Lee Plaza Hotel (Part II)

This is my second visit to what remains of the once majestic Lee Plaza Hotel. As always, I was happy to see that it was still standing, but saddened to see that more destruction has occurred since my last visit in late 2013.  Sometimes it baffles me that people feel the need to be destructive :/  I love this building…and this trip I was fortunate to find a lot more furniture than before, which is always awesome!

I find this building to be absolutely beautiful and I feel a slight sense of peace and reverence as I walk down the hallways (stepping on top of and over tons and tons of broken concrete, pieces of broken doors and other assorted debris).  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s scary – for a few different reasons!  One of the reasons is the creepy sound the wind makes (which gets stronger the higher you go up) as it billows in and out of every single window frame, making hanging debris clang together.  It’s almost like a spooky wind tunnel lol. The other reason is because if something were to happen to you inside of this building (i.e. you were attacked, you hurt yourself, etc), NOBODY WOULD KNOW so NOBODY WOULD COME TO HELP!  So needless to say, it’s safe to explore with a buddy, keep quiet when possible (respect your surroundings) and don’t lag…meaning – get in, shoot, get out.  I hope you enjoy this latest round of pics from the infamous Lee Plaza.

@FilthyBean

LOCATION HISTORY:

Built in 1929 as an upscale residential hotel, closed it’s doors to residents in 1997.  During the final years of the 19th century, society’s view of hotel life transformed from one of disgust and disdain to admiration. No longer the abode of the damned, they were, where one went, for all manner of functions. By the early 20th century it was actually fashionable to reside permanently in hotels. Thus it seems natural that hotels would be built specially for residents. Such was the case with the this hotel. Essentially an apartment building with hotel services. On May 1 (circa 1928), ground was broken on the art deco masterpiece that would rise above the stately elms of the boulevard below. The price tag would be $2.5 million (a whopping $31 million today). The idea of residential hotels was a popular one at the time. In residential hotels, well-off residents could live in luxurious apartments that had many of the features of hotels, such as room service and concierges.

The hotel opened with 220 luxury-class apartments ranging from one to four rooms. The one and two-room apartments came furnished; the three- and four-room option did not. The basement had a beauty parlor, a game room with driving nets for golfers and billiards; a white-walled playroom for children at the front of the building with a specially trained supervisor; and a meat market and grocer for the tenants so they didn’t have to leave the hotels comfy confines. There also was a circulating library, a flower shop, a cigar stand and a beauty parlor.

But with the onset of the Great Depression, the hotel was plagued by problems almost from the start because of the owner’s lavish spending. The hotel would help bring down one of Detroit’s biggest real estate barons. Shortly after it was built, it was sold, however the new company/owner was delinquent on payments. By fall 1935 the hotel was bankrupt, and would be the subject of over 8yrs of court battles. In 1969 it became housing for low-income senior citizens. However, in February of 1987 tragedy struck when an 84-year-old resident was found murdered in her room, suffocated with a pillow. The hotel continued to lose residents and head downhill.

In 1997, its entrances and ground-floor windows were barricaded with cinder blocks, but they couldn’t keep the scavengers at bay. For five years a solid fortification of cinder block held off the thieves and protected the 1920’s elegance inside. However, as the mighty walls of Rome failed, so did the hotel’s fortifications. Once the walls were breached, nothing could spare the landmark from trespass and from that point on, few buildings in Detroit have been more ravaged than this hotel. By the fall of 2000 countless exterior terra-cotta pieces as well as interior plaster work were gone. Gradually the aluminum framed windows disappeared and only gaping holes remained.

St Agnes Parish (Part II)

This is my second visit to the magnificent St Agnes Parish church.  I was happy to see that it was still standing, but saddened to see that it had decayed a little more since my last visit in late 2013.

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Opened in 1917, the church thrived through the middle part of the century, growing to 1,600 families, three priests, 22 nuns and a girl’s high school with 180 students by 1964, (the 50th anniversary of the church).

A few years later though, a police raid on an after-hours drinking establishment down the street led to a confrontation between officers and residents that quickly grew into one of the worst outbursts of civil unrest the country would ever see. Though the church was relatively unscathed by the 1967 riots, most of the buildings around it (on the same block) were burned to the ground. The neighborhood never recovered, and attendance numbers started to drop. Through the 1980’s, the number of parishioners fell from 1,500 to just a few hundred. By 1986 there were just 162 families worshiping at the church, not nearly enough to cover the operating cost of such a large church.  The church closed its doors in 2006.

After closing, the building was put up for sale by the Detroit Archdiocese. What happened after that is hard to trace, but this much is clear. At some point after 2007 the Archdiocese removed the pews and stained glass windows, replacing them with clear plastic panes. The building sold to a congregation that never took possession of it, instead letting it fall into ruin. By 2009 the pipes of the organ had been stolen by metal thieves, and many of the glazed tiles set into the walls and pillars had been stripped out. Damage caused by weather and vandalism took hold through 2010 and the sanctuary began shedding large amounts of its facade.

 

Easton Theater

Once one of Detroit’s great neighborhood theaters…now a den of decay.

The Eastown opened in 1930 as a movie house, although it did have a small stage and would occasionally host stage shows during its early years. The theater featured an auditorium with a large balcony, seating just shy of 2,500 patrons.  In the mid 1960’s the Eastown closed as a movie house and embarked on an adventure that would name them to be one of Detroit’s premiere rock venues. Between 1969 and 1973, the Eastown would host a number of famous acts, a virtual who’s-who of the current rock and roll era, performers such as the Grateful Dead, Alice Cooper, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Bob Seger, Pink Floyd, and Jethro Tull just to name a few.

From 1973 to 1990 the Eastown would go through many changes eventually ending in its demise and sordid reputation. In 1973 the city of Detroit forced the theater to close after failing to meet numerous health and safety codes. In 1975, it reopened as a jazz venue, but only remained open for 1 year. For a short time after, it was used for performing arts and live theater, but again closed down. In 1980, under the name “The Showcase”, the Eastown began to show adult films, but closed again in 1984. From 1984 to 1990, the Eastown was once again home to a performing arts group.  During the mid-90s, the Eastown hosted raves and later housed a church. Abandoned since the mid-late 1990’s, today the building is unused and falling apart rapidly.
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A few weeks before our visit, the roof of the upper balcony completely collapsed, exposing the sky above and subjecting the remnants of the building to the elements.