Tag Archives: Redlining

Unpacking My Detroit – Part Two

Detroit, once the fifth largest city in ‘Merka, is home to some of the greatest architecture among ‘Merkin cities.

It’s sad to see it today. The decline of Detroit began as innocent urban sprawl in the mid-to-late ’50s, when I was just a kid. This was followed by early White Flight acerbated by the 1967 riot, followed by a total collapse of the tax base, leading to the elections of some very dubious mayors with dubious ideas. Today Detroit is an urban wasteland and, while that sounds like a cliche, it is not an exaggeration. Whole blocks—whole neighbourhoods—are falling apart. The city is considering turning land over to farming, just like in the good ol’ days when Detroit was a little settlement along the river. Oh! Wait!

On my last trip to Detroit I took dozens of pictures like the following:

© Headly Westerfield, 2012
Drive along any street in Detroit.  Eventually you will see houses like the above. You might see blocks like the above and below.
© Headly Westerfield, 2012
The housing stock that has gone to waste, and is now rotting before our eyes, is a national disgrace. It was within ‘Merka’s power to see that Detroit didn’t fall into the shithole. Now it’s too late.
© Headly Westerfield, 2012

Yet the same city produced Motown before it went into the crapper.

© Headly Westerfield, 2012

Not many cities can boast a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Detroit can:

© Headly Westerfield, 2012
© Headly Westerfield, 2012
© Headly Westerfield, 2012

© Headly Westerfield, 2012

Detroit is a city of extreme contrasts, which become more contrasting each day.

Other entries:

Unpacking My Detroit ► Part One

Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Three

Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Four

Unpacking My Detroit – Part One

This is the first in a continuing series about Detroit, Michigan, my home town. I believe Detroit is emblematic of everything wrong with ‘Merka. At one time Detroit was the 5th largest city in these here United States. Overnight in the ’40s, Motown became the Arsenal of Democracy, building the machines that saved Truth, Justice, and the ‘Merkin way for trash such as Rush, Fox “News” and Johnny Dollar.

Click to enlarge

Yesterday, while doing some research, I came across the following map of when the various parts of Detroit were annexed.  The diagonal line starting at the upper left (and which is really on a due east-west orientation) is the infamous 8 Mile, which was the dividing line between Detroit and the suburbs in 1926…and still is. [Coincidentally, 1926 is the year of Pops’ birth, elsewhere.] The oldest parts of Detroit, are at the bottom of the map, on the river where settlement naturally started. Look further down to Canada, my adopted country. Windsor, Ontario [not labeled], Canada is the only Canadian city where one drives due north to get to ‘Merka. As a teen I often took the shuttle bus to Windsor to be able to say I spent the day in another country.

I grew up in the orange shape in the upper-left hand corner, which was annexed in 1926. The line that extends south from the eastern edge of that block is Greenfield Road. My house was 0.5 miles from that intersection, which is right where Hard Core Pawn takes place. That building used to be the bowling alley where my mother played in her Wednesday afternoon league. I spent so many hours there as a kid.

The Little House I Used To Live In

The area where I grew up was developed after the war and it had the designation “Madison Park” although that was apparently something only on a map because no one ever referred to it as such. Apparently the entire neighbourhood went up virtually overnight to help serve all those GIs coming back from the war.  This area, and many other parts of Detroit, were redlined, a practice begun by the Feds in the ’30s that continues in various forms today. Redlining, in one of its forms, restricted Blacks and Jews from purchasing in certain neighbourhoods. This was just one factor that led to Detroit’s eventually decline. This series will explore all the various ways in which Detroiters, Michiganders, and ‘Merkins systematically destroyed the city that helped save ‘Merka.

If you would like to share your stories or impressions of Detroit, please do.

Other entries in this series: