Friday, January 19, 2018

The abandoned homes of Highland Park, Michigan

"Get off my lawn" is the meme line that came out of Clint Eastwood's elegiac 2008 film Gran Torino.

Most of the movie was filmed in Highland Park a suburb of Detroit that save for a sliver adjoining Hamtramck, is almost entirely surrounded by the Motor City.

The home of Eastwood's character, Walt Kowalski, was an American Foursquare similar to this one.

An arson scene from 8 Mile was filmed in Highland Park.

But until Gran Torino, Highland Park's name was linked to, no surprise, the automobile industry. Pictured here is the former Highland Park Ford Plant, another work by architect Alfred Kahn. As I noted in my previous Detroit post, about Milwaukee Junction, the first Model T was manufactured at the Ford Piquette Plant, but productions was perfected here. "Probably no factory changed life in 20th century America as much as the Highland Park Ford Plant," the National Park Service says on its Detroit site. By the late 1920s, despite the sprawl of this complex, Ford outgrew it and moved its automobile production to its still-operating River Rouge complex in Dearborn.

Ford later built tractors here and during World War II in produced M4A3 Sherman tanks. Ford ceased automotive manufacturing in Highland Park in the 1950s.

What was once the world's largest factory is now a warehouse for the Henry Ford Museum and clothier Forman Mills.

For many years Chrysler's headquarters was in Highland Park, where it was founded. Chrysler moved out in 1993, taking 6,000 jobs to Auburn Hills.

I noticed many new houses in Highland Park. So far so good? Not here. Notice the board-up job on the one on the right and the broken windows on the closer home.

As you probably ascertained by now, I arrived in Highland Park shortly before dusk.

Amazingly, Highland Park's population peaked in 1930, when 52,000 people lived here. Now only 11,000 do.

That is not a Native American mound. Beneath that grass is the rubble of an old house. This is what is known as an urban prairie, something I encountered in Brightmoor.

Over 90 percent of Highland Park residents are black, less than one percent of them are Asian. Gran Torino was originally set in Minneapolis, which has a very large Hmong population, the Hmongs of course were the people Eastwood's character befriended in the movie.

Wikipedia says that an astounding 87 percent of those living in Highland Park are single--the highest of any town in Michigan.

Violent crime is a serious problem in Highland Park.

Behind that heap of wood rubbish is another one of those new Highland Park homes--vacated, yes.

Here's a pair of forsaken houses.

Yes, I have to include the obligatory Detroit-area burnt-out house shot.

Highland Park's best days are way back in the past and I don't see a turnaround coming. Like Brightmoor in Detroit, it will remain in its coma for a generation or more.

Yep, up there are two more quite new homes--that are boarded up. Not even new construction can save Highland Park.


prentz said...

My grandparent's home in Highland Park is still there. They moved there from Oil City, PA for grandpa to work for Edward Gray, who grandpa had work for for three years at Riverside Engine Company. Gray was hired to be Henry Ford's Chief Engineer and Construction Engineer at the Highland Park plant was in charge of the move from the old Piquette Plant. Photos of their home back in 1913 along with a couple from 2015 are at

prentz said...

I forgot to click the post for followup comments- my email is