Daytwah: Postindustrial Wanderings in Detroit

Visit Detroit Year can be any year, starting now. Notable for experiencing one of the biggest US municipal bankruptcies brought on by the near-extinction of it’s industrial base and depopulation, Detroit is coming back. It’s worth a visit.

The downtown has a strong concentration of early 20th-century art-deco architecture, as well as a fair sample of late 19th century gilded age buildings. It doesn’t seem to have had the pressure of modern redevelopment given that it’s industrial decline set in from the 1960s onwards. Look out for the buildings by Albert Kahn, from Detroit and one of the best-known architects of his time.


Both the Penobscot Building (1928) was the tallest building in Michigan until the 1970s and the Book Tower (1917 and tower- 1926) are under restoration.

Wurlitzer was here. Also (still) Ford, GM, Chrysler, Quicken Loans and many others.


Detroit has a bunch of culture, if opera and symphonies are your thing, and good nightlife. Places to consider are the midtown area along Woodward and Cass Avenues, with rumbling hipsterfication giving some reuse of the empty neighborhoods going on. The art museums and Wayne State University are there as well.

The Greektown area, southeast of downtown, looks more for the convention and casino crowd (there are a few large casinos in Detroit with legalized gambling). In the past, Detroit suffered from segregation, middle-class suburban flight and resulting neglect of the central areas, so if re-urbanization trends occur here, then hopefully that will get some remedy. Good commentary on urban issues can always be found at Curbed –



The Detroit Institute of Arts is a world class art museum – in part because it has received collections donated by industrial-era wealthy families. It has an extensive and diverse collection. Make sure you see the massive Diego Rivera industrial mural, painted in 1933, in the central atrium.


I love the crowd observing from the back of the fresco, it could us I suppose.


Rivera’s industrial tapestry acknowledges the earth and civilizations behind the modern industrial world of 1933.


Edsel Ford makes an appearance at lower right with the museum director of the time.



There is a great African-American art selection and the walls run the gamut of collectible greats. Spot the Picasso, Monet and Brueghel.

There is a neat range of North American art, and the museum has a lot of supporting explanation, assuming, often correctly, that you know nothing.

You can go walkabout around the scattered remnants of the mid-20th century industrial age. Detroit’s population peaked at about 1.8m in the early 1950s and is now about 700,000. It’s a large, empty place, and a cold winter’s day is perfect to just walk around listening to your footsteps. The saying goes that the worse thing that happened to Detroit was the end of World War Two.


Fisher Body Plant 21, Piquette Avenue

The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant (1904) was the original Ford factory and worth a visit.

Those with an eye for real estate and who like south Michigan can pick up a solidly build Edwardian era brick and stone building.


Masonic Temple and 408 Temple Street, abandoned



Loyal Order of Moose Lodge, 2115 Cass Avenue

Other places worth checking out are the Museum of African American History, the Ford Museum (in adjacent Dearborn) and of course the Motown Museum. Most of the performers ultimately moved to Los Angeles, but the sound started here.

Detroit’s a good base to visit Michigan, and Toronto is about a 4-hour drive via the bridge into Windsor, Ontario, for a start. The airport is modern – if you’re a United customer with Gold level, the Lufthansa lounge is a nice perk even on a domestic flight.

Michigan has a strong craft beer tradition and you can find brewpubs by Founders, Batch Brewing, Motor City and Atwater within walking distance of downtown.


Founders Beer List – Extensive and Delicious

Hotels can be pricey depending on the season, given that business growth is solid – airbnb is a good option here.



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