Getting to Detroit was hell. My flight with United was cancelled Thursday evening and the passengers were irate and loud as we lined up at the customer service desk to try and get on another flight. Some in line were trying by phone and I decided to do the same since I was hearing folks up front were having to wait until the next day or pay a fortune with another airline. Very luckily, and also because, I think, I was very polite with the representative, I managed to get to Detroit at around midnight with a detour to Charlotte, NC, and was greeted by the crew who immediately presented me with a large bottle of beer which was very gratefully received and emptied.
Because of my delay we had a later start the next morning but still managed to see quite a bit of the city. It was drizzling with rain so we wandered around downtown to get a feel of the place and see if anything was open for us to explore. It was strange to see a city center on a work day have so few people and cars around, and it really emphasized how bad a shape Detroit was in economically. We saw a couple of homeless guys who became regulars as once they had stopped and chatted to us, they would then later pop up again on another street for another few words, even trotting across the road to us, so we soon felt like locals.
We met up with an urbexing friend who's moved from DC to Detroit. Mark is a mine of information on the city and it was like having our own personal tour guide. We went on the People Mover, a monorail that circles downtown with numerous stops on the route. The weather was still bad so we welcomed having an opportunity to be in a warm environment.
There's no public access to the top tower unless you join a tour so Mark spotted a tour guide in the middle of his route and about to take his group up the elevator and managed to sweet talk him into letting us join them. The glass elevator rises up to the 72nd floor with amazing views across to Canada, video link here.
found here, and this video is also worth looking at. Words and photos really can't fully convey the magnificence of this building. We spoke with the head of maintenance and was impressed at how proud he was to look after and know every inch of its walls. He gave us a mini tour of the lobby explaining how he'd climbed inside the pillars to install wiring for lights, he'd climbed up in the ceiling and restoration workers had repainted the ceiling using scaffolding just as Michelangelo had in the Sistine Chapel. All the gold on the walls and ceiling is gold leaf reapplied during the restoration but the mural at the end of the building needed no work done, it was so well preserved.
We finally managed to drag ourselves away and looked for refreshments, ending up in a bar nearby called Grand Trunk.
And then we drove to the Brewster Douglass skeletons that loomed above the skyline with dark hollow pits where windows had once been. They were built in the late 30's to house poorer black families during a period when racial segregation was still practiced.
The full history can be found here.
The mural's story is here, and a few days later we came across a store front also painted by Katie, which will be in a later blog entry.