Culture + Style

City in Transition: 5 of Detroit’s Most Famous Urban Ruins

Once an industrial hub that symbolized American innovation, Detroit began to fade in the late 1970’s as manufacturing slowed or left the city. Today, the city is in the midst of a rebirth, but many buildings from its glory days remain abandoned or are just beginning to undergo transformations to new uses.

Here are five Detroit ruins — the city’s most infamous wrecks. A visit now ensures dramatic photos worthy of Instagram:

Michigan Central Station

While never fully abandoned, the train station in Detroit has become one of its most famous ruins, having sat empty since 1988 and been bought and sold many times. When it opened in 1914, it was the tallest rail station in the world.

Its architecture is in the Beaux Arts style, with massive columns, arched windows and a high, vaulted ceiling in the main waiting room. In 2018, Ford Motor Co. said it would purchase the building and use it for its mobility unit.

Packard Automotive Plant

This list would be incomplete without mention of the Packard Auto Plant. The building is a staggering 3.5 million square feet and was built in 1911 as a luxury car manufacturing plant.

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Detroit’s Packard Automotive Plant. (Photo: Getty Images)

It closed down in bits and pieces—first in 1958, then a few businesses used the space in the 1990s, with the final tenant packing up in 2010. The building is now slated to become a brewery tentatively scheduled to open in 2019 and may add other uses by 2020.

Metropolitan Building

Once home to premier jewelers and watchmakers, the stunning Metropolitan building has sat vacant since 1979. The cathedral-like, 14-story building features impressive Gothic-style architecture. The building is the process of being repurposed as an Element Hotel, set to open at the end of 2018.

Belle Isle Zoo

This outdoor zoo was operational on Belle Isle for more than century, before being closed in the early 2000’s in favor of a new facility on the other side of the island. In its glory days, visitors could see polar bears, kangaroos, elephants and more.

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The Belle Isle Zoo. (Photo: Getty Images)

Today, the former zoo looks like something out of a science fiction movie—overgrown plants and trees litter the grounds, ironically leaving the once thriving collection of exotic wildlife completely reclaimed by nature.

United Artists Theater

Founded in part by the iconic actor-director Charlie Chaplin, Detroit’s United Artists Theater featured a Spanish-Gothic architectural style, with its interior outfitted with vaulted ceilings, large chandeliers and a grand staircase.

The theater showed films and served as the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The building has sat empty since the 1990s, but is slated to undergo renovations as residential units and retail space.