School's Out Forever in Detroit


This tiny box elder sapling took root in a pile of mouldy books and ash inside the former Detroit Public Schools book depository.

We talk often about Detroit, how this incredible infrastructure is going to rot and waste. The school system, which used to handle a city of twice the population, has a lot of surplus space and is closing schools every year.

James Griffioen did a searing photo essay of the schools of Detroit and it isn't pretty.
A school art classroom ransacked by vandals has cupboards and a closet still well-stocked with art supplies; the closet still had a six-foot pile of unused paper.

Griffioen writes that the schools were supposed to be secured but the work was never done, so the scrappers moved in. Conditions sound third-world:

Only recently, a principal at one Detroit public school asked parents to send toilet paper and light bulbs to school with their children because the district could no longer provide those necessities.


At the end of the 2007 school year, Jane Cooper Elementary (built in 1920) was left unsecured in the middle of the wasteland where a middle-class neighbourhood once stood. It took "scrappers" only a few months to strip the building of every last ounce of metal and leave it looking as though it hadn't been occupied for decades.

We write so often about how it is a life belt, not a rust belt, that cities like Detroit will be the backbone of an efficient economy that relies on rails and water instead of highways, and then you see this and wonder if we are not being a bit over-optimistic.


United Artists Theater, yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

UPDATE: Yet another slideshow in Time Magazine. Detroit's Beautiful, Horrible Decline

Via an unusual source, VICE and don't read the comments. via Archinect

More on Detroit:
The Move to Detroit for the $100 House
Detroit Charity Turns Wasteland into Farms
Kunstler on Peak Suburbia; Harpers Magazine on Detroit
How Long Until The Rust Belt Becomes The Life Belt?

Tags: Detroit | Education | Urban Life

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