Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Detroit

7 Photos Show How Detroit Hollowed Out During the Highway Age

While searching for images of highway interchanges in urban areas, I came across these historic aerial photos of Detroit on a message board, showing how the city fabric has slowly eroded. It's a remarkable record of a process that has scarred many other American cities.

1949: Here's what the east side of the city looked like right at the middle of the century, with Gratiot Avenue forming the diagonal. Detroit was a big, bustling city.

1949

1952: Just a few years later though, urban renewal and other city-clearing initiatives were already leaving their mark.

1952

1961: Almost a decade later, you can see a large space south of Gratiot had been cleared to make way for Lafayette Park, a neighborhood of high-rise residential towers.

1961

1967: By the mid-1960s, land was cleared and buildings destroyed to make way for Interstate 375.

1967

1981: The freeway is complete, along with a monster interchange. The tight network of small streets and small blocks has been replaced by mega blocks.

1981

1997: By the turn of the century, the area is almost unrecognizable.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 11.18.14 AM

Finally, in this recent shot, you see that the new Tigers Stadium has entered the landscape, surrounded by a field of parking.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 10.36.41 AM
Source: USDA vis Google Earth

Can this process be reversed? Well, the city of Detroit is considering the removal of I-375, so there is hope.

Thanks to user GSGeorge at the forum AtDetroit.net for sharing the first five of these images. The originals up to 1997 -- and other aerial photographs from all over the city -- can be found in this image repository maintained by Wayne State University.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

This Heat Wave is a Car Dependency Problem

Our quickly warming planet has a unique impact on people who don't or can't drive — and we need policy action to protect their health.

July 18, 2024

A Hillbilly Elegy for Thursday’s Headlines

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee for vice president, supports more federal subsidies for giant, deadly, gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs.

July 18, 2024

We Need to Stop Killing People On Our Roads; a New ‘Bikes Belong’ Campaign Could Help

A ground-breaking campaign in the 90s helped deliver the federal money America needed to fund active transportation infrastructure. Is it time to re-laucnch it?

July 18, 2024

Encouraging Seniors to Use Active and Public Transportation

Using - and encouraging the use of - active and multimodal transport can greatly enhance people's lives, especially seniors.

July 17, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines Got the Worried Blues

Transit agencies listen to that whistle blow. They're going where they never gone before.

July 17, 2024
See all posts