Detroit is an old city with plenty of old wood frame homes. In certain sections, such as Historic Corktown, many of the frame homes were built in the mid-1800s and have been restored. Other sections of the city, especially along the narrow streets of the eastside north of the Detroit River, have quite a few of the aged wood frame houses. Judging by the simplicity of the architecture and inexpensive wood building materials, they were probably built in the late 19th century or early 20th for the growing working-class population. Although some of the clapboard-laden homes are still lived in, there are a good number that are abandoned. Over time they have turned a weather-beaten gray color, much like an old deserted, wind-beaten mining town of the American west.
On my bike rides I see quite a few of these old working-class homes. I also see a few of the old wooden two-story commercial buildings that housed general stores or other small merchants that served the needs of the once populous neighborhoods. Like the area homes, they too have a weather-beaten gray hue to them and have unusual rugged lines. There is something charming about these 100-year-old structures that have stood there for such a long period of time. They have a certain personality quite similar to the buildings one might see in a ghost town.
Most of the old wooded structures I’ve seen are paint free and have loose wood trim barely hanging on. I’ve seen others where the roofs covered in old shingles or tar paper are beginning to sag. I’ve even seen tilting porches and once perfectly squared windows and door frames that have shifted at odd angles. Unfortunately, another part of the city’s working-class heritage is slowly being lost. It won’t be long before these places will disappear, much like an old tree that has fallen and is now lying on the ground, slowly rotting away.
With so much vacant land in Detroit, it would be cool to secure a section of it and set up a historic ghost town by moving these old frame ghost homes and stores to the site. The park could be modeled after Dearborn’s Greenfield Village and others of this type. It could feature vintage lighting, bricked or dirt streets, etc. interpreters, dressed in vintage garb, could be on hand to show and explain how working-class Detroiters once lived.