Thursday, November 15, 2007
a beautiful day for blight
Yesterday was a positively gorgeous autumnal afternoon, and so we chose to spend it like any ordinary couple would – by tramping around abandoned, derelict houses, of course!

(Okay, so perhaps it’s not so normal, but bear with us for a minute or two.)

In his book The World Without Us, Alan Weisman theorizes what would happen to the world if all humanity suddenly disappeared, and a driver heading Westbound on Detroit’s Davison highway can get a glimpse at this apocalyptic possibility first-hand. Weisman (quoting Chris Riddle) writes, “‘If you want to destroy a barn, a farmer once told me, ‘cut an eighteen-inch-square in the roof. Then stand back.’” Eventually, nature will take care of most of the structures man has built, and for the handful of abandoned homes left on Lincoln Street it becomes glaring clear how quickly nature can work.

Detroit is a city that has seen recent redevelopment and growth, but is still deeply scarred by the past. The riots of the sixties, the crack epidemic of the eighties, white-flight, and the relocation to the suburbs by anyone with a means of doing so have left the city with neighborhoods of sprawling, 100+ year old mansions sitting a block away from overgrown fields - all that remain of neighborhoods torched many years ago.

With people fleeing Detroit at such a high rate, the city is now demolishing between 1,000 and 2,500 vacant buildings a year. The sad truth is that it is not enough.

In an effort to bring light to the blight, an anonymous group of artists have chosen several highly visible derelict properties - most visible from highways - and painted them bright construction orange. Their hope is to draw attention to the buildings and have their art demolished. Of the first four buildings they painted, two were demolished in the following weeks. We’re not sure whether the city demo'ed the structures in an effort to get rid of the unsafe and unsightly buildings, or if they simply did not like attention being drawn to the problem.

The pictures posted here are ones that we took of a row of houses on the north side of the Davison Highway. They were painted almost two years ago, but closing and barricading the road was the only action taken by the city. No one lives there, so no one seems particularly bothered by them, however the houses can't be ignored by the people driving twenty feet below along the Davison Highway.

Eventually, nature will take care of these houses on her own, however it would be nice to see them given a proper burial sooner rather than later. (That pile of abandoned tires is forever, unfortunately.)

The original anonymous letter written by the orange artists can be found at The Detroiter, and please read Detroit Funk and Detroit Blog for some truly beautiful pictures and stories of the real Detroit.



Blogger Mary said...

I have to admit, I left the Detroit area in the mid 90s. Everytime I go back to see the opera or go to the Fox I'm stunned by the revitalization that's happened downtown. These pictures are the Detroit I remember. Sad huh?
Of course I have yet to go to Commerica Park for no other reason than I liked the old Tiger Stadium where we feared mugging getting into it and we always managed to sit behind a pole.

Blogger Mrs. White said...

What's fascinating is that literally one block away from these orange houses there's an impressive new apartment complex, an absolutely gorgeous Catholic church/elementary school, and a sting of older but quite nicely maintained homes where flowers, Cadillacs and well-manicured lawns line the streets.

Such is the very weird dichotomy that is the Detroit of the new millennium, I guess...

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