The Ruins of Detroit

by Miserere


Text and photos by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre.

Merchand Meffre Photography - The Ruins of Detroit

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the city of Detroit
developed rapidly thanks to the automobile industry.

Until the 50’s, its population rose to almost 2 million people.
Detroit was the 4th most important city in the United States.

It was the dazzling symbol of the American Dream City with
its monumental skyscrapers and fancy neighborhoods.

Increasing of segregation and deindustrialization caused violent riots in 1967.
The white middle-class exodus from the city accelerated and the suburbs grew.
Firms and factories began to close or move to lower-wage states.
Slowly, but inexorably downtown high-rise buildings emptied.

Since the 50’s, “Motor City” lost more than half of its population.

Nowadays, its splendid decaying monuments are, no less than
the Pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum of Rome, or the Acropolis in Athens,
remnants of the passing of a great civilization.

Photography partners Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre present a superb set of images exhibiting the decay and abandonment one would normally associate with a natural disaster. Please see the slide show on their webpage.

Merchand Meffre Photography - The Ruins of Detroit


8 Responses to “The Ruins of Detroit”

  1. What an amazing collection of images! I checked out the link to the website and I am saddened by the amount of decay in what looked to have been really beautiful archetecture at one time.

    It makes one really wonder why they had been abandonned. Library? School? hotels? surely people still use such places? So why are these left to rot?

    In the Boston area, there is a lack of real-estate, and prices are exhorbitant (I know I spelled that wrong…) – people always take these historical places and turn them into loft condo complexes, and rehab them into beautiful homes for the more ‘endowed’ Bostonians who can afford to actually live in the city vs. commuting in…

    Has Detroit been abandonned since the car industry has withered? So, what do people actually do out in the mid-west (or is it considered West?)?
    Are people leaving for the coasts? Other cities?

    Pictures of such decay makes me think about ‘stuff’ like that.


  2. From someone that grew up in Detroit…it’s sad…but Detroit is alive and full of vitality. The people are strong & don’t get it wrong….there’s decay around them…but they are survivors. They will come back. The metro area that is. The city…not so sure. That will be interesting…I mean how many city’s mayors got sent to jail?

    Rose…the state of michigan totally is experiencing an exodus of population. The actual city of Detroit has suffered a population exodus for the last 30 years practically. There are city blocks of razed houses that are going back to scrub land. It’s desolate in some areas. The police are awful! ..and that’s going back 20+ years! They don’t want to get involved in a dispute! It’s not like Boston or Chicago. The beginning of the end was the riots…now even the black people want to live in the suburbs. Everyone is just trying to “make it”.

    But that said…it’s still a GREAT area. Sounds insane, but…the people are fighters and will prevail. (again I’m talking metro area here essentially).

  3. What I didn’t say was that are a few jewels left in the city of Detroit. The new baseball stadium, the Fox Theater, Greektown, the Riverfront…Windsor being across the Ambassador Bridge. The Red Wings were killer this year even though they lost to Pittsburg.

  4. paula, I’m really glad you wrote back because I have been checking this posting and wondering reasons…

    You mentioned riots?

    I’m really not great with history. what riots? and what were they over?

    It’s sad to think of the police not being ‘there’ and positive participants in the public sphere. Yes, everywhere there are bad cops – but I think that there’s a whole bunch of good ones who want to do right by the people.

    I wonder if there’s a way to make things better out there. What would it take to make these communities flourish rather than decay. Is it solely a matter of bad economy? Or are there other prevailing issues?

  5. Paula,

    Thank you so much for your thoughts on Detroit. I’m sure everyone understands that these photos do not necessarily define your city.



  6. The riots happened in 1967. I was like 6 yrs old. It didn’t happen near our house…we were west side detroit…they started on the east side. The vice squad raided an after hours establishment or blind pig & took a bunch of people off to jail. People in the area got po’ed & started rioting. It was HOT in the city tempers flared. The national guard was called in…there was chaos…people got scared and fled the city. (not all in the same day!)

    People didn’t feel safe, sold their homes for dirt cheap & moved en masse to the suburbs. Lousy explanation, but I’m not a history buff either. I lived through our neighborhood changing from a gorgeous place with manicured lawns to an almost ghetto. My Dad died in ’68 so my Mom was sort of stuck there. We went to catholic schools…the teachers in detroit public schools got more $ because it was considered battle pay.

    Realtors seriously went door to door to scare people into selling cheap.

    The city is like a war zone in spots. If I were the photographer, I’d have made sure I had a gun totin’ assistant. I’m completely serous here. How did they even get into these places? My husband & I went to a Book Cadillac hotel sale in 86 before we were married & the hotel looked like these photos! It’s so sad!

    I no longer live in the metro area…we were transferred out of state with General Motors…now we’re looking for employment…my husband was one of the 1600 salaried layoffs in April. Oh well..we’re employable. not looking for sympathy…It’s just a bureauocratic MESS of the highest order!

    Sorry if I hijacked the photo blog here. The photos are stellar.

    Metro area = good. Detroit = stay on the freeways to get where you’re going and DO NOT GET LOST. DO NOT BE IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME! Many times nothing will happen…it just takes that one time. You really can’t reason with a crack head.

    • Paula,

      There is no need to apologise! I appreciate your extended comments, shedding light on these photographs. Images don’t exist in a vacuum, and if there is a story around them, I want to hear it 🙂

  7. Paula, thank you so much for your valued remembrances and reflections of what’s happened to this once beautiful place.

    Whenever I see pictures that reflect beauty turned to decay, It always makes me wonder what one can do to bring back the beauty. It’s especially sad to think that this city has become so dangerous that people would be frightened away from trying to ‘bring back’ that old glory…

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