This blog post compares Hiroshima and Detroit 65 years after the atom bomb. Take a look, the pictures are instructive. The author blames "the trashing of labor unions," among other things. Here is another post where the author blames the labor unions. This author blames long-term mayor, Coleman Young. And, this author blames racism.
This Detroit News editorial makes an interesting observation:
... I would insist that the tour guide start the tour - not in Detroit - but on its western border on Warren Avenue in Dearborn. Warren is the commercial heart of Metro Detroit's 90,000 strong Arab community, heavy with English-challenged immigrants eager for the American dream. The avenue is alive with grocers, restaurants, and appliance stores servicing the neat, safe, working-class neighborhoods behind it. Murders per 100,000 residents: 3.1.
But when Warren Avenue crosses Central Avenue, the western border of Detroit, the landscape dramatically changes. Like someone has flipped a switch, the streets are suddenly abandoned. Storefronts are abandoned, sidewalks choked with grass, neighborhoods pocked with burned-out homes. Murder per 100,000 residents? 54 in 2012.
We hadn't read that editorial before we started down Warren after a pleasant evening at a restaurant in Dearborn. Traffic was moving up and down the street as we started heading east. As soon as we crossed the Detroit border, traffic disappeared. We were the only car on the street. The grass became long, windows broken and buildings burned. We stopped and retreated.What has changed? A municipal line.
There are parts of Detroit that are still alive. A narrow strip along Woodward Avenue. The downtown core and the very interesting New Center area along Grand Boulevard at Woodward. We visited those spots.
If you would like to learn more about some of Detroit's landmarks, "then" and now, I highly recommend Lost Detroit. It has lots of great pictures.
Meanwhile, I will take you on a quick tour of the area around that ancient Ford plant that I blogged about previously. You may recall that it is located at 411 Piquette. Here is an 1897 map of the area so that you can see Woodward, Grand Boulevard, Piquette and the street car lines.
Woodward runs north-south just three blocks to the west of the location when Ford would build his plant in 1904. Grand Boulevard lies two blocks to the north. Notice the two rail lines right behind the plant. These were part of the draw to this area for Ford and other automakers. The red lines represent the streetcar routes.
The St. Johns Episcopal church stands over on Woodward. Since 1907, it has been Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic church.
Not far away on Woodward are Detroit Savings Bank and Detroit Hardware.
A mile or so to the south, Wayne State University still thrives near the Detroit Public Library and the Art Museum. From that area, you can get some nice pictures of the core downtown area.
But let's step off to the east three blocks and put the old Model T plant in perspective.
Across Piquette to the south, a couple of newer churches try to maintain some decorum in the neighborhood.
But turn to the west a bit, toward Woodward, and the view looks a little rougher.
Then turn to the east. This modern structure suffers from graffiti in a big way.
And, down Piquette to the east, you see the familiar abandoned building syndrome that plagues so much of the city.
Things looked much different in 1906 as this picture looking toward the plant from near Woodward was taken.