Ruins of Detroit
Issue#18- October 2001
here to see the Fabulous Ruins Website
Ruins of Detroit began as sparkling edifices, the fulfillment of
the dreams of their architects and developers.
Their end did not come suddenly, as part of some natural disaster
or war. Instead it resulted from an accumulated lack of basic
aesthetic sensibility. A small thing left broken here, an indiscretion
of taste there, until a preponderance of damage equals an insoluble
situation. What was revered becomes scorned. Abandonment and vandalism
follow and the damage becomes irreparable."
has ruins, Athens has ruins. But Detroits are taller
and more extensive. And Detroit artist Lowell Boileau wants to be
your tour guide. What began as a tongue-in-cheek website you might
find for Rome has tapped into the pulse of a city that struggles
to rise from its ashes.
had painted the ruins of Detroit for years, and knew there was sentiment
for them," says Lowell. "But I never realized the extent
or amount of emotion toward them and Detroit that existed.
A trickle of email response soon became a flood with people pouring
out their hearts and memories. Some even said they were in tears,
the ultimate compliment to an artist.
then realized that this was not just a guide to the ruins of Detroit,
pictures and text, but an interactive community of emotions and
exchange of ideas. So I evolved the site to accommodate this by
creating a discussion forum, to move the site beyond me to derive
an audience created art work. I also set up events to put
human faces on to the participants such as the Fabulous Ruins night
at the Cass Cafe in Detroit last February."
Lowell shies away from the moniker of a preservationist. "What
really attracts me to these buildings is their visual presence and
immensity. They are simply awesome in their deliquentness, and the
artist inside me stands in awe."
has received an enormous amount of media coverage and traffic, averaging
about one million visitor sessions a year, generating close to ten
million page hits. All without costly promotions or publicity.
have made no attempt to spread the word about this site. It has
all happened on its own. In October of 1998, Yahoo anointed it,
unknown to me, as a Yahoo pick of the week."
to the site got so heavy that it cost Lowell an extra $440 in charges,
nearly forcing the site to shut down.
appealed for help on the site and a rising web firm, Sigma6, came
to the rescue and hosted me, so it continued," says Lowell.
"It later was made a Yahoo pick of the year. From there it
spread by word of email. Folks liked it, I guess, and told all their
friends about it. News sources picked it up including the New York
Times, and Wired Magazine, and numerous other media sources covered
it, driving its recognition even wider."
wonder. A visit to the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit brings into focus
architectural wonders that are both magnificent and disturbing in
their current state. Detroits Guilded Age, which began in
the 1880s and ushered in the automotive era, was marked by the design
and construction of many fine structures that have been etched into
our psyche on this side of the river. It was also an era marked
by egomania and greed, which has since led to abandonment and ruins.
is massive, and is divided into thirteen main sections, guiding
the visitor through both express excursions and detours. Expect
to spend an hour simply taking the express tour, or take the detours
and get lost in this site for hours.
Ruins tour highlights Lowells photography and artwork, featuring
the demolition of the "Seven Sisters" smokestacks, or
more officially, the Detroit Edison Conners Creek Power
Station, a Windsor landmark and beacon for generations of sailors
demolished in 1996. He pinpoints Henry Fords Piquette Plant
where Ford developed his first cars in 1904 and Fords Highland
Park Model T Plant, "the factory that changed the world."
Guilded Age section, tour the Brush Park area, located just north
of the new Comerica Park. Many of these splendid structures remain
in a neighbourhood once called "little Paris" at the turn
of the century. Boileaus photos of urban decay are riveting.
Since the construction of Comerica, Brush Park has experienced a
rebirth of sorts, and it is now well worth touring by car, using
Lowells site as a tour map.
the Downtown Ruins section will scare up some ghosts of the past.
The Hudsons demolition, Tiger Stadium, The Book Cadillac,
Joe Muers, the Monroe Block and some lesser known discoveries,
such as the tragic Michigan Theatre and the Madison Lenox across
the street from Comerica Park.
not all is doom and gloom at The Fabulous Ruins website.
City Rises, Lowell notes: "In spite of what has preceeded I
am pleased to report that Detroit is energetically rebounding. Beyond
the highly profiled new developments, there has been an encouraging
and increasing number of historic preservations." Profiles
include the Parke-Davis complex across from Walkerville, The Gem
Theatre, and the David Whitney Mansion, among others.
site is not just about the ruins of Detroit, but the story of Detroit
and its struggle to rise from its despair, about art that rises
from the ruins and more," he adds. "It is about the entire
international metropolis and will even soon include an extensive
webisode on Windsor, Walkerville and Sandwich, through a collaboration
between The Walkerville Times and Andrew Foot
to go to: Andrew Foot's Old Detroit
I have used this site
as a guide for touring the fabulous ruins of Detroit in person.
The maps on the site are excellent, and can help the avid ruins
tourist locate and explore splendid buildings and neighbourhoods
that once rivalled any found on the continent.
here to see the Fabulous Ruins Website