Perhaps the only thing more cliched than a picture of Detroit ruins is another story about Detroit in ruins.  It’s been done, a lot – and here’s another photographic essay from The Guardian. 

I thought I had seen them all – but this one still shocked me.

I guess it’s the books still on the shelves of the abandoned East Side Public Library – representing the intellectual loss as much as the physical decay.

UPDATE: Another story on Detroitism – an exploration of Ruin Porn – by John Patrick Leary.


  1. @ Tim. That’s a terrific video, Tim. Thanks for sending us in that direction after the Guardian photo piece. I attended a conference in Detroit in 1999 and found it a great city despite everything that had been done to it. The Tigers were playing their last season at the old ball park and I was lucky enough to walk there from my hotel, join the crowds and see two games on consecutive evenings. Much more fun than drinking cocktails with a bunch of out-of-towners back at the Convention Center…

  2. As someone born and raised in Detroit, I do rather tire of ruin porn. But that one caught my eye as well, when the Guardian published it weeks ago. Enough to make me wonder — I don’t remember an East Side Public Library. I Googled about it, and I can’t find any reference from before the Guardian article.

    I’m not meaning to cast aspersions–I could see that being in Detroit, even a library *still in use*–but .. I kinda wonder.

  3. This is so tragic…surely there is a way to get Americans motivated to move to Detroit and restore some of these buildings…

    I suspect that for the price of a 33′ lot in Dunbar one could buy some pretty impressive real estate in the city….just dreaming!

  4. That Library picture is odd for another reason: cost. Books can be expensive and Public Library budgets are pressed even in economically vibrant cities, so I find it utterly bizarre that they would’ve left such an extensive collection on the shelves.

  5. I was just in downtown Detroit two days ago. Some of the abandoned buildings are beautiful. I really hope new industry can be found and the core revitalized before those buildings are beyond saving. Because that downtown is a gentrifiers wet dream. You can just see all the yummy mummies emerging from funky brick buildings in Lululemon tights, headed to Starbucks, with their GAP clothed bratty brood in tow. Hmm, on second thought, I’d rather see Detroit crumble into dust.

  6. I visited Detroit in 1985 and found it staggering. Returning to Windsor across the Ambassador Bridge, crack houses behind, little working class cottages with gardens, kids playing in the yard, people chatting across fences at the other, was a surreal Oz-like experience. If you know Windsor, that’s saying something. Detroit’s decline has been going on for half a century. Square miles of the city were burnt in the 68 riots and never rebuilt, and have returned to a kind of urban savannah criss crossed by empty streets. The city was actively moving the few remaining structures in Corktown onto the only two viable streets left in the neighbourhood, an urban hamlets strategy that they hoped would form the nuclei of future resettlement. By all reports this hasn’t happened and the population continues to plunge. An unprecedented decline in North America, not much unlike the decline of classical Rome, a city greater than a million, left as a village of no more than 30,000 wandering the ruins in the Middle Ages.

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