Decline Of Detroit Photo Essay

In Detroit, the devastating economic effects of deindustrialization continue to push inhabitants away from what was once the fourth-largest city in America.

New census data indicates Detroit's population dropped by a startling 25 percent in the last decade, from 951,270 in 2000 to 713,777 last year. That's a 60 percent decline from its 1950 peak population -- 1.85 million -- and the lowest count since the 1910 Census put the then-promising Motor City's population at 285,704.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, aware his state's manufacturing sector might be in permanent decline, has been on a campaign to reinvent his state. "We cannot cling to the old ways of doing business," he said in response to the newest census numbers. "We cannot successfully transition to the 'New Michigan' if young, talented workers leave our state." Chrysler has been on the campaign trail too, releasing a Super Bowl ad with Eminem titled "Made in Detroit."

A recent book called Ruins of Detroit depicts how Detroit's downturn has turned to decay over the last several years: Abandoned hotels, houses and schools line the streets as a reminder of the city's slow economic decline. The devastation takes on an eerie beauty, as captured by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. The book, published in 2010, depicts Detroit's urban landscapes over several years.

The photographs show once-lively structures of an American city, now remembered by its remains.

The entire collection of photos can be found in the Ruins of Detroit book, or at Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre Photography

Take a look at the ruins of the city:

PHOTO GALLERY

Detroit In Ruins: Photos By Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

Dying Detroit: Haunting photos of crumbling neighbourhoods highlight the terrible decline of America's once-great Motor City

By Daily Mail Reporter
Updated: 08:22 GMT, 29 March 2011


  • Population drops 25 per cent to 713,777 - the city's lowest since 1910
  • Largely African-American population moves away to escape the terrible effects of the recession
  • Buildings rot on deserted streets that were once bustling thoroughfares

It was the centre of America's industrial muscle, but now it lies in ruins - a stark portrait of urban decay ravaged by the global recession

The population of devastated Detroit has dropped by 25 per cent in the past ten years and is now at its lowest since 1910.

Empty factories, burnt-out homes, silent banks and even derelict police stations litter the place once known as the 'Motor City' - where Henry Ford built his first car.

Must the show go on? The United Artists Theater in Detroit, derelict and open to the elements. Detroit has suffered economically more than any other major U.S. city

Lack of vanity: Once billed as 'Detroit's most beautiful dance rendezvous', the Vanity Ballroom can hardly make that claim today

Almost a third of the city's 140 square miles is vacant or derelict.

Portraits by French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre show the breathtaking decline of once-proud buildings - allowed to rot and crumble from a former glory.

It looks more like a Hollywood film's futuristic vision of a post-apocalyptic world, than a 21st century American city.

The decay does not discriminate, public entertainment venues such as cinemas lie in ruins alongside banks and medical centres.

From the vaults: A haunting image shows the once-secure and proud Bagley-Clifford Office of the National Bank of Detroit - its vault decrepit and strong boxes strewn

Unbelievable: The Highland Park police station is the most shocking of the portraits by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Mugshots litter the floor

A forlorn note: Looking more like a war zone - or an underwater shot of the Titanic - the ballroom of the Lee Plaza Hotel and its upturned grand piano is a sorry sight

In the most 'shocking' of portraits, a police station lies abandoned - mugshots from countless criminals strewn across its floors.

The figures, released in the 2010 Census Data, suggest the economy, weather and the draw of the suburbs are all blamed on the drain from cities.

It also points to an evacuation of cities that have large black communities. Chicago, Oakland, Atlanta, Cleveland and St Louis all saw a considerable change in population - but it was in Detroit, with an African-American majority, where it was most prevalent.

In ruins: A third of the city's 140 square miles - including the Packard Motors plant, left, and William Livingston House, right - lies abandoned and derelict

A lesson from history: Jane Cooper Elementary School, already devoid of children and staff, still has some semblance of order in spring 2008

School's out forever: A year later, in spring 2009, the school is destroyed and sprayed with graffiti. Evidently civic pride has also declined with the population

The city's population fell to 713,777 from 951,270 in 2000, when the last census was taken.

This is being blamed on the struggling automotive industry, plant closures and job losses.

Nearly a century ago, the expansion of the auto industry fuelled a growth spurt that made the Motor City the fourth-largest in the country by 1920, a place it held until 1950 when it was at 1.85million,

By 2000, Detroit had fallen to tenth place.

Crumbling glory: The East Grand Boulevard Methodist Church is one of the stops on Jesse Welter's tour of derelict Detroit. He charges punters $45 for a three-hour tour

Future unknown: Michigan Central Depot train station is another on the Welter tour. Having been empty since 1988, it is a stark reminder of the economic devastation suffered by the former bustling city

According to Chinwe Onyeagoro, CEO of O-H Community Partners, a Chicago-based economic development consulting firm, sunny skies and warm temperatures are luring not only retirees but also young professionals who may have friends or relatives in the Sun Belt — Atlanta and Houston in particular.

Suburbs are also a huge draw.

She told USA Today: 'Typically, middle-class African-American families make the same kind of choices that white families have made for some time.

'As soon as kids are school-age, they move to the suburbs which are also luring lower-income blacks who are leaving neighbourhoods that don't have supermarkets and other retail.'

Trashed and burned: Gutted and vacant houses line the streets of Detroit, as census figures show the population has plummeted by 25 per cent in ten years

This was also thought to be a trend in Detroit.

Demographer at Brookings Institution William Frey, who analysed the data, said: 'In the northern cities, a lot of young blacks who might have grown up in cities are leaving maybe the entire region.

'They're going to the Sun Belt and particularly the South. The ones who stay in the area want to move to the suburbs,

'Detroit has suffered the biggest loss of blacks the city has shown, and that’s tied to the foreclosures in the city’s housing. It has been the most segregated city in the country and it is still pretty segregated, but not as much.'

The staggering loss over the past decade surprised even demographers who track Detroit’s out-migration patterns.

Kurt Metzger, an urban affairs expert and demographer who analysis data about the city, said: 'I never thought it would go this low. This is the biggest percentage loss that Detroit has ever seen.'

Trend: Detroit's population plunged 25% in the past decade to 713,777, the lowest count since 1910. It was at its peak in 1950 at 1.85million

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Share or comment on this article

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *