Saturday, March 20, 2010

"Could I have a side of decaying opulance with that, please?"

Sarah and Paolo like things that are a little urban, so it was time for them to get a tuck-and-roll daytrip to Detroit under their belts. In taking this trip with them, I was reminded again of some of the things I love about the gritty, grungy, slightly tarnished beauty of Detroit.

We began in the morning heading south in I-75 allllllll the way down to 9 Mile Road to exit there into Ferndale to look at the bustling few blocks of business street that intersect Woodward and remind me of what I think Hamilton Street in Saginaw could be in another twenty years with the right people keeping busy there.

Then we headed south on Woodward pointing out the ramshackle remains of the old Ford plant and the bright specks of craft tile that pop from every other facade in Detroit. We turned right on Warren to go to the Architectural Salvage Warehouse and looked at piles of flaking, splintering design possibilities.

Next came Showcase Collectables in what was once China Town, then we headed downtown to Bagley and the Michigan Building.

I had driven past and - once-upon-a-time - had peeked inside what is now a parking structure as a child and wanted to take Sarah and Paolo to see the repurposed space. After driving around the buildign without recognizing it four or five times we finally parked near the blown-out remains of some one's car windows. We were let into the back of the building by a friendly security guard in the lobby.

Ten or so steps through a narrow, twisted little hall and out a steel door and we stood under what was left of something incredible:

Barely 8-9 feet above our heads were baroque wreathes, faces whose expresions had long ago flaked away, crumbling egg-and-dart patterns and fragments of marble veneer. Walking forward toward light pouring in from the side of the building we were suddenly in a space that soared four stories upward to an amazingly ornate cieling that seemed to have columns hanging from it instead of supporting it; the cieling seemed to float like an art installation over what was now a parking garage. Visible through the steel eye beams and seemingly-too-slender poured concrete columns holding up three levels of parking was the cieling of what had once been the auditorium of the old Michigan Theater. Even after having been closed since the mid-1970's and converted to a parking garage it cannot help but be impressive in a way that inspires goose bumps.

1 comment:

Jeannie said...


Your adventure in Detroit; was very well written, you painted a picture of where you were with your words. Love you Mom and Dad