Friday, January 30, 2009

The Most Wondrous and Depressing Web Site

DetroitYES is a forum for exploring the ruins and history of Detroit as well as discussing its potential futures. In 1950 the population of the city had swelled to 1,849,568. Today it's fallen to 916,952. The history of racial conflict and economic decline in Detroit is way too complex to go into here at this time and I don't know enough about it.

I first got a sense of the city's decline and parlous state after I read "Devil's Night" by Zev Chafets back in 1992 or thereabouts (which I got in the temporary discount book store that was in the old Richmond Avenue Rockbottom back around that time). Detroit was a city that held no place in my brain except as some sort of place with car factories. Little did I know that that was increasingly a thing of the past and that the city founded in 1701 by Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac was a rotting corpse with little chance of revivication.

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The Urban Prairie of St. Cyril's - Seemingly countless blocks of working class homes have been swept away by time and tide and the wrecker's ball.

Since then I've learned a little more about Detroit and its fall, particularly following the riot of 1967. Economic collapse, racial animosity, political corruption and just plain meanness took a city that once numbered almost 2 million down to under 1 million and its populations continues to fall.

I once thought cities aren't disposable. How could things ever happen that would lead to the abandonment of vast swaths of expensive or desirable real estate? Recently I've been reminded of the great lost cities of antiquity like Ur and Sumer. Time passes them by, populations shift and the flow of history is diverted to flow in other directions. That's what's happened to Detroit and other American cities like Baltimore and Newark. It's just happened in our own short lifetimes, not over the ages like in the Fertile Crescent.

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Just tooling around on GoogleMaps I found this liquor store housed in the husk of what was probably a bank in the midst of nowhere.

Also check out: Forgotten Detroit

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