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We’ve all heard of the Lost City of Atlantis, but what about the Lost City of Detroit? It’s staggering to think that the once proud Motor City could disintegrate into almost total decay. But it’s even more mind boggling to imagine how this dilapidated town could be such a treasure trove of stunning architecture from the Gilded Age of America.
Detroit’s skyline is a blend of architectural styles from Art Deco to postmodern and neogothic. The downtown skyscrapers give way to a sprawling cityscape that over the years has launched Motown and served as the world’s traditional automotive centre. But despite ongoing restoration efforts the city has continued to decline amid rising unemployment and burgeoning crime.
It is perhaps not surprising that this once wealthy city is now a repository for some of America’s most grand but decayed buildings. Sad as this may be, it does present an opportunity for urban explorers to capture haunting images that transport us through a door in time.
Michigan Central Station
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This awe-inspiring building was constructed in 1913 for the Michigan Central Railroad, and still captures the golden days of rail travel. It was the tallest railway station in the world when it was built, but closed in January 1988 following the cessation of Amtrak. The station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 but despite its redevelopment being considered a key component of Detroit’s overall economic regeneration, any attempts to do so have never made it beyond the negotiation phase.
Astoundingly, Detroit City Council passed a resolution earlier this year for expodited demolition. In response, Detroit resident Stanley Christmas sued the city to stop the demolition, citing the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The station’s future is currently unclear. Check out more images here.
Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church
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Another building with an uncertain future, this Gothic Revival church was built in 1911 by architect Sidney Bagley. Used for a time as the Abyssinia Church of God in Christ, the building has fallen into disrepair despite being placed on the historic buildings register in 1982. But unlike many derelict structures, the interior has been left untouched and consequently enabled the photographer to capture these atmospheric images.
The Michigan Theatre
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The ‘Before’ and ‘After’ pictures say it all. This is the former Michigan Theater, built in 1926, facing what was once the stage. Today, the gutted theatre has, for some historians, become a symbol of Detroit’s decline, with cars now filling the cavernous auditorium. Ironically, the former theatre stands on the site of a small garage where Henry Ford built his first car – so perhaps its current role is fitting!
In many ways, these images are the most poignant, capturing urban decay at its most effervescent. They may not be the most dramatic, but what is left of the ornate ceiling serves as a stark reminder that while the past may be tantalisingly close, some buildings are beyond redemption. As you can see here, this shell of a building now serves as a makeshift car park (see Time Magazine’s photo-essay about abandoned Detroit).
More Images of Abandoned Detroit