In 2012 I met Kathina Cary. She was delivering a foil covered meal to a local resident at the end of the block.
She lived just off the corner of McClellan Street and Goethe (locally pronounced GO-thee) Street, once a prosperous and dense North-South street on the East side of Detroit.
Kathina had envisioned a transformation of her corner of Detroit. Planting annuals, decorating items in the landscape and hustling up local artists to paint biblical images on the boarded-up Goethe Apartments (ca. 1924). Detroit once had a large German community on the East side, and seven major breweries.
She is now gone and the home she lived in sits empty. Her beloved apartment building, named after Germany’s greatest writer, still sits awaiting the wrecking ball.
As I travel north on McClellan St. It jogs around the Vigilante Motor Cycle Club fortress with a massive steel door. No members or bikes in sight.
At the corner of McClellan St. at Mack Avenue sits a string of buildings that never seem to get completed. In 2011 I photographed Razor Sharpe Cuts, with graphics dominating the unfinished structure, next door to Pots & Pans Grill. The businesses are now gone.
McClellan Street is dotted block after block with abandoned properties.
As I travel north I came across an oasis. “Waltons Plants- We carry a complete line of plants and vegetables.”
Bill Walton (age 71) migrated with his family to this neighborhood in 1953 from a rural farming community in Georgia.
He lives in the second house from the corner. His mother (age 88) still lives next door, on the corner where he grew up.
Retired with a good union bus drivers pension, Bill loves his green house in the back yard. Here he grows annuals and fills hanging baskets with geraniums.” I am always busy”, he says, supplying greenhouse inventory.
In the large hoop greenhouse opposite his home, he and companion Beverly grow lush vegetables available for sale in the community.
On the west side of the greenhouse are two lots, purchased for future greenhouse expansion.
“There are no grocery stores in this community and nearly no people left to buy my vegetables. I am very isolated with little traffic flow with only local people, Not many even care about gardening”
Bill and Beverly contribute beautiful greens to the Grown in Detroit project weekly. (detroitagriculture.net).
The project links the growing city agriculture community and sells fresh products in season every Saturday at Detroit’s Eastern Market.
Bill, Beverly, and I walked west from their home less than a block past a few stable homes, much abandonment, to a rental home he owns.
The frame house next door to his property had been fire bombed. “ I heard the fire trucks last night, but did not realize that the property was next to my rental.”
“We had a wild bunch of young men living in it off and on. Thank goodness the fire did not spread to my rental”, Bill said as he looked on to another decimated property on his block.
The couple continue to live out their lives on McCellan Street and contribute to the community even when faced with adverse conditions.
Note: The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America – by Alan Mallach
You may review additional Detroit images at: www.davidclementsproductions.com