From the Ruins

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Dalene & Pete Heck

If history has taught us anything, it’s that history has taught us nothing. While Detroit’s bankruptcy is historic in its grandiosity, the narrative is not new. The Motor City has risen from the ashes before and is on its way again.

What we do in between is observe and document it. Reflecting on the ruins will allow us to greater marvel at its rebirth.

Fisher Body 21

Once an important supplier to General Motors, it was sold in 1989 to a paint spray company who promptly went bankrupt and did nothing with it. It is now owned by the city.

Fisher Body Plant 21 Detroit
Staircase to Roof

Abadoned Floor Detroit Factory
Abandoned Icicles

Fisher Tracks
Looking Out
Stairs to Stairs
Art Fisher Body Plant

Southwest General Hospital

It is one of six hospitals abandoned. Sometime between 2000 and 2002, they locked the doors expecting to reopen, but never did. Scattered on the floors we found medical records and even cancelled checks.

South Western General Hallway

Down the Hall
Dead Flowers
Eye on Downtown

Creepy Abandoned Hospital
Broken Glass
Wall Art

Southwest High School

Closed less than two years ago, this school is symbolic of the “circle of death”, and is one of 59 that have been abandoned. Metal scrapers invade soon after doors close, others come just for the thrill of smashing things up.

When You Want to Succeed
Class is Out
Gym Class

Geography Class
Abandoned Pool
Burning Books

Morning Light
Disecting Prawns

Empty Desk

how to do it

While it would be possible to visit any of these buildings (and more) on your own, we chose to take this tour with a local photographer. It was comforting to walk through these buildings in a group, and with someone who was familiar to point out any safety concerns. The one thing about this tour that could be improved is that I would have liked more information about each building we visited.We can not explicitly endorse this tour as it does come with some element of danger, and of course being inside these buildings constitutes trespassing. Do so at your own risk.

24 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • December 11 2014

    Wow – great photos! Some of those from the hospital are very eerie.
    Emily recently posted..Crunching the Numbers

  • Cam
    December 11 2014

    Creative photos guys. You’ve done a great job capturing the mood. Looks like the set for a Walking Dead episode!
    Cam recently posted..13 Tips for Successful Baby Travel

    • December 14 2014

      That’s what so many people on the tour said (I don’t watch the show so wouldn’t know)!

      • Dee
        December 30 2014

        Your photos are outstanding . What kind of camera(s) do you use ?

  • December 11 2014

    Great pictures of course! I find it so intriguing, it’s modern day ruins. In Rome or Angkor Wat, etc. when I look at ruins it’s hard to feel, truly understand, what life was like. But Detroit, it’s like the buildings would be whispering and talking to you. I’d be able to feel that there was life there and that now it’s gone and ghostly quiet…

    • December 14 2014

      That is what was so shocking about it. It was like it was full of people one day, then empty the next, with so many remnants. The medical records in the hospital, some paints and books in the school.

  • December 11 2014

    It’s incredible how a whole U.S. city (almost) can be abandoned today.Detroit’s “ruins” are very different from how we think of ancient ruins in Greece or Egypt, say. But perhaps when these ancient cities were first abandoned, they too exhibited the detritus of ordinary life.
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted..Egypt’s ancient temples and tombs honor the gods

    • December 14 2014

      Yeah, we’ve wondered that too, what those were like when first abandoned. And the thing is that I don’t think Detroit is the worst of it in American right now.

  • December 11 2014

    I absolutely love these shots you took! Abandonment has always fascinated me and you did a fantastic job capturing the vibe you feel when you are in an abandoned building.
    Kenin Bassart recently posted..Touring Tabasco and Avery Island’s Jungle Gardens

  • December 11 2014

    Great photos but how sad to think of all the lives that were affected by the bankruptcy.
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat) recently posted..365 Project 2014 – week 49

  • Very creepy! Abandoned places always take the best photos 🙂
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..My 2015 travel plans REVEALED

  • December 11 2014

    You rebels, you! Very interesting post, though – crazy to think some of those places have only been abandoned for a couple of years!
    Amanda recently posted..Swimming With Wild Dolphins in New Zealand

  • December 12 2014

    LOVE these photos. I’m fascinated by abandoned places but rarely have the nerve to explore on my own.
    Caroline Eubanks recently posted..What It’s Like to Be a Travel Blogger

    • December 14 2014

      Yeah, that’s why we could only do it in a group. 🙂 We were going to go to another place on our own the next day but couldn’t get up the nerve.

  • December 12 2014

    These photos are amazing but so eery and sad. I definitely am with you on taking the tour though, walking around these alone would be pretty scary!
    Anna | The Blonde Banana recently posted..48 Hours in Aruba, Part 2: Off Roading & Cave Exploring On the “Other Side” Of the Island

  • I’m absolutely fascinated with abandoned buildings so if I was in Detroit I’d definitely do this tour! You guys have done a wonderful job of capturing the atmosphere of these places, the photos are amazing!
    Beverley | Pack Your Passport recently posted..A Scary Ghost Walk In Llandaff, Cardiff

    • December 14 2014

      Thanks so much Beverley! As much as we hate to say it, given the people who were sadly affected by all of this, it was really enjoyable to photograph.

  • December 15 2014

    Amazing Photography, Dalene & Pete! There is something so beautifully haunting about the destruction you see in them. I can see the story without reading a word. Thank you for the inspiration!

  • December 18 2014

    Great photos 🙂
    Muza-chan recently posted..Good luck charms for the New Year, Hagoita

  • December 18 2014

    I’ve never really thought of Detroit as a possible cool destination I’d love to visit but after reading your posts about it the city seems to be totally incredible and is definitely my kind of place! When I finally make it to the States I’m so gonna go there! Thanks for bringing my attention to it!
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  • Franca
    January 3 2015

    I know you’ve already heard it, but I have to say it too, amazing photos guys! I love abandoned places even if it’s very sad when thinking of how many people were affected b the bankruptcy.

  • Abandoned sites are beautiful in their own way. I’ve got to say, I think the photo with the minion was my favorite 🙂

  • January 6 2015

    They are quite poignant photos. i had read previously about the downfall of Detroit and sounds like your tour just emphasized it. Hard to believe this is an American city though. Looks like something out of a story book plot.
    Natalie recently posted..14 Beautiful Places of Turkey to Visit in 2015

  • January 10 2015

    These murals are so gorgeous! Love a peek at the “dirty” side of travel to contrast against the clean and beautiful (though the ruins are beautiful in their own right!).
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..Road Rules: Driving to Sicily

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