old gm building
Bartleby the Scrivener vegan27
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pine street
Since moving into this apartment, one of the routes where I walk Lola takes us down a block of Pine Street where there are no houses left. I think it was on this same block where Anny and I saw our very first urban pheasant, which was a shocking sight at the time.



You've seen images like this so many times that it's basically a cliche. While walking down the street, I try to imagine the "novelty" of it actually being surrounded by two-story residential homes.


From a 1949 aerial photograph.


One day I realized that the houses that had faced the street were the only houses that ever stood there, ever. This land was part of Woodbridge Farm, and these particular blocks were platted in the early 1880s. Houses were built, added onto, and finally torn down. The only second-generation structure seems to be the building on the corner of Pine and Cochrane, which was built in the 1930s as a print shop.



I'm not sure what it's used for now, but it's owned by a company called Screen Machine. So maybe it's still used for printing? I don't know, do your own effen research.



The building been improved since this Google Street View image was taken, and there is some kind of work being done inside. But the houses on that block are gone and they're never coming back.

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Here's another unbearable cliche for you--the city's motto. You all know what it is--don't even make me say it. I think reading it in blog posts about the city leads to some sort of collective unconscious assumption that we're experiencing a temporary period of decline among a continual series of deaths and rebirths that he city has always experienced. The city seal even depicts the origin of our motto--i.e., Detroit being destroyed by fire in 1805.


You should be able to see flames on the left.


Everyone knows that "the city burned to the ground" in 1805, and you can't avoid the comparisons to the 1967 riots or the Devil's Nights of the 1980s. The 1805 fire and the subsequent resurrection of the city was its defining moment, but what exactly did it entail? I mean, how much destruction did that amount to? Below is an image of the city's present-day size, in orange. That green spot downtown represents its extent in 1805.



Detroit's population was a mere 500 residents at the time. The town's borders roughly corresponded to Washington Boulevard, Larned Street, Griswold Street, and the river, whose shoreline was closer at the time.



Basically, the great symbolic destruction of the city amounts to a couple of blocks burning down. Of course, the blocks in that little town were a lot smaller, and the streets were a lot narrower, ranging from just ten to twenty-five feet wide at the most. This map from 1796--the year the settlement changed from British to American hands--shows the blocks and streets that would be destroyed just nine years later. The thing at the top is a fort.



Unseen here are all of the farm houses, up and down both shores along the Detroit River. The farmers undoubtedly took in many of the homeless residents. Temporary structures were also erected on the public land, which was roughly between Washington Boulevard and Randolph Street.

When I would look at the old drawing of Judge Woodward's plan for the new city, I assumed that it was for the downtown portion, not knowing how small Detroit was at the time. But Woodward's plan wasn't just for one section of the city--it was THE CITY. All of it.



In fact, the blocks that burned down would only amount to less than one-eighth of this plan. This map, by the way, is what I used to estimate the previous location of the riverbank.

I should qualify what I said about the above image representing "all" of the city so that people don't correct me. Although the above image represents more city plots than the people could have occupied at the time, it was Woodward's ultimate intention to repeat the pattern indefinitely.



Only a portion of the first plan was ever implemented, let alone any repetition of it.



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I have gotten completely and totally off track here. I guess what I'm saying is that the burning of the "entire city" in 1805 really only amounted to a few blocks, and it did not set a precedent that has granted us the magical power to rebuild after widespread destruction. And when I walk down Pine Street specifically, past those lots where only one generation of houses stood for a few decades before being wiped completely out, I realize that this desolation isn't a temporary setback to be overcome--the prosperity of the past was the anomaly. I'm not even sure how long the block was even complete. The 1885 atlas of the city shows that not all of the lots contained houses yet, and a 1961 aerial photo shows that some of the houses were already missing. Only one house facing the street is left standing in a 1981 aerial photo. The thousands of tightly-packed houses that used to go on for miles is not our standard--it was a one-time event.

I have nothing original to say. I just wanted to post pictures of maps.

I talked to the guy who owns that building on Pine Street. His name is Eddie. He wants to turn the upstairs into three artists spaces. I'm going to guess that the building is over 10,000 square feet, so 1/3 of he upper floor could be close to 2,000 square feet. I ran into him because I was thinking, minus his barking dogs, that that type of building could be good for studio use. It's not next to anybody's house, it has concrete construction, and it's walking distance from where I live. I hope he calls me when he is ready for a build-out. He runs or used to run a screen printing business. I did not see upstairs so I don't know what shape it's in.

And yes -- I have thought about this many times. It is very recently that anything at all was built on this land. I am surprised at how tiny the city was when it burned. I thought it was at least a square mile, so I'm way off.

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