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 The tight network of small streets and small blocks has been replaced by mega blocks.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

Federal Judge Sets Aside a Key Congestion Pricing Lawsuit

Gov. Hochul's rationale for killing congestion pricing took another blow on Thursday as a federal judge dismissed one of the major lawsuits against it.

June 21, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Are Supercommuting

Why are so many Americans schlepping to work for 2+ hours in a car these days?

June 21, 2024

Friday Video: Why Cities Around the World Are Reducing Speed Limits

"At some point, we have to realize that anybody fighting against lower speed limits in cities is either willfully ignorant, or they're a selfish asshole who values their convenience more than other people's safety."

June 21, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: When Driving is Not an Option

Talking with the great Anna Zivarts about non-drivers, car seats, and the week without driving.

June 20, 2024

Report: Cities are Undermining Sustainable Mobility with Fees and Taxes

Why is it so much more expensive to unlock a scooter than it is to just jump in the car?

June 20, 2024
See all posts