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The Ruins of Detroit - A Forgotten City

Updated on April 22, 2012

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In 1903, Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in Detroit Michigan, making Detroit the world's automotive capital. The company spurred economic growth in the city and doubled the population by the 1950s. A thriving city of the new industrial era was developing at an incredible rate. But Detroit's fall was as fast as its rise.

Detroit was on top of the world in the 1950s, until an increase in overseas automobile manufacturing and the use of robotic technology was introduced. Sales for Detroit's major auto manufacturers declined as more reliable and inexpensive cars were available to the market.

The iconic city, once an example of the American dream, has been scratching to get out of the hole that was created by the auto industry. With the newest struggle for American car manufacturers, some believe it is unlikely that Detroit will ever blossom again.

Michigan Central Station
Michigan Central Station

Michigan Central Station

Michigan Central Station was erected in 1913, serving as the main passenger rail station in Detroit. When built, it was the tallest railway station in the world. It was designed by the same architects who created New Yorks Grand Central Terminal. At the beginning of WWI, two-hundred or more trains left the station each day, carrying more than four-thousand passengers. Over three-thousand workers occupied its 18 story office tower.

With the increase of automobiles after WWI and the great difficulty for passengers to get to and from the station, the station saw a major decline in traffic. Later, the decision to move Amtrak services to Detroit Station in 1988 declared the station no longer operational.

The Detroit City Council voted to demolish the building in 2009, but a city resident sued the city to stop the demolition. There is no current news on the future of Michigan Central Station.

Michigan Theater
Michigan Theater

Michigan Theater

Movie going was a popular past-time in the 1920s and sparked the construction of some of the worlds greatest theaters.  Built in 1926, the Michigan Theater cost $5 million to construct with seating for 4,050 people. Ironically, it was built in the exact spot where Henry Ford had created his first automobile in a work shed in 1901.

The theater was used as a movie theater up until 1970 when it changed ownership and was used for rock concerts. Its shows declined until it finally closed in 1976. The theater was partially demolished and is now used as a parking lot.

United Artists Theater
United Artists Theater

United Artists Theater

The 18 story United Artists Theater, able to seat 2,070 people, was constructed in 1928 in downtown Detroit and was used as movie theater.  Actors Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin founded the United Artists and constructed the chain of theaters.  There was speculation as to whether the theater would be profitable, so the office block was added to generate income.  After the decline in patrons, the theater was used as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's recording studio until 1984 when it finally closed.

Fort Shelby Hotel
Fort Shelby Hotel

Fort Shelby Hotel

Statler's Fort Shelby Hotel in Detroit was opened in 1917.  Housing 450 rooms over 10 floors, the hotel boasted many modern amenities in its day.  After great success, the hotel was expanded in 1926 by adding an extra 450 rooms.  

Unfortunately, the great depression hit and the economy took its toll on the hotel.  After a change in management, the hotel was put back on track until the 1970s when the clientele declined as people were moving out into the suburbs.  The hotel was losing money and finally closed in 1973.

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church
Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church

The Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church, or St. Curvy as dubbed by locals due to its curvy pews, is in Detroit Michigan was built in 1911 in the Gothic revival style. After WW2, the congregation grew rapidly and made way for a number of outreach programs in the Detroit area.

The church was later abandoned and fell into disrepair, but is now undergoing renovation and has been renamed the Abyssinia Interdenominational Church.

Lee Plaza Hotel
Lee Plaza Hotel

Lee Plaza Hotel

Designed by Charles Noble in 1929, this 15 story hotel was used by wealthy clients as permanent residents when hotels were used as apartments. Outdoing some of the city's finest hotels, the Lee Plaza was an excellent example of Art Deco architecture in Detroit.

After changing management several times and the economic decline of the city, it was finally closed in the early 1990s. Furniture of a forgotten era still litter the rooms, despite numerous scavengers who have taken anything valuable.

Michigan Central Station:
2405 W Vernor Hwy, Detroit, MI 48216, USA

get directions

Michigan Theater:
238 Bagley St, Detroit, MI 48226, USA

get directions

United Artists Theatre:
150 Bagley St, Detroit, MI 48226, USA

get directions

Fort Shelby Hotel:
525 W Lafayette Blvd, Detroit, MI 48226, USA

get directions

Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church:
8501 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48202, USA

get directions

Lee Plaza Hotel:
2240 W Grand Blvd, Detroit, MI 48208, USA

get directions


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    • Mike Hardy profile image

      Mike Hardy 

      6 months ago from Caseville, Michigan

      Time for an update. Ford is considering buying the Michigan Terminal.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I was born in Detroit in 1950. At the time my dad worked for Ford when they were experiencing a major strike. Within a few weeks after my birth we were forced to leave Detroit due to economic hardship.

      These are wonderful pictures and narrative about the history of Detroit. I never knew any of this information. Thank you for sharing.

      I now live in Arizona which consists of more native American Indian history and natural beauty. If you would like to get a glimpse of what AZ has to offer, visit

    • profile image

      craig lombardi 

      7 years ago

      very cool

    • gguy profile image


      7 years ago from new jersey usa

      Ecellent work, I always wanted to visit the Fisher museum.


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