I'm trying to visit all 50 states, and as of last Tuesday, I had made it to 47, with only New Mexico, Hawaii and Michigan remaining. So last Wednesday, on a road trip from NYC to visit my sister in Asheville, I took a little side trip to...Detroit. Detroit is an astonishing place that has long fascinated me: a huge city that has lost more than 50% of its population (which peaked at about 2 million in 1950).
What's left is remarkable. Not really a ghost town, since the city is still very much alive, but something else altogether, with lots of potential, signs of past and future glory, but just no people. Keep in mind that I took the photos below on a weekday afternoon leading right into rush hour, and notice how few people you see.
Also remarkable is that Detroit, rather than turning to yet another bogus casino plan or shopping mall, is planning to raze thousands of houses in desolate areas, relocate the remaining inhabitants, and actually contract the city (a project detailed in the NY Times right after my visit). And what's really cool about that plan is that they actually intend to let some of the remaining areas return to nature, a process that is already underway:
Michigan Central Station--totally abandonded.
What's amazing is that altough most of these buildings in these pictures are empty, the places I saw are generally pretty clean, and even at the abandoned train station the grass was recently mowed, and the plants you see in the above picture are actually part of an art project.
The downtown area is a mixture of still occupied buildings and abondonded ones, with the skyline dominated by the maze-like GM "RenCenter":
I spent 30 minutes trying to find my way from inside the Ren Center to the adorable one-way, two-car "People Mover"
There weren't many people on the train I rode, although there was a cop. From the people mover, I did a loop around the downtown:
Another art project near the above site:
I got my car washed here:
There are signs of life, though! My friend Dolly, who had just visited Detroit recently, told me about a remarkable BBQ restaurant within view of the abandoned train station, called Slows:
The place was absolutely packed, and the food was incredible:
There's also a pretty active entertainment district:
In addition, every occupied housing area I passed was well kept and obviously well loved, with strong signs of a community. I wish Detroit the best, and it seems to me they are handling this situation as best they can, with a bold plan that will be politically difficult but probably the only thing that has a chance. New Orleans (pictures from my trip there earlier this year here) could learn from Detroit, I think. More pictures here.