Just off Interstates 94 and 75, north of downtown Detroit, at St. Antoine and Piquette and Harper, stands the abandoned and crumbling Fisher Auto Body 21 plant. It closed in the 1982. It used to produce auto bodies for GM, then limos and ambulances, before finally shutting its doors. Its design was not compatible with auto manufacturing needs, and the industry had long changed, moving to single story, vast production plants, located throughout the country.
The plant has frequently appeared on blogs celebrating the industrial decay of Detroit, of which I would have to count this web site among them, except I am not celebrating massive economic de-industrialization in the Motor City. I found this on my own, just driving. The plant stood out prominently, and I circled back to it once I left the freeway. It was completely surreal to see it, standing next to apartment buildings still being used and across the street from functioning businesses and a warehouse. No one in those buildings coming and going seemed to look or notice the structure, as it had become part of their environment. I saw a couple of guys hanging out there, and decided they were either security or perhaps folks I didn’t want to meet with a lot of camera equipment. Scores of photographers have been here before me, and will come after me, and you can see the wreckage in very accurate detail on Google Street View.
For many, it is just another eyesore and reminder of what was, and also a visible icon of what a declining industrial city looks like. (Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)
Since coming back from Detroit in late September, I have reached out to five Portland area universities if they or their student groups might like a multimedia show on the realities facing Detroit. So far, I have not had any bites. I do not think the topic is of much interest to Portland area residents, as Detroit is nearly 2,000 miles away, and the realities facing a city with tens of thousands of abandoned properties and continued problems with public safety, poverty, and economic revitalization just do not register here. The Rust Belt and its many ills I think matter very little beyond the region that is experiencing continued economic decline for decades. But, I will keep working on this.
It still startles me how little people know and care about the pockets of distress in the United States, even though we still share the same country. This is not true all the time and everywhere, but for those pockets of intense decline and multi-generation poverty, it is as if we write them off as failed mini-states, doomed forever to failure. There seems to be an unwritten decision that just says, you are no longer worth it. And, for many in east Detroit, that looks a bit like what you see here.
(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)