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Friday, June 30, 2006

A Life in Ruins

Posted by on June 30 at 18:06 PM

An impressive corpse, Detroit’s Book-Cadillac Hotel:

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here's the best site for amazing photos (and videos!) of the Urban Ruins Park that is Detroit. Oh how I miss her.....

Wow, what a beautiful and powerful site. I've never been but it reminds me of my hometown, Louisville, Ky, which has befallen a largely similar (though less severe) fate, as have many towns in the midwest. Think, this is what we could do to Seattle, if we tear down our history...

First I used to spend a lot of time at (after my first and only visit to the city about 6 years ago) and I find the whole thing fascinating.

What really strikes me though is just how fantastically beautiful Detroit is and the circumstances surrounding its rise and eventual fall. It is important to lay these things out so that Seattle people in particular can take note of what happened there, to hopefully prevent it happening here; and also because birds of a feather flock together and Pollyanna can certainly learn a few things from Pollyanna.

So... Detroit. At the turn of the 20th century, it was about the 20th largest city in America and was not terribly well-developed, but it was established. The auto industry had pushed Detroit into the spot of 7th largest American city by the 30s, which began a period of about 40 years of prosperity which saw Detroit as a pretty fantastic place to be; ergo the Book-Cadillac was constructed there.

In the 70s the "white flight" emptied out Detroit, owing in large part to a few things, notable among them being stingy people who weren't interested in sharing their prosperity with newcomers which just happened to coincide with the racist attitudes of so many of those people making them so much less willing to share their prosperity with the newly arriving blacks who were seeking said same prosperity.

Now Seattle has been a boom-and-bust town over the years; so much so that during one particularly harsh recession (and back when there were billboards more frequently occuring around the area) that someone put up a billboard reading "Will the last person leaving Seattle please turn out the lights".

This all feeds back into the sense of community and place that are developed in a given city, and the importance of these factors can not be overstated. While Seattle's population and economic growth cycles have been on what might be termed a "slower burn" and were certainly less drastic than what Detroit experienced, one can certainly not discount the feeling one gets when visiting Detroit for the first time. The classic layout, the beautiful (if eerily abandonded) architecture, the tree-lined streets. The feeling of some greatness which we can not begin to contemplate in our time should certainly give us all pause as we consider that really, it wouldn't be so crazy to contemplate Detroit as a thriving city once again.

If we could get on Detroit's side that is, stop shaking our heads and muttering under our breath and behaving in our wrye and superior manor. There but for the grace of God go us all...

I was at a Tigers game a couple years back discussing the view. My uncle thought they had a better view than Safeco... except for one problem.

When it got dark, half the downtown skyline was completely dark. Those were the abandonned skyscrapers.

Very sad. The church I was baptized at got torn down and now it's just a vacant lot. Nothing ever got done with the property.

Don't write that hotel off as a corpse just yet. The just closed on a deal to restore it - half the building will be condos, the other half a Westin hotel. All the public areas to be refurbished. There's several threads about it on

BTW, Some more great pictures of the abandoned building, including their interiors can be found at

Interesting shot. There's a similar building in Memphis that mostly dominates the skyline (such as it is) and has been vacant for years and years at this point.

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