The Decline of Detroit, Documented

Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy one week ago today, becoming the largest city in America to do so. In 1950, Detroit’s population was 1,849,568. In 2010, the U.S. Census measured it at 713,777. That’s a mind-boggling drop of more than 1.1 million people (61.4%) over 60 years.

Interesting historical note: Detroit’s population grew even faster than it has declined: in just 20 years, between 1910 and 1930, the population increased by 1.1 million, jumping from 465,766 to 1,568,662.

Highland Park Police StationThe loss of population has left the city with thousands of abandoned buildings. Photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have documented this phenomenon with a series of beautiful and heartbreaking photographs. Some are available at the Deserted Places blog; you can see more at Marchand and Meffre’s own website.

Two photos in particular caught my eye, both taken at the abandoned (and since demolished) Highland Park Police Station, which was closed in 2001. (Technically, Highland Park is a separate city from Detroit, but it’s entirely contained within Detroit.)

The first photo shows mugshots and other documents scattered all over the floor. The second shows blood samples and other evidence, apparently from 1992, also scattered across the floor. I can’t help but wonder if there are crimes that will remain unsolved because of someone’s decision to leave these things behind.

You can see many more photos of the abandoned Highland Park Police Station at (Highly recommended.)

The Deserted Places blog (a favorite of mine) has also featured Kevin Bauman’s photographs of Detroit’s abandoned houses.

Photo by Marchand & Meffre.

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