Not all is bleak in Detroit. As I drove around the city recording images in the summer of 2023, I saw a lot of decay, as is to be expected in a large urban area. But there is also a lot happening that gives me hope and pleasure. People are motivated to improve their lives. More development is being encouraged in land management and conservation. PlanetDetroit.com is worth looking at. Downtown is quickly evolving new architecture and deleting the old.
Right up the street from me I found this inventive yard-sale sign. Great pairing of the image of a famous person with some creative wordplay to lure you to the wares on display.
I saw construction ahead as I was returning to Royal Oak one day. I cut to a side street and saw a lawn filled with a variety of plants for sale and a sign announcing, “Joseph’s Vegetable and Fruit Plants.”
As an avid home gardener, I was powerless to resist. I stopped and talked to the adolescent horticulturist, Joseph, age 14. Here he is standing next to a hand-lettered exterior-temperature guide for when you should start moving plants to inside-window light.
I was amazed by the varieties of seeds emerging and plants growing in quart cups. The selection was neatly organized and labeled.
“Once you see the roots surrounding the cup, it’s time to plant.” Joseph’s next goal is to erect a greenhouse in the backyard.
I bought a green-bean plant for $5. As a bonus, Joseph gave me a green-pepper plant. I was thrilled to meet this ambitious young man with a vision and whose family supports his dream.
These next pictures, quite literally a breath of fresh air, are from Oxygen Alley at East Kirby and Moran Streets in Detroit.
This swath of land and alleyway has been neatly curated, and I liked the innovative use of old pallets for fencing. (Re-use, reduce, recycle!) The inviting space demonstrates one way to benefit from some of the 19 square miles of open land in the city. (Half the size of Disney World.)
Traveling in the same area, I stopped to snap some photos of Affirming Love Ministries on Oakland Ave. I was quite drawn to the painted entrance which adds eye-catching color to the otherwise plain landscape.
Not many old buildings – or active businesses – are left from Detroit’s bygone glory days of storefront retail. The dilapidated Afro American Barber and Beauty Shop building on Mack Ave. barely stands up to the wind.
Street-front architecture is disappearing daily all over the city. On Hamilton Ave. you could land a small plane. Small independent businesses are gone, as is the population.
Beer, Wine and Groceries are basic inventory at North Park Party Store on Hamilton Ave.
Still sprinkled around Detroit are the remains of the stunning Moorish architectural designs in both residential apartment buildings and storefronts. All generally falling apart and heavily graffitied.
Chene Avenue was once a packed retail strip stretching from the Detroit River and French “ribbon farms* to Dodge Main.
The street is now barren. Max’s Jewelry totters on extinction.
*The French settlers referred to long narrow farms along a river as “ribbon farms” based on their length and size. These lots had a short side along a waterway on one side and a central road on another, providing a way to cluster homes along a central road while allowing access to water for farming. (https://theclio.com/etry/120079)
On the North side of Max’s is a ghost sign for E. Donaldson auto parts.
The landscape would not be complete without at least one abandoned car.
Commemorating a life. Decharlos Brooks (age 27) was murdered on August 15, 2022, right here on Chene Ave.
North on Chene St. at Medbury.
In 1911, work began on St. Stanislaus, a magnificent Baroque church with a lavish Beau-Arts interior, completed in 1913. In 1921, a convent was built for the Felician Sisters who ran the church school and, seven years later, a high school. By the late 1940s, St. Stanislaus was the largest Polish school in Michigan. The deconsecrated church is now in private hands and rotting.
It is often refreshing to be in the Detroit Cultural Center. In my 20s and 30s I lived within walking distance of a Calder sculpture, Young Woman and Her Suitors. It now rises dramatically in a new light at the Detroit Institute of Arts. My earlier images of the sculpture are included in the book, Art In Detroit Public Places. Wayne State University Press.
Within sight, at the Wright Museum, is United We Stand by Detroit resident Charles McGee.
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