Abandoned buildings and other interesting historic bits of the American Midwest
October 12, 2003 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Forgotten Detroit ; the Book-Cadillac, an abandoned hotel in Detroit; Indiana Historic Architecture; the history of Hammond, Indiana; Marktown Historic District, East Chicago, Indiana. The American Midwest seems to be full of interesting, crumbly places.
posted by plep (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Nice, Plep. I always wonder about our fascination with old ruins. Is it akin to visiting cemetaries when not visiting loved one for some perspective on our mortality, entropy?
posted by Postroad at 1:53 PM on October 12, 2003

I'm a huge fan of crumbly places, and have actually lived in a few great crumblies myself. Not necessarily crumbly, but still interesting in terms of midwest older architecture is the Chicago Landmarks site. I've linked to the style section because it shows some interesting, particularly midwest styles such as "Sullivanesque" and "Prairie School", though it also has some examples of exotica such as "Middle Eastern" (which, I suppose we would have to call "Mid East meets Mid West" - or the "MidEMidWe" style).
posted by taz at 2:26 PM on October 12, 2003 [1 favorite]

The American Midwest seems to be full of interesting, crumbly places.

Your Built St. Louis link being another excellent example.

Another one: Upper Michigan's Keweenaw peninsula, once the most productive source of copper in the world. Lots of interesting remnants up there. The ruined stamp mills in Gay and Freda are good for starters.
posted by tss at 3:15 PM on October 12, 2003

The American Midwest seems to be full of interesting, crumbly places.

They don't call it the Rust Belt for nothin'.
posted by BinGregory at 7:44 PM on October 12, 2003

It's more than that, BinGregory. For too long, we have had politicians and developers who believe that new is good and old is bad. We tear down beautiful old buildings to put up modern eyesores. It's not unique to us, I'm sure, but Detroit has been affected with this thinking for a long time. There have been some hopeful signs that this is changing, however.
posted by pmurray63 at 5:20 AM on October 13, 2003

The Detroit Metro Times has an abandoned shelter of the week feature. Some of these buildings seem to have so much potential. (Hats off to Pop Culture Junk Mail for the pointer, a long time ago).

taz and tss :- Thanks for those links. pmurray63 :- I visited the Mid West quite a few times some years back, and I believe that your analysis is spot on (not that this is a phenomenon confined to the Mid West alone, but the 'cult of the new' seems to have taken root there).
posted by plep at 5:32 AM on October 13, 2003

Anyone interested in this thread may have seen this before, but for anyone who hasn't, behold The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit (which was started waaaay back in 1996). He's still at it, adding many other Detroit tours, so even if you have seen the original, you may want to revisit.

Plep -- No, I'm sure it's not confined to us. But this attitude has been here since at least the 1970's, and has led to such modern archetectural "gems" as this.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:03 AM on October 13, 2003

And such others as this, and this.

Not all new buildings are bad. Not all old buildings are good. Just because we've destroyed a few good old buildings doesn't mean all old buildings should be saved. Just because we've built ugly buildings recently doesn't mean we shouldn't build new buildings.

Chicago is better off for having 333 W. Wacker, The John Hancock Center, the Smurfit Stone building, and many others. Mistakes were made. Mistakes are still being made. And yet, Modern and Postmodern schools of architecture have made the Chicago Skyline the work of art that it is.
posted by eriko at 11:07 AM on October 13, 2003 [1 favorite]

There's also historic farm architecture. For more see Beautiful Barns from the Barn Again joint venture between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and, uh, Chevy Trucks.
posted by jengod at 12:01 PM on October 13, 2003

(former detroiter) i've actually visited the train station referenced above a few times. quite an amazing place -- i do so much hope they actually do something with it; they guy that owns it is actually the same guy that owns the ambassador bridge.

detroit is just like that though: there are ways in which the city and buildings have decayed that you simply can't explain by natural or explainable human means: you have to introduce a complete nuclear apocalypse in there somewhere to get a more accurate picture.

here are some photos we took
posted by 11235813 at 3:23 PM on October 13, 2003

before | after
posted by 11235813 at 3:32 PM on October 13, 2003

I always wonder about our fascination with old ruins.

Maybe the appeal is simply that you can get in and explore a space that's usually off limits. I get the same buzz inside any empty building, abandoned, vacant, or newly built.
posted by dydecker at 3:57 PM on October 13, 2003

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