January 26, 2018

Then and now: Photos of Detroit's most iconic locations from past to present

Detroit's rebirth is a hot topic, both in local and international news. Its "comeback" narrative is one that appeals to many and we all love watching as the city returns to prominence, to that beloved moniker, Paris of the Midwest.

But, to understand its recent renaissance, it helps to know the city's rich history.

Through these photo montages, one get can get a sense of not only the work that has been done, but the work that remains to be done.

Editorial interns Mallary Becker and Malak Silmi contributed to this slideshow.

Scroll down to view images
The Fort Shelby Hotel Ballroom
2006 and 2017
This hotel opened in 1916 and doubled in size 10 years later. After changing hands multiple times the building was abandoned in 1974, but was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The hotel was known for its crystal ballroom, which held many concerts, weddings, and special events. Thankfully, the hotel was bought in 2007 and underwent a $90 million renovation in just one year. Now, the Doubletree Guest Suites carries on the tradition. 
Photos via historicdetroit.com and weddingwire.com
The Fort Shelby Hotel Ballroom
2006 and 2017
This hotel opened in 1916 and doubled in size 10 years later. After changing hands multiple times the building was abandoned in 1974, but was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The hotel was known for its crystal ballroom, which held many concerts, weddings, and special events. Thankfully, the hotel was bought in 2007 and underwent a $90 million renovation in just one year. Now, the Doubletree Guest Suites carries on the tradition.
Photos via historicdetroit.com and weddingwire.com
The Book-Cadillac Hotel
2004 and 2008
Located in the heart of downtown Detroit this hotel was once a symbol of grace and beauty for its neo-renaissance style — Martin Luther King Jr. called it "a pearl in a sea of turmoil." It shuttered in 1984, and after being abandoned and left to rot. In the early 2000s it underwent a $190 million renovation and re-opened in 2008. Now, the Westin Book-Cadillac is once again a premiere hotel in the city. 
Photo via historicdetroit.com 
Photo via dwyermarble.com
The Book-Cadillac Hotel
2004 and 2008
Located in the heart of downtown Detroit this hotel was once a symbol of grace and beauty for its neo-renaissance style — Martin Luther King Jr. called it "a pearl in a sea of turmoil." It shuttered in 1984, and after being abandoned and left to rot. In the early 2000s it underwent a $190 million renovation and re-opened in 2008. Now, the Westin Book-Cadillac is once again a premiere hotel in the city.
Photo via historicdetroit.com
Photo via dwyermarble.com
Orchestra Hall
1970 and 2013 
Now known as the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, this building was the first home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The DSO left 20 years later and it became a jazz club. It was abandoned until it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The DSO moved back in 1989. 
Photo via detroiturbex.com
Orchestra Hall
1970 and 2013
Now known as the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, this building was the first home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The DSO left 20 years later and it became a jazz club. It was abandoned until it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The DSO moved back in 1989.
Photo via detroiturbex.com
Eastown Theatre
1973 to 2015
Eastown Theatre opened in 1931, and by 1969 began hosting acts like Alice Cooper, Jefferson Airplane, and Fleetwood Mac. The '90s brought the rave scene with the building showing clear signs of decay. Abandoned in 2009, a fire in the attached apartments destroyed half the building in 2010. Scrappers gutted the place and it was finally demolished in 2015. 
Photo via historicdetroit.org 
Photo via Detroit Free Press
Eastown Theatre
1973 to 2015
Eastown Theatre opened in 1931, and by 1969 began hosting acts like Alice Cooper, Jefferson Airplane, and Fleetwood Mac. The '90s brought the rave scene with the building showing clear signs of decay. Abandoned in 2009, a fire in the attached apartments destroyed half the building in 2010. Scrappers gutted the place and it was finally demolished in 2015.
Photo via historicdetroit.org
Photo via Detroit Free Press
Ransom Gillis House
2011 and 2017
Once an enclave for Detroit's wealthy elite, the neighborhood of Brush Park and its victorian mansions were suffering by the 1930s.  Built in the late 1870s, the Ransom Gillis House is one of the last remaining houses on Alfred Street, which was all but abandoned after the WWII. Before 2015, all attempts of renovating were not successful. In 2015, Nicole Curtis began renovations on the home, which has since attracted many tourists into its lavish quarters. 
Photo via www.detroityes.com 
Photo via www.Mlive.com
Ransom Gillis House
2011 and 2017
Once an enclave for Detroit's wealthy elite, the neighborhood of Brush Park and its victorian mansions were suffering by the 1930s. Built in the late 1870s, the Ransom Gillis House is one of the last remaining houses on Alfred Street, which was all but abandoned after the WWII. Before 2015, all attempts of renovating were not successful. In 2015, Nicole Curtis began renovations on the home, which has since attracted many tourists into its lavish quarters.
Photo via www.detroityes.com
Photo via www.Mlive.com
St. Albertus Church
1900s to 2017
During its heyday, St. Albertus Catholic Church, located on St. Aubin Street, was the spiritual and social center of the Poletown neighborhood, once home to over 40,000 Polish immigrants. Today, just a handful of Poles remain on St. Aubin Street, though the church has been saved by a historic association and holds mass at least once a month.
Photo via http://raulersongirlstravel.com 
Photo via www.pinterest.com
St. Albertus Church
1900s to 2017
During its heyday, St. Albertus Catholic Church, located on St. Aubin Street, was the spiritual and social center of the Poletown neighborhood, once home to over 40,000 Polish immigrants. Today, just a handful of Poles remain on St. Aubin Street, though the church has been saved by a historic association and holds mass at least once a month.
Photo via http://raulersongirlstravel.com
Photo via www.pinterest.com
Aerocar Company Factory
1910s and 2018
In the early years of the auto industry, hundreds of manufacturers came and went, as entrepreneurs established small factories and tried to gain a foothold in the crowded market. Most of the names, like Brush, Krit, and Miller, lasted only a few years before closing shop or merging with other companies. Aerocar was one of them, producing cars at this factory on Mack and Beaufait from 1906 to 1908. The building was then sold to the Hudson Motor Car Company, which used it from 1909 until moving to a much larger plant in 1912. Today, it sits abandoned. 
Photo via http://detroiturbex.com 
Photo via www.google.com/maps
Aerocar Company Factory
1910s and 2018
In the early years of the auto industry, hundreds of manufacturers came and went, as entrepreneurs established small factories and tried to gain a foothold in the crowded market. Most of the names, like Brush, Krit, and Miller, lasted only a few years before closing shop or merging with other companies. Aerocar was one of them, producing cars at this factory on Mack and Beaufait from 1906 to 1908. The building was then sold to the Hudson Motor Car Company, which used it from 1909 until moving to a much larger plant in 1912. Today, it sits abandoned.
Photo via http://detroiturbex.com
Photo via www.google.com/maps
Sojourner Truth housing projects
1942 and 2017
In 1942, fights broke out as white residents tried to prevent black residents from moving to the Sojourner Truth homes. Though no one was killed, 40 people were injured, and over 200 were arrested — mostly black people. Moving was halted while officials tried to work out a solution. The houses were later converted to apartments, which are now available for rent.
Photo via http://reuther.wayne.edu 
Photo via http://www.dhcmi.org
Sojourner Truth housing projects
1942 and 2017
In 1942, fights broke out as white residents tried to prevent black residents from moving to the Sojourner Truth homes. Though no one was killed, 40 people were injured, and over 200 were arrested — mostly black people. Moving was halted while officials tried to work out a solution. The houses were later converted to apartments, which are now available for rent.
Photo via http://reuther.wayne.edu
Photo via http://www.dhcmi.org
Woodward and Charlotte Street 
1943 and 2017
A time period of rough racial tensions followed the disturbance at the Sojourner Truth Housing in which white residents tried to prevent black residents from moving in. The civil unrest would continue as some of the worst uprisings in American history.
Photo via Wayne State University 
Photo via www.google.com/maps
Woodward and Charlotte Street
1943 and 2017
A time period of rough racial tensions followed the disturbance at the Sojourner Truth Housing in which white residents tried to prevent black residents from moving in. The civil unrest would continue as some of the worst uprisings in American history.
Photo via Wayne State University Photo via www.google.com/maps
Harper Theater
1941 and 2017
The Harper Theater was built in 1939 on Harper Avenue and Chalmers. In 1973, the theater became a venue for heavy metal concerts and was renamed Harpo's, necessitating a change to the neon sign. Harpo's continues to operate to this day as a club and music theater, attracting bands and crowds from across the state and nation. 
Photo via www.metrotimes.com 
Photo via http://detroiturbex.com
Harper Theater
1941 and 2017
The Harper Theater was built in 1939 on Harper Avenue and Chalmers. In 1973, the theater became a venue for heavy metal concerts and was renamed Harpo's, necessitating a change to the neon sign. Harpo's continues to operate to this day as a club and music theater, attracting bands and crowds from across the state and nation.
Photo via www.metrotimes.com
Photo via http://detroiturbex.com