Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Day of Decoration in Detroit

This is the hotel we stayed in, not superb but certainly a step up from a motel, and out the front is parked our car.
Not really. Seriously, would we be seen in a ride with wheels that sad? The rest of the car is awesome.
So today we decided to check out a building we'd kept driving by and were yearning to be on the roof of.
The ceilings and columns downstairs were absolutely beautiful, with plenty of ornate plasterwork and marble stone. There were plans left showing development had been considered at one point but they were well out of date. It was an apartment hotel and in its hey day had Eleanor Roosevelt, Mae West, Frank sinatra and The Beatles within its wall. Being next to the river made it very popular during Prohibition times too.
We climbed up all the stairs checking on a few of the floors but there was nothing to see apart from a lot of peeling paint on walls. We found a few notices asking people ot be considerate of the peregrine falcons nesting on some of the ledges. We accidentally disturbed a mother since the doors were open so we quietly closed them all near her nesting area and tip toed away.
A pretty impressive safe, would love to know what used to be kept in there.
At the very top there were some prettily carved wooden cupboards, and then we walked out onto the roof.
What an impressive sign, so impressive I felt the urge to climb it. But I bottled out after a few feet, the metal stung with cold through my thin gloves.
An impromptu group shot before we left.
We then stopped by Pewabic Pottery which has a very distinctive rustic and simplistic style. I was drawn to a particular tile because it reminded me of Kota. There website is here. They also have guest artists featuring their work so there was a wonderful selection to choose from. Some of their tiles can also be seen in The National Shrine in DC.
A few more battered houses and a very fat squirrel. It seems the wildlife don't go hungry here. And speaking of wildlife, we discovered that there are a large number of pheasants roaming the streets in Detroit. The locals call them 'ghetto pheasants'. We heard them more than we saw them but it was really odd to see a pheasant scurrying across the road in a residential area!
The Hotel Yorba, featured in a song by The White Stripes.Video here. It was pretty dingy inside, with a laundry room advertised in a lobby that also rented out fridges on a weekly basis. The clerk was behind a heavy glass pane with candy and soda for sale and regarded me suspiciously. A TV lounge was open with a few guys lounging on grubby chairs. We didn't hang about and had no urge to change hotels.
A colorful store painted by Angie, I think, who painted the Illuminated Mural.
With a bison and bear looking down upon us.
We pulled up outside the Fisher body 21, another abandoned car plant. No complete vehicles were made here, only the bodies, including many Buicks and Cadillacs. Opening in the 1920's, it closed in the early 1990's. They expanded, building over 40 plants, hence this one being called 21. Full story is here.
Margie posing with Furbex.
Up on the roof a row of battered residences known as The Fisher Houses could be seen.
I'd been aware once out on the roof of a bad smell coming from the broken windows in the middle of the building where there were still large pieces of machinery inside. It was a horrible corrosive smell that I instinctively knew came from corroding metal and the liquids that this process produces. Some research shows it could be hydrogen sulfide, and I smelled it once in another building which I left immediately. I was determined to take the photo above, not that it was really worth it, but as I snapped one image a gust of wind blew across me carrying that offensive odor and I knew I was getting out of the building. I let the others know why I was going and started downstairs.
But I still snapped a few more photos on the way down. I waited about 10 minutes for the others to join me, one of them saying that she agreed with my theory. I don't usually make a fuss about potential hazards as we come across these continuously while urbexing, but this odor is something I will always shy from.
Incidentally, one of our urbexing group who occasionally comes out with us very prominently voiced his dislike of the fact that so many urbexing photos were in full blown HDR (High Dynamic Range - look it up), and with the people wearing respirators or gas masks, so I made an image just for him, featuring him. And actually, I'd quite like a photo of myself sporting my respirator...
We stopped at the Fisher Houses to get some close up photos.
Such a shame that these houses weren't saved, I'm sure they were beautiful in their hey day.
Our next stop was the Heidelburg Project, a small community of decorated houses and outside artwork started in 1986 by Tyree Guyton who was shocked to see how his neighborhood had deteriorated when he came back from war, slowly worsening since the 1967 riots. His streets had once been a thriving little community yet had turned into an area where people were scared to walk at dark. His project has turned this around and his community is once again a safe place. As we approached we could see large bright splashes of color with stuff laid out everywhere. Folks were friendly and smiling and the streets beckoned us to walk around.
One of Detroit's abandoned boats put to use as 'Noah's Ark'..
Here's a quick video I shot of one of the houses.
It was a bizarre little area and amusing to walk around, but some of the stuff I just didn't get, such as the oven with gloves above. But the area's trying to get a message across and make people aware of their neighborhood, and they've certainly achieved that. And the cats were cute!
Our last visit this day was the Michigan Central Station. We'd driven past a few times but wanted to save it for the end of day when the lighting would be good for photographing. Before coming to Detroit I'd had big plans of lighting up the building on the outside for some night shooting but that wasn't going to happen. The place is locked up like Fort Knox with a big barbed fence and police patrol it on a regular basis so we had to make do with walking around looking up at it from a distance.
The station opened in 1913 with the main lobby area modeled after Roman Baths. The tower was planned to be used as a hotel and office space but only a few levels were ever used by the rail company or station owner with the top levels never being completely finished. It stopped serving as a rail station in 1988 when Amtrak stopped running there. Plans to renovate it have always been in the pipe works but nothing has happened apart from asbestos abatement being carried out.
As close as we could get we could see the building was eroding through neglect. The windows have been removed and were supposed to be put back in. The Victorian style iron canopy is rusting away and parts of the intricate carvings are crumbling. This is such a monolith of a building that I'm sure it would be sorely missed if it was no longer part of the skyline.
This is an interesting website, keeping an eye on development of the station, especially the windows.


Lewis Francis said...

Digging these, Debby -- looks like you guys had tons of fun!

Debby Karalee said...

Thanks Lewis, it was exciting and enlightening. I really enjoyed it!