Detroit’s Abandoned Buildings Actually Look Kind of Awesome

Two journalists documented the Motor City’s bizarre beauty by venturing into some once proud — but now forgotten and decaying — landmarks.

By Chris Connolly

Lost Detroit Metropolitan Building Ceiling

The city of Detroit has decayed so badly in the past 40 years that Snake Plissken would be uncomfortable walking around.

But that doesn’t mean all that blight and decay is totally unappealing. Case in point, Lost Detroit, a new book by Motor City natives Dan Austin and Sean Doerr. The pair photographed and researched many of the city’s abandoned landmarks, and what they found was fascinating, horrifying, and beautiful all at once. The book recounts the story of each structure from construction to abandonment with original photographs snapped inside the derelict buildings.

“Whether people love Detroit, hate Detroit, or are just visiting, they see these silent buildings but don’t know anything about them,” Austin tells us. “What were they? How did they get to be this way? Is there hope that they’ll be reborn?”

In most cases, there’s not a whole lot. But the book may help change that thanks in large part to its amazing photos. Check out some of the coolest starting on the next page.

Lost Detroit United Artists Theater

The United Artists Theater Auditorium was once as much of an attraction as the films it showed, but the building has been abandoned for 37 of its 82 years. Jennifer Aniston, behold your future.

The Detroit Grand Ballroom was once, uh, grand. But the only entertainment it features now are crackheads tripping over chunks of ceiling.

When Cass Tech High School was abandoned by Detroit’s public-school system, the district left behind everything from desks to test tubes to musical instruments. Funnily enough, this is also how most people picture operational Detroit public schools.

Lost Detroit Wurlitzer Building

The 14-story Wurlitzer Building was once a monument to the dynamic music industry in Detroit. Now it’s more of a monument to half-assed graffiti artists.

Lost Detroit Metropolitan Building

The good news: This heart, found in the Metropolitan Building, encapsulates downtown Detroit and indicates that citizens still have hope the once mighty city will bounce back. The bad news: There’s an excellent chance it was drawn with a vagrant’s arterial blood.

Lost Detroit and Michigan Central Station

For 75 years, the now abandoned Michigan Central Station hosted countless partings and homecomings. It actually still serves the same functions, but for derelicts.

Lost Detroit Grand Army of the Republic

The Grand Army of the Republic Building, one of the oldest in Detroit, was erected so that Civil War veterans would have a place to hang out. And what better monument to our troops than a boarded-up castle?

Lost Detroit church

This abandoned building was something called a “church.” No one knows what our ancestors used it for.

Buy a copy of Lost Detroit for $25 at And check out even more photos at

TAGS: abandoned, detroit, lost detroit, photos, urban

Post a comment:

Ryan Hawks (Mon, 19 Sep 2011 02:19:15 +0000): Wow, would love to tour detroits abandoned buildings, beautiful, such a shame they are going to waste.
Virginia Scott (Thu, 14 Jun 2012 16:52:39 +0000): I would be afraid to go in them, they might fall in on you, if the bums and vagrants and crack heads don't get you first. :/
Roger Tuftskins (Sun, 07 Oct 2012 17:11:37 +0000): Ruin porn.
Floydmoist Bleumonge (Fri, 22 Feb 2013 02:43:03 +0000): Detroit: The Zimbabwe / Iraq of AmeriKwa.
Steve Munch (Fri, 15 Mar 2013 13:18:21 +0000): This is America's future considering how things are going, or we'll whore ourselves out to China some more...
Alice Kelly (Thu, 15 Aug 2013 21:00:35 +0000): why do we outsource all our factories to china and mexico. we need to keep them here for our own workers.
Jesse Welter (Tue, 13 May 2014 22:34:53 +0000): Detroit tours
Deborah Fyffe (Sun, 18 May 2014 07:17:13 +0000): It's so sad that these buildings were left to die we should be putting them to work. Homeless housing when they have to earn it they appreciate it let the homeless have a reason for a hand up instead of letting time destroy these wonders


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