Day 19: Book Cadillac, 1114 Washington Ave, Detroit

You could stand in front of this hotel and photograph it and think you were in New York or Washington or Chicago. But turn around and you’ll see urban decay which needs to be seen to be believed. The entire block opposite (and that includes a 35 storey historic skyscraper, the Book Building) is vacant. Trees growing from the roofs. At night, look down Washington Ave, which should be a glorious, grand boulevard, and you’ll see the stop lights flashing amber continually. They don’t even bother to change them to red and green there are so few vehicles. Or it costs too much. Detroit is broke. In fact, it’s worse than that; Detroit – at least downtown – is absolutely shattered.

This hotel is as historic as it gets for Detroit and I hope it survives. It’s big (when it opened in 1924 it was the tallest in the world), it’s pleasant enough (it’s a mock-Renaissance which has been remodeled nicely enough into a modern style) and it’s hosted everyone from gangsters to US Presidents. A slip inside my bar menu (another evening writing session, dear readers) claimed the hotel had hosted every US President since 1924. Quite a claim.

I can’t compare this writing experience with any other. I was comfortably settled, the muse was a trite sluggish but I’d had a mega-busy day, and a glass of average Argentinian Malbec was at hand, but outside was a wilderness. Block after block of boarded up businesses, vast empty carparks, many homeless sleeping on the street benches, no shops (seriously), and those flashing amber lights. I finished my work, took the photos, and was solicited as I was leaving.
Detroit’s a troubled city at the moment.

Here’s the hotel’s official website, but I just want to say to the photographer, ‘Dude, context. Context.’:

Today’s word count: 1201
Word count to date: 46,352

  • The most historic hotel in Detroit. That skyscraper across the road is abandoned

  • I took this earlier in the day. Every building in the picture (other than the hotel) is abandoned.

  • My gorgeous wife on the streets of Detroit – margarita in a can in hand

  • The Author ever-watchful. This ain’t New York

  • Every US President since 1924 has visited the Book Cadillac