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100 Abandoned Houses in Detroit
April 3, 2009 12:33 PM   Subscribe

100 Abandoned Houses. A photo essay from Detroit-based photographer Kevin Bauman.
posted by dersins (71 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Okay, someone had to say it:

Detroitfilter?

posted by jester69 at 12:39 PM on April 3, 2009


I'd buy that for $1!
posted by mazola at 12:39 PM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Detroit is going to become an economy based off of supporting photographers who take pictures of abandoned buildings.
posted by cimbrog at 12:40 PM on April 3, 2009 [56 favorites]


Detroit is going to become an economy based off of supporting photographers who take pictures of abandoned buildings.

Probably more of a market for that than for shitty American cars.
posted by dersins at 12:45 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I bet there's some mighty tasty raccoons running around in those houses.
posted by oddman at 12:47 PM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


While it does seem like there's a lot of this going around right now, I'm actually still enjoying photos of decaying Detroit. Surely it will get old eventually, but for me, not yet.
posted by snofoam at 12:58 PM on April 3, 2009


For the record, I really like all these links. Entropy is awesome.
posted by jester69 at 1:01 PM on April 3, 2009


Also, bailout idea:

Maybe the government could take some of the not-totally-collapsing-yet ones and renovate them to barely-livable status, then lease them for $1/year to punk rock bands. Motor City could rock as it collapses.
posted by snofoam at 1:02 PM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is sad, but beautiful. Thank you for posting.
posted by sarabeth at 1:07 PM on April 3, 2009


Also, it seems that there are only 97 houses in this photo essay.
posted by snofoam at 1:09 PM on April 3, 2009


While it does seem like there's a lot of this going around right now, I'm actually still enjoying photos of decaying Detroit...

I've shrugged at a lot of these posts. But this one shows me just had bad things have gotten. A lot of those were once very grand houses. In my area, there's NO WAY many of those houses would be left to rot. A sturdy brick house with a yard around it, even in a troubled neighborhood, would be lived in and loved.

A lot of the previous photo essays have mostly depicted abandoned row houses, or plain "Little Boxes" post-war capes that you can find anywhere. And they're still sad because you almost see the ghosts of happy times in them. But many of these houses are practically mansions and it illustrates just how drastically the city's fortunes have changed.
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:09 PM on April 3, 2009


I think we killed it. But of the little I did see, I can say that I wish there was more information about them. It's probably not too long before arson or the elements claim many of them and they deserve to be identified while there's still something left.
posted by tommasz at 1:17 PM on April 3, 2009


Sir Mayor, I agree that these are some fantastic looking houses gone to rot, but out where land is still plentiful, location is everything. You can always move farther away. I don't have much hope for it, but perhaps old building like this will become loved once again when the suburbs finally become untenable.
posted by cimbrog at 1:20 PM on April 3, 2009


Lovely houses and photos. Lousy design makes my mouse cursor disappear like I have a 1024x768 blind-spot.

-
posted by General Tonic at 1:22 PM on April 3, 2009


The brick ones kill me. They're lovely. tommasz, these houses are not recently abandoned - people have been leaving Detroit since the 70's and there are vast tracts of the city which are simply uninhabited now.

snofoam - the other three collapsed before they could be photographed. </snark>
posted by Michael Roberts at 1:34 PM on April 3, 2009


Oh, man. I love abandoned houses but some of those broke my heart. (As I sit here in my 1980s era character-free suburban townhouse.)

Porches! Arches! Turret-looking-things! They don't make them like that anymore.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:34 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


In two years I'm going to go to Detroit and photograph the last 100 occupied houses.
posted by snofoam at 1:36 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, it seems that there are only 97 houses in this photo essay

There are a few with multiple houses in them.
posted by cimbrog at 1:37 PM on April 3, 2009


What I want are some nice pictures of some moderately priced homes in Livonia.
posted by punkfloyd at 1:37 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


moderately priced homes in Livonia.

what
posted by cimbrog at 1:39 PM on April 3, 2009


I have really mixed feelings about all this Detroitfilter. I think it's also very interesting that all of this is happening now, all of this attention being paid to Detroit, when the basic situation there has been going on for years. I remember driving through Detroit in the late 90s and seeing tons and tons of abandoned buildings and thinking there was a weird beauty to it. It's like Detroit has become this symbol of the nation's anxieties about the ongoing economic disaster. But the way that people seem to be relating to it is a lot like the way people seem to relate to a grisly car crash: by stopping and gawking without doing anything to help.

As a white child of the Detroit suburbs, I feel simultaneously close to and distant from the city. I mean, I hardly ever went there as a kid and the message I got from my parents and other adults was very much, "Detroit is unsafe and foreign; you don't want to go there", with a heavy undercurrent of subtle racism. Now, I have a good chunk of friends who are living in the city and are part of the whole white hippie urban farming movement there. I think Grace Lee Bogg's vision of Detroit as the birthplace of a new kind of city is amazing and inspiring. I sort of love that artists are using the abandoned places of the urban landscape as canvases. But I also feel like the continual painting of the city as a postapocalyptic wasteland, as an empty canvas, has a disturbing resemblance to all the laments about the inevitable death of Native American peoples, while they were (and are!) still here. People are still in Detroit, living and struggling and suffering and making art. The city's not dead!
posted by overglow at 1:42 PM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Abandoned House #30 is my favorite. I just need to add a moat around it, and I'll be all set.

There's only 97 houses. Did the artist abandoned his work about abandoned houses? Is it implying that he believes his work, like the houses, still has a chance to change? Or does he have his eye on 3 really nice houses and he's just waiting for them to be abandoned?
posted by ShadowCrash at 1:44 PM on April 3, 2009


I'd like to know what's up with the houses that have fancy faux-old lightfixtures and brand new curbs/streets. (#2 and #24 for example.)
posted by vespabelle at 1:48 PM on April 3, 2009


cimbrog, in the photos with multiple abandoned houses, they are each numbered, so there are still only 97 houses, and even fewer photos.
posted by snofoam at 1:56 PM on April 3, 2009


What I want are some nice pictures of some moderately priced homes in Livonia.

No matter how cheap the houses are, I don't want to live under the iron fist of Dr. Doom.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:00 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


cimbrog, in the photos with multiple abandoned houses, they are each numbered, so there are still only 97 houses, and even fewer photos.

Yeah, I noticed that after posting. Metafilter: Your mistakes will stand for all eternity.

On-topic, in relation to overglow's comments, while the jokes I've heard from Michiganders range from, "Last one to leave turn off the lights," and "Kick it out of the union and declare it a free city," it has been in these Detroitfilter posts that I have developed a view that is less Mad Max and more Yokohama Kaidashi KikĊ.
posted by cimbrog at 2:02 PM on April 3, 2009


A lot of those were once very grand houses. In my area, there's NO WAY many of those houses would be left to rot. A sturdy brick house with a yard around it, even in a troubled neighborhood, would be lived in and loved.

Welcome to the rust belt. My city, Pittsburgh, isn't anywhere as bad off as Detroit but there are plenty of big brick mansions that have been rotting away for decades. I've known people who bought houses for less than you'd buy an economy car. Fortunately, brick houses with slate roofs can sit empty for generations without structural damage. You've got to replace all of the plumbing, heating and wiring but the walls and floors are often in pretty good shape.
posted by octothorpe at 2:09 PM on April 3, 2009


I first heard it in punk: Detroit City is the place to go / if you wanna lick gonads or blow a stiff.

Thank you, Meatmen. You helped shape my idea of Michigan.
posted by adipocere at 2:19 PM on April 3, 2009


Cleveland is oddly different. Abandoned luxury is harder to find, at least along the formerly wealthy Euclid strip. The reason for this, fascinatingly, is greed. Many wealthy business owners lived in fabulous houses that they couldn't bear the idea of sharing. So, they stipulated in their wills that either their families continue to live there, or no one does.

An entire generation of architecture, razed.
posted by spamguy at 2:22 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are there any photo essays of the nearby suburbs that have been fled to?

I know, probably not very interesting in-and-of themselves, but context is everything.
posted by pokermonk at 2:23 PM on April 3, 2009


You know, given MeFi's apparent love for the Motor City, I'm beginning to think that we should just have the 10th anniversary party there. We can bring bottles of booze and check out all the amazing ruins. And there'll be enough of us to scare off any potential attacker.

Who's with me?
posted by Afroblanco at 2:50 PM on April 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


"But this one shows me just had bad things have gotten."

Back around '85, '86, I remember going with my parents to look at a place in Detroit that was literally a mansion. Thirteen bedrooms, a marble pool and fountain in the foyer, all for under $30,000, which was easily affordable. But as my parents were still in negotiations, a nun was raped on the stairs of a church less than a block away.

While a fair amount of the decay has progressed, and there are certainly fewer folks there, a misleading impression that a lot of these photos give is that Detroit is actively getting worse. It's not, not really. It bottomed out in the late '80s through early '90s, when the plants had only recently shut down. That's when, for instance, there was the fire at the book depository, and when Devil's Night really was huge. A fair amount of the perception of sudden attention is that now, after twenty some years, the worst parts of Detroit have stopped getting worse and artsy folk are starting to move back in and document how bad it got.

I had a pal who did a similar set of photos (really, pretty much every photographer who gets any sort of degree in Southeastern Michigan has to), where he shot everything from his car a couple years ago. Ten years ago, the places where he was going would have been rough enough that even stopping would have attracted too much attention to photograph. And I know, what, about four different photographers who made the mistake of trying to lug a large format camera down there only to be jacked for it (which makes me wonder if there are some amazing sheet cameras at pawn shops on the East Side).

It really is a shame that so much of the structural institutions of government in Detroit are so fucked and dysfunctional, because it really does need a massive reform in terms of urban planning and basic services.
posted by klangklangston at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Who's with me?

Dude, you know it.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:55 PM on April 3, 2009


There are some similar photos from St. Louis, at the wonderful Built St. Louis site if you like that kind of thing. Also Lost and endangered buildings of St. Louis. St. Louis also has a lot of wonderful old brick architecture that sadly is being left to rot, especially on the north side.
posted by Ostara at 2:59 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Detroit could make Halloween their Mardi Gras with all the haunted houses for background. They could make a killing on tourism and candy sales.
posted by snofoam at 3:04 PM on April 3, 2009


This is heartbreaking. All that human endeavor -- uncounted thousands of man-hours of labor -- down the drain.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:06 PM on April 3, 2009


Oh! Providence has one too!
posted by lunit at 3:14 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Detroit continues to leave me exasperated with it's collection of ruins...
posted by new and improved buzzman IV at 3:27 PM on April 3, 2009


It's funny, the abandoned houses in Baltimore, since they're almost all row houses, don't really have the same feel. It looks much more like a bombed out city than these photos show.

Nice post. Thanks.
posted by OmieWise at 3:40 PM on April 3, 2009


Too bad the street addresses aren't included. I would love to see some of these building from above using Google Satelite. Does anyone know of any good starting points, streets, neighborhoods in Detroid where I can search for some of these building using Google Maps.
posted by f5seth at 3:52 PM on April 3, 2009


What strikes me is how empty the yards are. No styrofoam cups or chip bags, no old planters, no tires - nothing. No sign of human habitation left except for the structure - like a film set that's been abandoned.
posted by HopperFan at 3:59 PM on April 3, 2009



I first heard it in punk: Detroit City is the place to go / if you wanna lick gonads or blow a stiff.

Thank you, Meatmen. You helped shape my idea of Michigan.


Any lesson you learned from The Meatmen is probably one you want to forget. Hey, I could be wrong though: is it true that Detroit is the best place to go tooling for anus? Do crippled children, in fact, suck?
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:17 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I keep thinking about the last days anyone lived in these houses. Having given up hope of finding work, having realized that the house they'd spent so long living in, paying for, keeping up, was not even worth selling. At some point, someone stood on these front porches for the last time, key in hand, wondering whether to even bother locking the door behind them.
posted by MrVisible at 4:37 PM on April 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Looking at these pictures, I'm reminded of some of the images of post-Katrina New Orleans. Both cities were hit by hurricanes -- one meteorological, and one economic.

I can't be the first person to make this observation.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:39 PM on April 3, 2009


You're not, but that doesn't make it not a good observation.
posted by dersins at 4:48 PM on April 3, 2009


Whoops. Second link should have gone here.
posted by dersins at 4:50 PM on April 3, 2009


Wow. Yeah, that makes sense. The whole gallery reminded me of last summer, when I spent some time riding around the Lower Ninth with Navelgazer. If you would have told me that some of these pics were taken in NOLA, I wouldn't have doubted you.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:08 PM on April 3, 2009


The city's not dead!

Yet.
posted by oddman at 5:31 PM on April 3, 2009


"I can't be the first person to make this observation."

Detroit was exactly what I thought of when I spent spring break in NOLA the winter after Katrina.
posted by klangklangston at 5:40 PM on April 3, 2009


You've got to replace all of the plumbing, heating and wiring but the walls and floors are often in pretty good shape.

Fortunately, your neighborhood scrap metal scavenger has already ripped out the old plumbing and wiring for you.
posted by formless at 5:54 PM on April 3, 2009


Once the roof goes the rest quickly follows and that only takes 10 or 20 years. Many of these are obviously maintained, in the most basic sense (roof), because of historical value, surrounded by empty fields that once contained houses that were not so lucky, a token remnant of a former neighborhood, a seed to build a new houses around, perhaps modeled on the old. Indeed, these pictures are full of optimism and hope since these buildings are even still standing and haven't been raised, like so many others obviously have.
posted by stbalbach at 5:56 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where the wild things aren't . Photos of Detroit's abandoned Belle Isle Zoo.
posted by various at 5:57 PM on April 3, 2009


Oh, here it is on Metafilter.
posted by various at 6:04 PM on April 3, 2009


I just had dinner with someone who lives in Detroit and she was fairly pissed at the "dying Detroit" photo genre. She said that large sections of the city are just fine, and that she has a good life there full or arts and culture, and that these photo essays of boarded up buildings are lazy and give an exaggerated idea of Detroit's problems.
posted by LarryC at 6:22 PM on April 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Abandoned Detroit Schools

This all just creeps me out. Seriously. It's like the Wild West.
posted by starfyr at 6:55 PM on April 3, 2009


Ten years ago, the places where he was going would have been rough enough that even stopping would have attracted too much attention to photograph.

I visited Manchester in 1990 and walked through Whalley Range (against the advice of the Manchester tourist centre I visited, who seemed to think I was nuts to even consider it) but I was too freaked to even pull out my camera, much less take any pictures.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:12 PM on April 3, 2009


This was on the front page of Sweet Juniper today. A street of 66 houses with 60 of them in various states of vacancy and decay. He took a picture of all the houses and stitched them together with only 2 looking occupied. A ghost street (google map).
posted by phirleh at 7:13 PM on April 3, 2009


In Flint they are considering closing down parts of the city.
posted by various at 7:40 PM on April 3, 2009


As much fun I had in Detroit, seeing great bands at St. Andrews, these posts make me sad, but only to a point. I still remember my years at Central Michigan and how every asshole from the suburbs and the city itself tell me what a scary redneck I was for being from up north. So I can't feel too, too bad for the downfall of that goddamn city. *sniff, sniff, so conflicted*
posted by NoMich at 8:57 PM on April 3, 2009


The house my dad grew up in, in East Detroit, is abandoned. Unlike the ones that Kevin Bauman chose to photograph, it's no multistory 1880s pile complete with crenelations. It's a modest Cape Cod that my dad remembers being built in 1948.

The neighborhood, all white when he grew up, is now integrated and pretty much stable -- this house, for whatever reason, is one of about 2-3 per block that are unoccupied. You could buy any of them for around $10,000. But as people note, once you lose the roof, it's not very many winters before the entire structure is lost.

The family sold the house in the 1980s, when my grandmother moved out. Visited a few weeks back on a trip to a conference. It's a pretty strange seeing graffiti on the same walls you recognize from family Christmas pictures circa 1963.
posted by squid patrol at 11:36 PM on April 3, 2009


I think Flint and Youngstown have the right idea.
posted by oddman at 6:59 AM on April 4, 2009


"This is heartbreaking. All that human endeavor -- uncounted thousands of man-hours of labor -- down the drain."

All human endeavor goes the way of earth and dust, all of it. It's the way of things.
posted by oddman at 7:01 AM on April 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey dersins, I know this link, but it's good to keep up the quality around here. Some other nice postings--I liked the WWI aviation. Thought you'd enjoy this flickr North Dakota abandoned farms and buildings of the prairie.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:34 AM on April 4, 2009


I wonder why you don't see more photographs of the abandoned towers downtown? I think just about the only thing that People Mover is good for is touring the ruins of Downtown Detroit. Seeing photograph after photograph of abandoned Detroit homes didn't really prepare me for that.

Growing up in a Sunbelt boomtown made visiting Detroit for the first time especially affecting. Though here are some gratuitous photos of my favorite abandoned tower back home.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 9:31 AM on April 4, 2009



I visited Manchester in 1990 and walked through Whalley Range


"What do we get for our trouble and pain?"
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:44 AM on April 4, 2009


Oh! Providence has one too!
posted by lunit at 6:14 PM


Wow! This is great - if you ever wanted to do anything to turn things around and give people enough information to consider turning things around, this site does it. I wonder if it's having any effect in Providence?
posted by nnk at 3:44 PM on April 4, 2009


These pictures speak volumes. They also give you a kind of Great Depression moment, although obviously many of them were abandoned well before the subprime catastrophe.
posted by blue shadows at 1:46 AM on April 5, 2009


It is so interesting seeing what happens to an unkempt house in simply 10-20 years. It really shows how much work we have to do to keep them in good shape.
posted by Shiggedyswa at 5:51 PM on April 5, 2009


I wonder if it's having any effect in Providence?

Well, the blog is starting to get some local press around here, so maybe it will start to? Everyone who lives here knows it's a problem, but things move very slowly in Rhode Island.
posted by lunit at 7:21 AM on April 7, 2009


Maybe the government could take some of the not-totally-collapsing-yet ones and renovate them to barely-livable status, then lease them for $1/year to punk rock bands. Motor City could rock as it collapses.

We built raised this city on rock and roll?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:40 AM on April 7, 2009


One last comment about Providence - A local State Rep. writes a piece about the blog and the foreclosure here.
posted by lunit at 7:45 AM on April 7, 2009


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