THE GHOST TOWNS-ABANDONED, RUINED AND BURRIED:MODERN DETROIT’S DRAMA

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THEY USED TO BE BOOM TOWNS, NOW THEY ARE UNREMEMBERED

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It is a beautiful sunset which crawls on the roads of the breathtaking Montana. Thomas, Elisabeth and their children, Marry and Lucas are already tired and all they want is to find a cheap motel and to relax after long ride across the good old West.  The journey was something new for the whole family, big reward after so many negative moments what have hit the Johnson’s lately. The head of the family decided to take a break and to show his beloved the beauty of life, the beauty of land of the free and home of the brave. The hidden treasures of countryside, so far away from crowded New York City and everyday’s pressure from its pulse. In other words, Tom wanted to see America as it really is: amazing, wonderful but also wounded and forgotten in some parts. His goal was to breathe in the stories left behind in ghost towns and to explain  family members what economy can do in just one night. As a stock dealer, he knows  what money  can bring and what money can take away.

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Covered by proud American eagle, the personal dramas around American broken dream   couldn’t  be blotted out so easy. They are worth of writing and sharing. The towns are maybe dead but the memories are still alive.During this long journey, our Johnson Family will meet  the forgotten  ghost towns of Montana: Virginia and Nevada City as well as Bannack, then they will search for a Bodie in California, which is untouched for 150 years. When they get to Alabama, they will not miss to see famous Cahawba city, sad and alone since 1900. Wyoming is also known as an area of abandoned  places. South Pass City,  the mining town has been remembered when  a Carissa gold deposit has been found there in 1867, near by Sweetwater River. Pennsylvania with Centralia can also join the competition with the ghost towns collection while this town is left behind during the underground gas and fire which keep this city polluted and impossible for life.  Then, Thurmond in West Virginia :” Empty downtown belies the fact that five people still actually live in this West Virginia town, now a ghost of the thriving community it used to be. Once a big stop on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, the invention of the diesel locomotive in the 1950s rendered its coal-run railroad obsolete. The train depot is now a museum, Amtrak station, and visitors’ center for travelers who come to the region to raft on the New River Gorge National River, and the quaint Thurmond Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places. Surprisingly untouched by modern development, Thurmond is a throwback to an American town of the past, an unsettling reminder of how prosperity can be fleeting.”  I found it very interesting the fact that old Route 66 included and helped many towns to have economical prosperity, but when the new routes have been made, the old stop&buy towns have been simply burred in  the past. That’s exactly what has happened with the small town on the border between Texas and New Mexico, known as Glenrio. Before the I-40 has been built, this tiny town enjoyed the prosperity of thousands of travelers who used the Route 66. After the new route has been opened, Glenrio is  gone and only listed  on the National Register of Historic Places. Someone would think that Florida has nothing to offer when it comes to ghost towns but again  who has heard about  Bulowville:“Cleared of its natural forest in 1821 by Charles Bulow to establish a 2,200-acre plantation to grow sugar cane, cotton, indigo, and rice, this East Florida land soon also housed the area’s largest sugar mill, built by Bulow’s son, John. Its title didn’t last long, however, as the Seminole Indians set fire to the plantation and mill in 1836 during the Second Seminole War. Built of hardy local coquina rock, the mill’s massive ruins now rise eerily among the large oak trees that have reclaimed the land in the 150-acre Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park  while the crumbling foundations of the plantation house and slave cabins show the volatility of Florida frontier life.”

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The mentioned ghost towns are only some of many which are crying to be again discovered and debated while the historical dust seems to be very cruel. The never ending list includes also Dunton Hot Springs and St. Elmo in Colorado, Kennecott in Alaska, Rhyolite in Nevada and also very famous Calico in California. The problem with the abandoned cities is the fact that every economical  collapse has a deep impact  on the structural life of the towns and if the town is built on some short-term natural resources, the town will be dead after the resources are exploited and gone. This is not just typical for America, it happens all over the world and the destiny of ghost towns could be understood through the financial and through the ecological perspective. If some town is started up on the natural resources base, it will be attractive as long as it offers jobs and possibilities. The companies are ready to invest, people are ready to relocated and live in the new environment. I would call this type of the town as a temporary  home for all because after the nature shut down the blessings, the home will be buried and the whole circus will move to another ground. The so called boom towns are made to be useful for some period of time and around some resource like coal or gold but lately. That is  also connected with the  infrastructural access. Many towns were built on the crossroads and were locked down when the new highway is opened so   the new places got a chance for an infrastructural profit. Regarding the ecological consequences, it is obvious what does it mean to leave the town because of the natural disasters or non-controlled outbreaks. The damage in this towns is so big that the future life is not enabled for disturbing period of time.  The ghost towns made by these reasons are something which followed Ukraine, Belarus, and Japan in recent 30 years.

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Personally, I am fascinated by Detroit as a modern ghost town. It is almost impossible to link this urban city with the image of all of those left  on  the red dirty roads of America after the Gold Rush was gone. Detroit is something else. More or less, unique story about the infectious bite of ruined economy. Back in 2013, the city of Detroit failed for a reason of bankruptcy. That was almost like a  political bad dream and economical nightmare  but the reality was even worse. The city admitted its inability to  pay the bills but the city’s  cancer was started long time ago.It is stated that in its best years, during the 1950s, Detroit had a population over two million with well-paying employment. As it is stated now, the city’s population is about 700,000 but the major parts of the city are abandoned.The people who had some options to move away are not anymore the residents of this city which has no basic money to meet the city needs.

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Detroit- Public Library/credit by:Yves Marchand and Roman Meffre

The buildings are ruined, some are totally destroyed and the ideal target for urban explorers and those who like adventures. But, here is something worse than the downfall of one great American city, this is a proof that any city can have this destiny if the political and economical elite doesn’t do the  right job:”In the Second World War, Franklin Roosevelt christened the city the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ as it turned from making Cadillacs and Fords to producing 35 per cent of America’s war production: tanks, Jeeps and B-24 bombers by the tens of thousands. The wartime expansion drew in 200,000 immigrants, many of them blacks from the South.  In the Sixties it produced its own art form, the thrilling, emotional music of Motown (now relocated to Los Angeles).Nobody actually wants Detroit to perish. Many clever people have spent billions of dollars trying to revive it. General Motors, no longer the power it once was, now occupies the aggressive new Renaissance Center which stares across the river to Canada. A monorail, that favorite toy of town planners who want to look ultra-modern, circles the riverfront zone, largely empty and going from nowhere to nowhere.  Glowering over the main entrance to the city stands a tall and frowning structure, dark and dispiriting even in bright sunshine. This is the abandoned Michigan Central Railroad Station, rearing up like an enormous tombstone. It is impossible to see it without feeling a strange fear for the future. Is this how all the great cities of the mighty West will one day look?Through here, in the lost boom years, came businessmen hastening to sign contracts, politicians looking for finance from business, unions or both, government contractors gearing up for war, Southern blacks and their families seeking a new life. Now it is a ruin, ringed by razor-wire, its windows broken, its superb arrivals hall a shadowy, chilly tomb, its many silent platforms invaded by weeds. The few remaining trains do not even come here any more. The neighborhood is not safe after dark.”  

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Detroit is not ghost town by itself because the population of 714,000 people is still promising something to those who have great dreams but the unemployment rate of 29% is enough painful and has turned this Motown into urban decoy city with the walking dead episodes. If you are still there, it means you managed to keep your job and to still benefit to the some restaurants in the down towns which luckily exist and have good profit in spite of the total horrible decline of the city. Not only Detroit, but many cities across America are facing up with the collapsed own manufacturing industry. When the US goverment declared the FREE TRADE deals, it definitely opened the gates of the hell because America itself hasn’t been able to compete.  The North American Free Trade Agreement helped Americans to eliminate own manufacturing forces and American auto companies moved to another cheaper places, like Canada and Mexico and they lost the battle. With their moving out, the misery move in many American cities. This doesn’t apply only to car sector, it applies to all fields of manufacture.

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Detroit/ credit by: Yves Marchand and Roman Meffre 

Imagine Detroit now, hidden in the darkness because the street lighting must be reduced and controlled.It used to be  glorious town just some years ago and now the city is literally fighting to survive the lack of all public services and the absence of help for those who really suffer. Rich people never suffer, only poor. The house could be bought for only $7,500 if you are not afraid of midnight drug dealers and lost future of the city.

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Detroit/credit by: Kevin Bakman 

 However, the beauty of Detroit is not forever lost. It is still there and the new beginning is to be expected. The people who live there don’t give up to believe in the rise of the city:“The fact that the city escaped from bankruptcy without draconian cuts to Detroit’s pensioners – most saw theirs trimmed by 4.5% – and without selling off major assets, like an art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts that includes seminal works from Matisse and Van Gogh, was something the bankruptcy judge, Steven Rhodes, said “border[ed] on miraculous”. The recovery of the city will not be easy but it is not impossible with the adequate political and economical measures which will put this city among the top priorities of American goverment in the future. The profit comes and goes but people are those who bring life somewhere and the real darkness is only when they give up to fight for better tomorrow for home city. For many of them, Detroit is not only a boom town but a home. Sweet home of Michigan. They will keep ghosts away, they will build Detroit again, to be more beautiful, to be remembered and never forgotten.

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Our Johnson Family decided to start a new life in Detroit.Instead of visiting ghost towns, they will settle in one of them and help it being great again.

 

 

3 thoughts on “THE GHOST TOWNS-ABANDONED, RUINED AND BURRIED:MODERN DETROIT’S DRAMA”

  1. Wow! What a beautifully written article! And what a fascinating story!

    Thank you for an incredible message of hope ! Being a Detroiter myself, though I live in the suburbs, I have never given up on the city and the metropolitan Detroit area, as my family is here and despite the better job offers I got out of state!

    Detroit shall rise again and keep its head up thanks to the dedication of the people who have never given up on it!

    Thanks again for a riveting article! As usual, your writing is superb!

    Liked by 1 person

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