Detroit Demolition Disneyland
February 15, 2006 9:38 AM   Subscribe

The "D" stands for Demolition. In an attempt at building awareness of Detroit's rotting, decaying neighborhoods(as if one needed further awareness), the Detroit Demolition Disneyland project finds long-abandoned, neglected structures that the city has failed to demolish and paints them with Tiggerific Orange paint.
posted by 40 Watt (36 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First time I heard Detroit Demolition used as a derogatory catch phrase was in 1972.

Some things NEVER change.
posted by HTuttle at 9:43 AM on February 15, 2006

posted by jazon at 9:47 AM on February 15, 2006

Excellent post - I hadn't heard of this (I'm an ex-Detroiter). Two wonderful organizations in the city that love to tear down houses are The Detroit Project and Motor City Blight Busters - I've had the pleasure of working with both.
posted by bbuda at 9:51 AM on February 15, 2006

Do people pay for housing in detroit? Seems like a squatter's paradise.
posted by beerbajay at 10:03 AM on February 15, 2006

Great post, thanks. I wonder if Cleveland (Recently dethroned from being the poorest city in the USA) has nearly that much abandoned property.
posted by vkxmai at 10:27 AM on February 15, 2006

There is also a very negative side to building demolition in Detroit.
posted by JJ86 at 10:27 AM on February 15, 2006

Dang, JJ86, I worked right around the corner from the Madison in Harmonie Park. I didn't know they finally knocked it down. That sucks....
posted by 40 Watt at 10:30 AM on February 15, 2006

There is also a very negative side to building demolition in Detroit.

Apples and oranges. Er... literally.
posted by deCadmus at 10:44 AM on February 15, 2006

I'd seen some of these orange houses, but didn't realize why it was being done. Good on 'em. The abandoned houses need to go. Vacant lots make wonderful garden land or pheasant habitat. Abadoned housing just creates more crack houses.

JJ86, demolition of big buildings is a completely different matter than house demo.
posted by QIbHom at 10:46 AM on February 15, 2006

anyone got photoblogs of detroit ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:50 AM on February 15, 2006

that is fantastic! thanks for the post.
posted by tarantula at 10:51 AM on February 15, 2006


Cleveland's NPR had a report on that this morning. They focused on some nonprofits that try to buy up the abandoned property. I was still rather sleepy when the program aired this morning, maybe I should listen again.
posted by sohcahtoa at 10:56 AM on February 15, 2006

Man, what is the point of putting paint chips on the internet? I mean, they might as well just say "It's orangeish".
posted by delmoi at 11:03 AM on February 15, 2006

sgt. serenity - check out detroitblog and detroitfunk - both excellent blogs (detroitfunk was linked in the OP, but is worth mentioning several more times).
posted by sluggo at 11:04 AM on February 15, 2006

For a different kind of detroit photoblog, check out the snowsuit effort. I'll shut up now.
posted by sluggo at 11:05 AM on February 15, 2006

remember in 8 mile where eminem and his friends burned down that old house? That was totaly sweet.
posted by delmoi at 11:06 AM on February 15, 2006

sgt. serenity: really great photos here)

Not all of these are really photoblogs, but there's a lot of photos in there.
posted by 40 Watt at 11:10 AM on February 15, 2006

oh yeah, and:
posted by 40 Watt at 11:11 AM on February 15, 2006

Jesus, sluggo... that Snowsuit Effort site is unbelievable. Thanks for posting that.
posted by 40 Watt at 11:14 AM on February 15, 2006

God, I wish someone would do this to the Austin Athletic Club, which has been abandoned since it flooded in 1981. The city just paid some contractor $30,000 (!) to evaluate whether it should be destroyed and what should be built in its place. Still it sits.
posted by lunalaguna at 11:19 AM on February 15, 2006

There is something to be said for NOT demolishing some buildings, and just stabilizing them in a state of decay. Not in a neighborhood where the ruin becomes and eyesore, and not in a way that creates a dangerous situation, but all over Europe there are ruins that are appreciated for their historic and architectural qualities, ranging from the Acropolis to the abandoned cottages of Irish subsistence farmers. America should develop some appreciation for ruins as ruins, rather than the restore-or-remove approach.
posted by beagle at 11:33 AM on February 15, 2006

America should develop some appreciation for ruins as ruins.

I understand what you are saying, but I'd be willing to bet you have never been to Detroit. As a kid from rural southern Ohio, I always looked forward to going to Detroit to visit my extended family in the "big city." I fondly remember trips to Tiger Stadium and Boblo Island. But the last time I was there, the main interstate from the south (I75) was completely shut down due to road construction. As a result, I got hopelessly lost trying to find my way around unfamiliar side streets. The scenery was just surreal. It really did look like a bombed-out city with mortar-shell holes in the middle of the streets. I'm no stranger to urban decay; I've lived in North Philadelphia and East London. But I've never seen a landscape as bleak as that and I can't imagine any value in preserving it.

If you want more photos of abandoned Detroit, there's a photoset on flickr.
posted by Otis at 12:45 PM on February 15, 2006

How dangerous are these abandoned parts of Detroit? Is a person lible to get gunned down in a turf war or are packs of dogs the real worry? It sounds like there is a great opprotunity for some photography in these areas.
posted by Mitheral at 1:12 PM on February 15, 2006

QIbHom: JJ86, demolition of big buildings is a completely different matter than house demo.

Yeah, I know. Buildings are big and houses are small. Otherwise not much different. Everything has a history. All of the turn of the century mansions in Brush Park were treated in the same way as Illitch's skyscrapers. The houses in the link met the same fate of neglect and ignorance and pissing all over a grand history.
posted by JJ86 at 1:15 PM on February 15, 2006

Mitheral: How dangerous are these abandoned parts of Detroit? Is a person lible to get gunned down in a turf war or are packs of dogs the real worry? It sounds like there is a great opprotunity for some photography in these areas.

It depends on where you are talking. There is a thriving sub-culture of urban explorer tourism in Detroit. I loved exploring sites like the train station, Brush Park, and just wandering around many abandoned buildings in the center. You have to watch your back like anywhere but I never felt in danger. Probably more to worry about from the cops and security guards.
posted by JJ86 at 1:18 PM on February 15, 2006

Ruins can be beautiful things, even more modern day ones but Detroit has more than it's fair share. Many of the abandoned structures in Detroit have historical significance but most are just a symbol of Detroit's tragic fall. The internet has a few interesting videos filmed before Detroit embraced entropy.
posted by substrate at 1:20 PM on February 15, 2006

There is nothing I can think of sadder than an abandoned home.
posted by JHarris at 2:38 PM on February 15, 2006

I miss the mansions in Brush Park. But, they were torn down so Illitch and gang could make more money. Just as Illitch's skyscrapers sit there, so he can cash in someday.

In my neighbourhood, there really isn't any value to the abandoned houses, except to the crack dealers. They don't get torn down, because no rich white men from north of 8 Mile make money off them.

But an awful lot of poor white men from north of 8 Mile buy crack in my neighbourhood.
posted by QIbHom at 3:38 PM on February 15, 2006

I remembered this and found a nice article on it:

Whether via neglect, fire, or the odd Cajun musician, block after block of Detroit succumbed to the bulldozer over the decades, but it wasn't until 1993, during a budget presentation to Detroit's City Council, that the city's unbuilding binge rocketed to national attention. On that day Detroit's ombudsman proposed that blighted sectors of the city be put out to pasture. Detroit would literally be downsized — "20, 25 blocks or so at a whack." The plan called for residents to be ferried from moribund districts to those where a spark of life could still be found. Derelict houses would be demolished, empty stretches fenced off, and the whole mess turned over to "nature." It was an oddly intriguing idea — in some quarters, anyway — and proponents pointed out that "mothballing" was a common practice for bombed-out neighborhoods in European cities after World War II. If it's good enough for Dresden, it's good enough for Detroit. Demolition costs for the project were put at up to $4,000 per house, but since the city was spending four million dollars each year to maintain its 66,000 vacant lots, this was a modest sum indeed. Plus, wrecking one-third of the city would make vast parcels of land attractive to developers. Having got hold of the story, the Economist mustered a stiff upper lip, concluding that "wholesale abandonment of parts of the city begins to make grim sense."

Oddly, some of the most enthusiastic supporters were the residents of these neighborhoods.
posted by dhartung at 4:19 PM on February 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

So...what happened to Detroit? I mean, one day it's a bright lights big city, and then what? What turned it into the wasteland it seems to have become? Where did all the people go?

I'm not asking to be snarky. I've just never lived anywhere where the developers weren't rapacious bastards that would pave over grandma to get a land footprint big enough to put something on. There seems to be a really astoundingly fast "gentrification cycle" in the south. Slums become renovated as soon as the price hits the point that first time owners can buy in en masse, there's not really any sort of mass housing, like the giant high housing down here never gets a chance to become abandoned. Not in the cities, anyhow.

I've only driven through Detroit once, so I can't speak to the situation on the ground there, but from what I gather from stories and pictures, there are vast, huge, tracts of properties that have been abandoned and left to is that possible? Someone explain to me where all the people go, and why the area hasn't be redeveloped?
posted by dejah420 at 6:47 PM on February 15, 2006

dejah420 writes "I mean, one day it's a bright lights big city, and then what? What turned it into the wasteland it seems to have become? Where did all the people go?"

Honda, Toyota and Volkswagon happened to Detroit.
posted by Mitheral at 7:34 PM on February 15, 2006

What happened to Detroit?

Same thing as many northern cities but on a bigger scale. Fear of the brother. White flight. The riots. My home town of Milwaukee was similar in the 60's and 70's but thankfully didn't get mowed down in such a permanent way as Detroit. Then again, Milwaukee wasn't quite as big as Detroit but still it wasn't until the mid 80's that investment started to help the city become less of a ghost town.
posted by JJ86 at 5:53 AM on February 16, 2006

Mitheral, that's wrong. The Detroit Riot of 1967 happened to Detroit. I was born after the riots and lived in Windsor but most of my close relatives are or were Detroiters. They all remember the exodus after the riots and many of them also fled but only got as far as the suburbs. I live in the midwestern U.S. now but I'm amazed at how often I come across people who are ex-Detroiters and who fled because of the riots. My firearm instructor was an ex-Detroiter, she was a teenager when her parents left the area after the riots. My first manager at the company I'm working at was an ex-Detroiter. He left with his family after the riots.
posted by substrate at 6:05 AM on February 16, 2006

dejah420, there's a nice summary here.

In the five decades after 1950, the city lost almost half of its population, as many white residents moved to adjacent counties. As businesses and industries gradually spread to the suburbs, much of the white population followed. Detroit's outlying areas grew much faster than the inner city and by the mid-1960s had twice the population of Detroit proper. Two other factors also contributed to white flight from the inner city. Blacks moved into inner city neighborhoods, and government programs were established to provide housing loans...Mortgage and insurance companies actively encouraged white flight by refusing to guarantee housing mortgages in predominately black areas. This policy, known as redlining, made it much easier and cheaper for a white family to buy a new house in the suburbs than to buy or repair an existing house in a black inner-city neighborhood. The attraction of jobs and cheap land, together with concerns about crime, the quality of schools, and declining property values, made the suburbs attractive throughout the 1950s and 1960s...During the same decades that whites left the city, Detroit’s black population grew. The substantial number of factory jobs that still remained in the city attracted African Americans. Many blacks successfully found higher paying jobs, but their success was often short-lived, as the auto plants and their related industries either closed or moved in partial response to foreign competition. At the same time, blacks were often denied housing loans, which effectively prevented them from following whites out of the city.

My own family's experience mirrors this depiction. My maternal grandfather was a life-long GM employee. He and my grandmother raised their family on the east side of "inner city" Detroit. They loved their neighborhood and cultivated decades-long relationships with all their neighbors. By the time my grandfather died of a heart attack in 1975, the neighborhood had already begun to change. Crime was becoming a problem and my family feared for my grandmother's safety living alone in the house. They eventually convinced her to sell the home and buy a condo in the suburbs. Over time, all the rest of my aunts and uncles made the same type of move out to the suburbs, where they spent their remaining years in life. I only have one relative who lives in Detroit now -- an uncle who lives in the same condo my grandmother bought in 1975.

My paternal grandparents also grew up in Detroit and raised their family there. After my grandfather returned from WWII, he worked for Shell scouting out locations for service stations. Here is a very interesting picture of him opening a station in 1962 as part of "urban renewal." When the opportunity came up at Shell to move to a position in Hawaii, he jumped at the chance. He had spent time stationed there during the war and loved it. My grandparents said goodbye to Detroit and never looked back. Eventually they moved to California to retire.
posted by Otis at 7:05 AM on February 16, 2006

There's an excellent book on the topic of what went wrong with Detroit, where is it now and where is it going called 'Stalking Detroit'. I've only been there once but it made me a lifetime Detroit-aphile, great city.
posted by PHINC at 1:45 PM on February 16, 2006

Wow, thanks guys!
posted by dejah420 at 2:26 PM on February 16, 2006

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