Saturday, November 18, 2017

The abandoned homes of Detroit's Petosky-Otsego neighborhood

While driving east on Interstate 96 from the Brightmoor neighborhood an abandoned church caught my eye.

That part's coming.

First, here's a little bit about Petosky-Otsego. According to Google Maps, the boundaries of the pentagon-shaped neighborhood are Grand River on the southwest, Livernois on the west, Sturtevant on the northwest, Wildmere on the northeast, and Grand Boulevard on the southeast. (In the older part of Detroit, the street grid runs southeast to northwest and southwest to northeast.)

Later I'll discuss the radial street design of Detroit.

Many of the houses here are American Foursquares, which makes sense as Detroit's boom years ran from 1900 through 1930, which coordinates with the span when this home style was popular.

This one is a half block from the church.

That's the former home of the Abundant Life Christian Center at 8240 Grand River.The story of the church is a typical woeful Detroit tale. According to Detroiturbex, the a faulty generator started a fire that caused considerable but not devastating damage. While the church was awaiting insurance money for repairs, scrappers moved in looted the house of worship, stealing pipes, generators and even stained glass windows.

Calvary Presbyterian built the church, the first services were held in 1918. As white flight swept through Petosky-Otsego in the 1950s, the once large congregation dwindled. Eventually Abundant Life, which appears now to be preaching in suburban Redford Charter Township, moved in. The Detroiturbex photo of the church, taken in 2011, clearly shows the last name of the church. The elements, or perhaps a sandblaster, have removed it.

While there are not as many theories as to what the meaning is of sneakers dangling from telephone wires in the inner city as there are gym shoes hanging from those wires, there sure are a heap of them.

Another collapsed porch.

Glass block windows offer privacy and security--but a high-powered rifle still wins in the end.

Augustus B. Woodward was the first Chief Justice of Michigan Territory. He devised the radial plan, only partly implemented, of wide streets emanating from Detroit's center on the Detroit River facing Canada on the southeast, when the future Motor City was a frontier town. It's believed his idea was inspired by Pierre Charles L'Enfant's plan for America's new capital, Washington, DC.

Grand River Avenue is one of those boulevards. Woodward envisioned a great city thirty years before Michigan became a state. And great it was. But look at Grand River now. It is seven lanes of emptiness. This photograph was taken around noon on a Tuesday. Land-wise, contemporary Detroit is a city that is too big for itself. On the flipside, it's easy to quickly jump from one side of town to the other, except during rush hour on the freeways.

Woodward Avenue (M-1),  the east-west dividing line of Detroit and one of those radial streets, is named for him.

Two more abandoned American Foursquares.

It's not all blight in Petosky-Otsego, there are much newer homes on Heritage Place. But note the wrought-iron fence.

That's your typical Detroit sidewalk. Many are even worse. Which is why you rarely see people walking on them.

Illegal dumping is a challenging problem for Detroit. There are a couple of tires in that pile of trash. This week Detroit Police announced the arrest of a suburban convicted sex offender for dumping over 250 tires about  two miles from here. He was convicted of the same crime two years ago.

But at some point, my friends, the people who live in these shat-upon neighborhoods need to take ownership and clean them up, Government cannot solve every problem.

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