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Sunday, December 16, 2007


After Andrew noted that Google Street View had added imagery for Minneapolis, I browsed some of the other cities they added. I ended up getting sucked into a couple hours of wandering Detroit, which appears to be astoundingly dead in many areas. Baltimore has many depressing areas with few residents and boarded up buildings, but it does not compare with Detroit.

There appear to be large sections of the city where there is only a smattering of occupied houses, with the rest either abandoned or demolished. For instance, plunk yourself down at the intersection of Kirby and Mitchell, just five blocks south of the Cadillac Assembly Plant. The impression you get is that you're in the countryside, but for some reason there's a grid of streets running through it. (According to the Detroit Wikipedia entry, the term "urban prairie" has been coined for the vegetation taking over vacant lots.) You can catch glimpses of the overgrown vestigial sidewalks and a fire hydrant, but aside from that it ain't too urban-looking. Wander around and you can see just how few houses there are, and how many of the ones that remain are abandoned. (Just like Google Maps, you can drag the image to look around, and here you can click in the arrows on the streets to move to a new position, or just drag the figure that notes your position on the map.)

Nearby, something that is pretty urban-looking is the totally decimated commercial area on Chene Street. If you head northwest from there on Chene, you can see that it's block after block of dead businesses and vacant lots.

I also wandered by Partee Catering, an even-more-ragtag-than-usual storefront church, and one very glum park.

Learned from Wikipedia entry: The city's motto (translated from the Latin) is "We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes". (I wonder what it was before? In Baltimore, all those bus benches on dirty and desolate street corners proclaiming it "The Greatest City in America" seem a little sarcastic after a while, so count me a fan of Detroit acknowledging reality with its motto. Though "we hope for better things" strikes me as a bit passive.) Also, Detroit's population was 465,766 in 1910, and only 20 years later it was 1,568,662 amid the boom in the automobile industry -- dang. It peaked around 1.85 million, and is about 900,000 today.

Anyway, I really ought to get out of this internet rabbit hole and go to bed...

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