News / USA

Blight Tourism in Detroit Grows in Popularity

Blight Tourism in Detroit Grows in Popularityi
X
January 31, 2014 2:31 AM
The city of Detroit is known more for its iconic blight than the vehicles that once rolled off the floors of the now-abandoned factories that gave it the nickname “Motor City.” But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, Detroit’s decline has given rise to a new phenomenon that is growing in demand - blight tourism.
Kane Farabaugh
The city of Detroit is known more for its iconic blight than the vehicles that once rolled off the floors of the now-abandoned factories that gave it the nickname “Motor City.”  But, Detroit’s decline has given rise to a new phenomenon that is growing in demand - blight tourism.

The throngs of rock music fans are now a distant memory at Detroit’s Eastown Theater.

On this cold morning, the sidewalk in front serves as a bed for the homeless.

Step inside, and the once iconic stage that hosted rock singers Bob Seger, Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper is filled with holes.   

It now more closely resembles the aftermath of a bombing, but it's not war torn. It's the byproduct of neglect, an example of economic decline.

Photographer Jesse Welter sees beyond the decay.  He sees art.

“I can see the beauty in it, and the architecture," said Welter.

The former beauty of St. Agnes Catholic Church is pierced by crumbling columns, broken windows, and graffiti.  There hasn’t been a service here since 2006.

Inside the school next to the church are forgotten shoes, open books on abandoned desks, and hallways once filled with students now full of debris.

This is Jesse Welter’s canvas.  His camera is his paintbrush, and his artwork tells a story.

“I think they kind of tell you the history.  The past.  What it is, what it’s become," he said.

What it’s become for Welter is not just a hobby, but a part-time job as a guide through Detroit’s misery.

“I was kind of doing this on my own, and I thought why not take people with me," he said.

In 2011, Welter began inviting other photographers on his adventures through Detroit’s evaporating architectural history.   Now, he charges between $40 and $100 per person for tours of Detroit's blight.  He says much of the money goes for expenses transporting his customers.

“My van, I can take up to ten people, and it's usually full.  I’ve been to about 180 different buildings, and the tours. I’ve probably done over 300 tours," said Welter.

The popularity of Welter’s tours has increased as the number of abandoned structures has grown. Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr estimates there are 78,000 blighted structures, which are targets of vandalism and fire.  

“Right now our public safety is stressed," said Glenda Price.

Glenda Price is co-chair of the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force. It's developing a roadmap to eliminate Detroit’s blight over the next three years.

“We’re looking at all structures in the city, and all vacant land," she said.

One of the largest is the former Packard Automobile plant, which covers about 16 hectares. It's one of the most popular, and surreal, destinations on Welter’s tour.

“Once you start to see a lot of this, it doesn’t have as much of an impact anymore," said Welter.

Welter's trek through this wasteland is bittersweet, as it might be one of the last tours he offers here.  The plant has a new owner who is interested in developing the facility. Instead of an abandoned ruin, it could become, among other things, someone’s home.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid