Panoramic photo of a ghosts street in Detroit

Picture 11

Above is a small piece of an amazing panoramic photo of a street of abandoned houses in Detroit.

Last week I read in the morning paper about a street here where 60 out of 66 homes were vacant or abandoned on a single block. The reporter called it a "ghost street." Yesterday I found myself in the area. Other than an errant sofa, the street was completely empty, almost peaceful. I took a photo of every house on the north side of one block and then stitched them together. If you were to compare the current international housing crisis to a black hole sucking the equity out of our homes, this one-way street near the northern border of Detroit might just be the singularity: the point where the density of the problem defies anyone's ability to comprehend it. These homes started emptying in 2006.
(Via The Agitator)


  1. It’s only amazing if you’ve never seen a ghetto before. They look pretty much the same wherever u go. yawn.

  2. Looks like they build houses in Detroit about as well as they build cars. I wonder why there are so many burned-out ones? Judging by the looks of the tarp on the roof of number 490, these houses have been empty for a loooong time.

  3. Waiting for the folks to who lamented the inevitable gentrification of Detroit thanks to all those $100 homes to chime in.

  4. @3 – scissorfighter

    That’s a bit of a cheap shot. The best-built German or Japanese houses will fall to pieces after being ignored for as long as these have been.

  5. the fact that hundred year old house are standing doesn’t exactly condemn the workmanship. I can also tell you that most Japanese house fall down a lot quicker (rain, typhoon, rain, termites, mildew, rain,rot, dry rot, earthquakes and more typhoons) so they tend to build light and often compared to North America.

  6. That just breaks my heart. I live in a house much like these (well it’s got issues, but not like these).


    I guess you don’t know much about home construction then do you? I’ll take my 100 year old correctly built home over the cookie cutter crap that’s thrown up in a month today. Granted most older homes need a lot of TLC, but the bones are typically very solid compared to new construction.

    (Not saying you can’t have a new home built well, you’ll just be paying through the nose for it.)

    And I also don’t know why everyone insists that gutters be put on a house. About half the homes around where I live have had gutters installed (including mine). The dumb thing is there is no technical “eve” or ledge to mount the gutter to. So they nail a 1×4 (or 1×6) to the end of the rafters that come out… Kind of kills the aesthetic of things.

    At this point I’m sure in the future some developer will come in buy it all and turn it into a strip mall, strip housing, or other suburban mass produced construction.

  7. I have a feeling Devil’s night or whatever it was called could make a comeback this year…

  8. Zooming down into Detroit from the heavens via Google Maps and wandering around in Street View is also an experience. The closer you get to the ground, the more barren patches of urban blight and brownspace you can see.

    I randomly picked a street and found a half-dozen derelict homes.

    An article in yesterday’s NYT discussed the possibility of consolidating the remaining population of Flint, bulldozing the rest, and letting the forest reclaim it.

    And last night I caught “After People” on the History Channel. It’s already happening…

  9. There’s a celebration in Detroit, held (until recently) on October 30th every year. It is called “Devil’s Night” and on this night each year participants go out and set fires to abandoned houses. The wikipedia page, , has pretty accurate information about it. Recently, October 30th has been re-christened (pun?) Angel’s Night in a community-wide effort to eliminate destruction of property. Why was Mark in Detroit?

  10. #2–I’ve seen plenty of ghettos. These aren’t the types of houses you often get in ghettos. Many are Craftsman-style houses that in other cities are architectural treasures. I doubt this area went through a protracted “ghetto” period. It looks to me like the decline was quite precipitous. These houses do not look like they’ve been “gone” that long (compare, for instance, to the famous Brush Park neighbourhood near downtown Detroit, where many of the homes have been derelict for more than 40 years, although there are people now restoring some of what’s left.) These do not look like houses abandoned in the ’68 riot period. (There are other areas of Detroit you can compare to if you want to see those).

    It’s also very interesting to compare Detroit to Buffalo. They went through similar growth patterns in the early 20th century, but unlike Detroit, Buffalo has kept many of its historic old neighbourhoods. It has less-savoury areas, of course, but far fewer homes that have been abandoned in these numbers. Interestingly enough, Buffalo lost its auto industry early on–to Detroit.

  11. Detroit’s been going through this Devil’s Night thing for a long time – essentially since about 1967. In 2007, when some radio stations were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the “summer of love”, Detroit’s NPR station, WDET, was examining the 40th anniversary of the race riots which were such a turning point in the city’s history. In the intervening time, the annual Devil’s Night attrition takes out 100+ houses a year, peaking out at about 840 in 1984.

    The city doesn’t have the resources to demolish them all right away so yes, they sometimes stand like that for a long time, but eventually they do get bulldozed, leaving empty lots behind. Some blocks on the east side, as mentioned above, have maybe half dozen houses left where there was 40.

  12. The sight of all those rotting craftsman houses is just painful. They’re one of the few things I miss about the midwest.

  13. Great place to film an amateur Zombie flick… not one set during the initial apocalypse, but the post-apocalypse. 28 Weeks Later, Land of the Dead-style stuff.

    ‘Course, maybe Detroit as a whole would be a good place to film, these days.

  14. The government should buy up every acre of abandoned property in the Detroit area, and turn it into a nature preserve where we can watch nature slowly reclaim the land. The abandoned houses would be especially interesting to watch melt back into the wilderness.

  15. Another thing this land could be useful for would be small farms. Buy up surrounding lots, and turn it into farmland.

  16. #17 – That’s pretty much what they’re proposing in Flint. Check out the NY Times article linked to by #10. I’m a city planner in California, and my co-worker came out here a few years ago from Michigan. He says that out there, it kind of turns a lot of the typical planning problems on their heads; normally we’re trying to figure out how to accommodate growth, but in Michigan they’re trying to figure out what to do with an area whose population is shrinking. The problem is that a lot of the politicians and such try to frame the problem as “How do I get the town to stop shrinking,” but that’s way beyond their power. They need to just accept the fact that it’s shrinking and then figure out what to do about that.

  17. Here’s a thought: Sieze the land under public domain, hire some guys and put them to work tearing down the houses and PLANT SOME TREES. Turn it into parkland.

    It would be a better place then….

  18. #3: Nobody is going to build a strip mall here. It will either be burned out houses, vacant lots, or if the future is totally different than it looks like it will be, houses again.

    #17: Most of the vacant land in Detroit is owned by the city government already, but the city leadership isn’t as progressive enough to be very creative with the land right now.

    #18: There are also dozens of people putting small farms and community gardens on the space, with some businessmen proposing larger-scale urban farming.

    I live downtown and am used to the large areas of open land where houses once stood, but my part of town has already gone through its steepest decline and although buildings still vanish it’s not anything like certain other neighborhoods. People who visit who aren’t used to this kind of landscape tend to be skittish in the city, but since moving here my fear has almost completely evaporated because a lot of things that might look scary at first aren’t actually dangerous.

    However this street, which is more than 60/66 on a block (it continues like this to the East, and the street to the North is nearly as bad) still scares me because it was all there just a couple of years ago. A couple of years ago I would go to the vegetarian cafe nearby and although there were a few distressed properties around, almost all of those houses were in fine shape. This is, in general, one of the reasons I like renting. If this can happen to a street in less than three years, I want to be mobile and not lose my life’s savings in order to be able to escape this kind of blight.

    Right now the city wants to use the entire year’s demolition budged to tear down Michigan Central Station

    (meanwhile, Buffalo continues to try to revive its abandoned train station). This is unwise, because these houses and others like them will repeatedly catch fire from squatters or mischief, endangering what occupied buildings remain and the lives of firefighters going in to save something that is already unsalvageable.

  19. wow…how sad.


    Someone call Sam Raimi. This would make a great horror movie set, and Detroit could certainly use the money.

  20. If we had all these abandoned houses (Vancouver, Canada), the huge number of homeless people here would put them to good use-a terrible shame, such a waste-many nice houses here with a bit of work-must have been devastating to walk away

  21. The area known as Brush Park in Detroit was famous for the largest concentration of Victorian Gothic homes in America built startin after the Civil War. 20 years ago the neighborhood was completely intact. It was so pristine that many black professionals settled there and an executive from General Motors. The Detroit News Sunday magazine did a whole edition on it. The neighborhood approached Detroit City Council to have an Historic District Status for the neighborhood. Instead, the City Council said that they would rezone this unique historic district as INDUSTRIAL and from that point forward, no one could sell these magnificent mansions on the open market. Instead they would have to be sold to the city for demolition. Residents panicked and left. As far as I know the City never demolished one home. Scavengers poured in from out of State and demolished the homes, salvaging everything. Some of these homes had no streets in front. Instead there were beautiful common greens and access was from the alleys into the drives where the carriage houses with servant quarters above were located. Once the neighborhood was virtually destroyed, the City reversed the INDUSTRIAL zoning threat and rezoned it multiple dwelling. All new town houses have gone up. The few remaining mansions that were gutted but not taken down are for sale for restoration. There are about 8 of these out of the original three hundred or so. I attend church about a mile away and on Sundays we used to drive over and watch the scavengers with large crains, taking down some of the most magnificent homes ever seen on North American soil. All were ramous for Black Walnut woodwork, slate roofs, leaded glass etc. Now all destroyed forever.
    Patrick Degens Nov. 14, 2009

  22. I was taken aback when I first read the Det News article and saw the video of Robinwood. But, despite claims otherwise, the street and area were already embarking on a slow, tragic descent into hell as far back as the late 1960’s. I know that because I witnessed it, first hand.

    My grandfather built a home at 144 W. Robinwood (one block east of the block in the DN article) when the area was still Greenfield Township, not Detroit. My mother was born in that house in 1922. In 1925 the area became the northern portion of Detroit. My grandparents continued to live there until my parents bought the property from them in 1953.

    My brother and I grew up there and lived there until we were married (1969 – 1970). At that time it was no longer safe to be out at night. (I remember the summer night when I was awakened by the screeching of tires as some guy tried to run over his friend. He had already shot at him and missed.)

    My mother continued to live there until 1994 by which time she and her neighbors had crime victims numerous times. She relocated to Frendale, forced out of her beloved Detroit by crime and violence.

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