Monday, May 27, 2013

Brewster Projects: A Visual Legacy

A History of Public Housing

Last weekend we went to Flower Day in Eastern Market, located Detroit. It's a thriving community, with suburbanites (including myself) traveling down to partake in fresh produce from local farmers as well as antiques and good food (food trucks!). Flower Day is probably the busiest day of the year, a celebration of impending summer and the hope that only flats of new flowers can bring.

In contrast, on this route, we always pass the monolithic structures that are the remnants of a long ago housing project that sits along I-75. Officially this development was called the Frederick Douglass Homes and was the largest rental housing project in the City of Detroit, with different phases of construction spanning from 1935 through 1955. It was really celebrated, with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt breaking ground for the first phase of the development.
Now it's abandoned but not really forgotten although it is scheduled for complete demolition with the exception of the community center. Recently a graffiti artist took on the monumental task to tag these large towers. It's eerily quiet and large empty spaces surround these towers. There is a community center that is fully visible from the freeway that looks to be newer construction but long forgotten.

On a personal note. . . after coming across this side of the building and the graffiti, we found the word "Kuma" and "12-11", both significant in our personal life. Kuma was our first dog, a Japanese Akita. In Japanese, Kuma means "bear" and seemed the perfect name for a huge dog. 12-11 is an anniversary for us. What a coincidence to find it on the side of a building in Detroit and I can't help but wonder what it meant to the artist who tagged it. What is most interesting is the skateboard park near this building that is also abandoned. Barricades block the roads (although if I was determined I could go two tracking) into this abandoned community.

There are other reminders of the families that used to live here, including a playground near the lower story buildings, in overgrown fields. You can imagine sounds of children laughing, while their parents looked on from a nearby bench and it is really very sad.

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