Detroit

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Detroit; Beauty in Decay.
A photography feature by Adelita Alvarez.

I have been obsessed with exploring and photographing abandoned places for about two years now since my boyfriend and I started watching documentaries on the plight of Detroit. We immediately fell in love with the city’s beautiful architecture and almost unimaginable decay. This last July we finally made the trip there to explore and photograph the beauty and devastation. As we drove to our hotel from the airport, you couldn’t help but notice the amount of abandoned, decaying homes and structures, and how desolate a once bustling city has become. Large parts of this city are now virtually an urban ghost town.

Beautiful, single family home left abandoned after the decline of population.

A single family home left abandoned after the decline of population.

The first location we visited was an abandoned church, it took my breath away. The architecture, lighting, the history and decay immediately blew my mind. This house of God is now abandoned and slowly crumbling and decaying. We were floored by the beauty and sense of calm remaining in this building. At first we were a little hesitant considering the reputation of Detroit as an extremely dangerous city and it was our fist time out, but we soon felt safe and comfortable.

Piano left unheard and unseen in an unknown, abandoned church.

Piano left unheard and unseen in an unknown, abandoned church.

Woodward Presbyterian Church was built in 1911 in the Gothic revival, but due to its decrease of church members it was closed down in 2005.  Until the spring of 2010, Woodward Avenue Presbyterian was abandoned, and has fallen into disrepair. More recently a group looking to convert the building into a homeless shelter has purchased the property.

Woodward Presbyterian Church was built in 1911 in the Gothic revival, but due to its decrease of church members it was closed down in 2005. Until the spring of 2010, Woodward Avenue Presbyterian was abandoned, and has fallen into disrepair. More recently a group looking to convert the building into a homeless shelter has purchased the property.

The most powerful thing I saw and the location that had the most impact on me personally, was a library in a K-12 Lutheran school. Tons and tons of books in beautiful condition were left behind to rot, definitely no happy ending here. As a LAUSD elementary interventionist, this completely broke my heart. In South Los Angeles, schools are limited due to budget cuts and can’t even afford to stock their classrooms and libraries with books like these.

Abandoned school library.

Abandoned school library.

Auditorium in Southwestern High School formally known as John A. Nordstrum High School was built in 1915 and began its first semester in September 1916, but it was overcrowded within a few years so Southwestern High School was built beside it, with the recent high school to become an intermediate school. School was closed June 2012.

Auditorium in Southwestern High School formally known as John A. Nordstrum High School was built in 1915 and began its first semester in September 1916, but it was overcrowded within a few years so Southwestern High School was built beside it, with the recent high school to become an intermediate school. School was closed June 2012.

Many of the homes in Detroit are still structurally sound, often with beautiful architecture and wonderful features, yet they sit abandoned today because of the blight that surrounds them. After spending enough time in Detroit, the resulting cityscape of graffiti, urban prairie, and crumbling buildings eventually becomes a normal backdrop. While still stunningly beautiful city, I find myself saddened when I stop to wonder how we let such a great city fall so far.

The Fisher Body Company, formed in 1908 by Albert Fisher and his nephews Charles and Fred, initially produced bodies for both the carriage and auto industries, though they dropped the carriage line in 1911. By 1910’s Fisher was producing high-quality automotive bodies for Cadillac, Ford, Studebaker, and Hudson, among other names. In November of 1982 General closed the #21 body plant.

The Fisher Body Company, formed in 1908 by Albert Fisher and his nephews Charles and Fred, initially produced bodies for both the carriage and auto industries, though they dropped the carriage line in 1911. By 1910’s Fisher was producing high-quality automotive bodies for Cadillac, Ford, Studebaker, and Hudson, among other names. In November of 1982 General closed the #21 body plant.

The Detroit House of Corrections opened in 1861, was owned and run by the city of Detroit but originally accepted prisoners from throughout the state including women. The Detroit House of Corrections was transferred to the state in 1986, and became a women's facility for the rest of its tenure. It closed in December 2004 and all inmates and staff were transferred.

The Detroit House of Corrections opened in 1861, was owned and run by the city of Detroit but originally accepted prisoners from throughout the state including women. The Detroit House of Corrections was transferred to the state in 1986, and became a women’s facility for the rest of its tenure. It closed in December 2004 and all inmates and staff were transferred.

Pontiac Silverdome opened in 1975 and sits on 127 acres. It was primarily the home of the Detroit Loins of the NFL from 1975 to 2001 and was also home to the Detroit Pistons of the NBA from 1978 to 1988. Closed down in 2013.

Pontiac Silverdome opened in 1975 and sits on 127 acres. It was primarily the home of the Detroit Loins of the NFL from 1975 to 2001 and was also home to the Detroit Pistons of the NBA from 1978 to 1988. Closed down in 2013.

You can find more of Adelita’s work on her Instagram @beat_junkie

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