Many of Detroit’s neighborhoods have seen better days. With so many people migrating to the suburbs and beyond over the past 50 plus years, urban blight has slowly crept in. Unfortunately, many of the vacated residential structures have been stripped of windows, pipes, bricks and other structural elements and eventually set on fire. The mass abandonment has left the once beautiful streets permanently disfigured, with unsightly open structures and weed choked lots, where houses or classic apartment buildings once stood. Pedaling throughout the city’s neighborhoods, it’s disheartening for me to see the extraordinary craftsmanship and unique architecture of the one-of-a-kind, custom homes lost forever.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many of these disgusting, burnt out dilapidated homes spread across this city. After a while, they all tend to look-alike. However, on occasion one of the distressed structures will catch my eye. Not because of their run-down condition or the blackened, ashen remains strewn about, but the interesting artifacts that have survived the devastating fire.
I came across one of particular interest just the other day. The former home I spotted was now a dark pile of charred wood, bricks and other debris from a recent fire. It was all but obliterated, with the exception of one white wall. That particular wall supported a gorgeous, arched plaster doorway that was still standing, unscathed. By the looks of it, I assumed the wide, decorative opening led to a decent sized living room that is now long gone. Round plaster columns edged the opening of the ornate plaster wall and anchored its graceful, flowing arch. The eight foot wall stood proudly, as a small tribute to its builder, in defiance of the fire that once surrounded it. The wall looked untouched by the fire and smoke and, remarkably, it was not blackened or buckled by the heat or blown apart by high-pressure fire hoses. Strangely enough, it was 90 percent intact, with only small chunks of the plaster broken away.
Looking at the ornate plaster wall reminded me of a picture frame. Gazing through its smooth, clean opening, I saw a few blackened timbers from the fire, trees and other plants from the empty lot next door. It literally framed a small, modest part of Detroit that I would, in all probability, never see. So I got to thinking; wouldn’t it be cool if some enterprising individual could salvage this plaster wall (or frame), mount it to a trailer and tow it around the city for use as a street side photo frame? Think about the possibilities: riders framed at a bus stop, on church steps, or at a window in a small barbeque restaurant late at night. Street musicians would appear as if they were on stage. Graffiti wall art would be framed in a museum setting for all to see. The possibilities and settings are endless in this city.
This interesting little fragment of a burnt out home could frame Detroit in a new, fresh way. What do you think?