forgotten detroit

Michigan Gothic

In the forgotten suburbs of Detroit, you feel someone staring at you from the broken windows of a caved-in home. Next time you drive by, the lot is empty, but you still feel the eyes staring at you. From every lot, they’re staring.

No-one on Mackinac Island has a car, but you can swear you hear the sounds of traffic in the distance sometimes, far away. The immaculately paved streets show no tire marks, ever, but you still hear engines growling at night.

Paint collected from the floors of the old auto plants is called Fordite. You’re not sure who decided to call it that or came up the idea of cutting it down, polishing it up, and wearing it as jewelry. No-one even knows who collected it in the first place. But now there’s a piece dangling in every tourist shop.

You know the boats moored on the Great Lakes are hauled out of the water before winter comes, but no matter how long you stare at the harbor, you never see a boat in the process of being removed from its slip. You blink once and its up on the slats and already being moved toward storage. You blink again and another three have joined the first, sailing through the air.

The sand dunes are beautiful, each grain glittering in the sunlight as the dry grasses wave lazily to the wind. But a place from far-off Malaysia is supposedly buried down there, deep below. Sometimes the sands shift, yawning open to reveal the worn pioneer ruins; and that is when they arrive. The sands shift once more, swallowing everything. The stovepipes scream in protest as you watch and you console yourself. This is how it’s meant to be… Right?

Every city has a road named “Michigan Street”. It’s what keeps all the cities here. Connected. Else they might be in Oregon. Kentucky. Maine.

You drive across the state for business. You pass through Lansing. Everyone passes through Lansing; yet no-one remembers Lansing. Finally, after much debate, you all agree it is an idea given form by a name on a map.

In the summer, people vacation on the Great Lakes, the fragile white forms of fiberglass disappearing into the flashes of sunlight on the waves. Some go to places that surely can’t be real: Saugatuck, Sault Ste. Marie, Cheboygan, Naubinway. Some never come back, though the news says nothing.

In the winter, the Lakes come to visit the people inland. The children aren’t let outside as they drift down, taking hours, days. They stay for months, pristine surfaces glittering white in the sunlight; inviting. They’re here, waiting to be sailed on again; sleds instead of boats. But they’re still hungry.

The “Chicago People” come with the locusts and leave with them.

You watch children flash their hands in excitement, one a mitten and the other a flat plane hovering above it. You were taught the same in school. Outsiders think it represents the state, but residents know of it as a ward.

“Kalamazoo” exists and is fueled on the baffled questions of many.

“UP”. You shudder at the movie poster, remembering the UP. Hovering hand. Sheer cliffs. Howling at night. Deep holes. It is a place where forgotten beasts wander and men fear to tread. Some claim it is still 1880 there.

A man from Wisconsin jokes that the UP should become part of Wisconsin. It’s not connected to Michigan anyway, right? You’re glad. Let him have it. “No takebacks,” he exclaims, laughing. You try not to show your relief.

Many cities have nicknames. “Furniture City”. “Celery City”. Hell.


1936 Hupmobile 618 G - Pre-War Classic with Aerodynamic Styling.

The Hupp Motor Car Company is largely forgotten today, but the Detroit-based automaker was a major player in the years before World War II.

Robert Hupp started his company in 1908 after working at Olds, Ford, and the Regal Motor Car Company. By the late 1920s, Hupmobiles had become a hot commodity, racking up 65,000 sales in 1928.

As with fellow American automakers, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, Pierce Arrow, and Peerless, the Great Depression dealt a devastating blow to Hupmobile—one from which it never fully recovered. Determined to put its best foot forward, Hupp hired Raymond Loewy, the legendary industrial designer, to pen what it called the Aerodynamic Series, beginning in the 1934 model year. The 618 G was produced between 1936 and ‘37.

(via eBay motors)

This was a pretty common sight when driving around Detroit. So many gorgeous houses that have just been left to the wayside, an unfortunate side effect of the huge decline in industry and the mass exodus of people in the last 50 years. We talked with a neighbor who said that the owner of this house had been forced into a nursing home and then had recently passed away, and the home has been scheduled for demolition.

One of the strangest and most noticeable aspects of Detroit are its abandoned buildings. It’s not these buildings are abandoned, though, that makes them stand out. Plenty of cities have structures that are no longer in use, or have been nearly demolished by its own citizens. What makes Detroit unique is the frequency with which these damaged, emptied buildings occur; it seems that for every building currently in use, there’s one maybe a block down the road that looks like the one in the above photo.