and while some have always moved northwards (Diego Rivera's great Detroit murals portray African American as well as White workers in the car plants, in the inter-war period), Bixa's article details the great migration following the Second World War and the great expansion of car-dependent suburban sprawl. Most racialised minorities in Britain and France are people from those countries former colonies and their descendants, recruited to work in the colonial metropolis. Naturally Canada has experienced suburban sprawl (and of course various forms of racism) as well, but there has never been emptying out of major city centres to the extent seen just across the border.
My husband was born in Oxford, Michigan and grew up in Lake Orion, Michigan. In the 50's and 60's when he was in school there were laws in the county he lived in which basically said anyone of color should be out of the county before sundown, which was ironic because there were no blacks in the county. He was a junior in high school 1960 before there was a black student in his school, who just happened to be the son of the janitor.
Bixa, you did a great job with posting information about The Great Migration and this happened all over the country in different forms. Most of the larger cities, like Detroit have had similar issues because as more people of color and different ethnic background arrived in cities, they would go toward the inner cities because it was somewhat cheaper to live, and then a phenomenon of "white flight" started and that is how the suburbs started to spring up. Now, thankfully, we are getting a return to inner cities as all people regardless of ethnicity or color are becoming more prosperous, even in this economy and are wanting to live closer to downtown areas which are having some rebirth. This is happening even here in Tucson where we are all working hard to renew our downtown. I am optimistic that now with our new President and the tone of the country changing, we will finally get to the place where we can all live in relative harmony, sure there will always be discrimination but maybe in a couple of generations it will be less prevalent.
When you're chewing on life's gristle[br]Don't grumble, give a whistle[br]And this'll help things turn out for the best...[br]And...always look on the bright side of life...[br]Always look on the light side of life.[br]Monty Python's Life of Brian[br]