Monday, November 11, 2013

A Trip to the Motor City: Midtown

This page covers an area with a radius of about 2 miles outside the downtown area (shaded in yellow in the map below).  This area is a mix of industrial, residential, and cultural. 


Important sites in this area include:

  1. The abandoned Packard Plant
  2. Orchestra Hall
  3. Wayne State University
  4. Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Historical Museum
  5. New Center Area, including the Fisher Building and the old GM Building
  6. Motown Museum
  7. Motor City Casino
  8. Site of Tiger Stadium
  9. Michigan Central train station
Just north of Comerica Park (and across the freeway, so it's not in downtown as I defined it), is Brush Park, an area that was originally built in the late 1800's and is near where my grandparents lived when they first came to Detroit in the early 1900's.  Most of the houses have been torn down; a few are still standing but abandoned and rotting, and a few have been restored.  





New housing is being built on a lot of the vacant lots in the area.



No trip to Detroit would be complete without a visit to the old Packard Plant.  If you're old enough to remember (or even if you're not), Packard was a popular car brand that was made in Detroit until the company went out of business in the 1950's.  Since then the building has been mostly abandoned and rotting away.  The city keeps proposing projects to revive it, but none of them ever made it.  As I write this, someone has offered to pay about $2 million for the property, but I'm not getting my hopes up.  If you want to see more of the Packard plant, go to http://www.detroiturbex.com/content/industry/packard/.




Heading up Woodward Avenue from downtown, we encounter the Cultural Center, which includes Orchestra Hall (yes, there is actually a Detroit Symphony Orchestra), and the Detroit Institute of Arts, which is one of the better art museums in the country, unless and until they sell off the collection to pay debts. 

Orchestra Hall

Detroit Institute of Arts
There are also a number of nice old churches and Victorian mansions in various states of repair in this area.



North of the Cultural Center is Wayne State University, one of the largest universities that you never heard of, because they don't have a big-time football team.  Wayne State has about 30,000 students.

Part of Wayne State University
The area around Wayne state is making somewhat of a comeback with a lot of restaurants and shops opening.


On the other hand, not all of Midtown is thriving.



North of Wayne State is the "New Center" area, which was developed in the 1920's.  The main buildings here are the Fisher Building, which contains the Fisher Theater, and the old General Motors Building.  GM has since moved their headquarters to the Renaissance Center and the building now contains city and state offices.

The Fisher Building

The old General Motors Building

A few blocks west of the Fisher Building is the former Motown Studios, which is now the Motown Museum.  You can tour the museum and see where all of the Motown songs were recorded in the 1960's and 1970's.  Yes, it was originally a house.


A few blocks west of the Motown Museum is the Lee Plaza Apartments, which provide luxury accommodations at affordable rates.



Heading back towards downtown, we encounter the Motor City Casino, part of which used to be the old Wonder Bread factory.


Heading south from the casino, we arrive at the site of Tiger Stadium, where the Detroit Tigers played from 1901 to 1999.  It was a dump, but it was our dump.

Tiger Stadium in 1999

Inside Tiger Stadium in 1999
After the Tigers moved to Comerica Park in 2000, they argued for 10 years about what to do with Tiger Stadium.  Eventually, they tore it down about 5 years ago.  However the field is still there and maintained by volunteers.

Goodbye to Tiger Stadium :-(
Tiger Stadium was in an area called Corktown, which was originally Detroit's Irish neighborhood.  There are still a lot of 19th century houses there in various states of repair.  The area is slowly becoming gentrified.

Some houses in Corktown
South of the Tiger Stadium site is another of Detroit's most famous ruins, the abandoned Michigan Central Railroad station.   The last time I went by the station, there was a busload of Japanese tourists taking pictures of it, so I guess it is an attraction of sorts.

Michigan Central Station

 Next: Some Residential Areas





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