100 Abandoned Houses tell the story of today's Detroit

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    Abandoned house 37 in Detroit by photographer Kevin Bauman.

    - Kevin Bauman

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    Abandoned house no. 3 in Detroit by Kevin Bauman.

    - Kevin Bauman

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    Abandoned house no. 5 by Kevin Bauman. The photographer estimates that there are as many as 12,000 abandoned houses in Detroit.

    - Kevin Bauman

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    Abandoned house no. 15 in Detroit by photographer Kevin Bauman. During redevelopment efforts, many houses were transformed into condos or lofts. Some houses were so large they became "loft condos."

    - Kevin Bauman

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    Abandoned house no. 27 in Detroit by photographer Kevin Bauman. "How could an area that was obviously once a wealthy enclave in the city become an example of the downfall of American cities?" the photographer asked himself during his photography.

    - Kevin Bauman

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    Abandoned house no. 21 in Detroit by photographer Kevin Buaman.

    - Kevin Bauman

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    Abandoned house no. 86 in Detroit's Brush Park by photographer Kevin Bauman.

    - Kevin Bauman

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    Abandoned house no. 22 in Detroit's Brush Park by photographer Kevin Bauman.

    - Kevin Bauman

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    Abandoned house no. 102 in Detroit by photographer Kevin Bauman.

    - Kevin Bauman

Kai Ryssdal: The Occupy Wall Street protests moved uptown today. In New York, people took to the streets and marched past the homes of some of the rich 1 percent they've been protesting against for a month or so now.

Elsewhere, it continues. More than 50 demonstrators have been arrested in Boston. On Friday, Detroit is scheduled to join, what is known now as simply, "the occupation."

It's not so hard to imagine why Detroiters are frustrated. It's been in a recession longer than most of the rest of us -- chronic unemployment, rising crime rates, foreclosed houses everywhere. That last bit is where photographer Kevin Bauman comes in. He's been taking pictures for years now of Detroit's abandoned and rundown houses.

Kevin Bauman: Thanks. Great to be here.

Ryssdal: You started taking these pictures back in, what, the mid-'90s right?

Bauman: Yeah, that's correct.

Ryssdal: How come?

Bauman: You know, Detroit was a natural subject considering it was what I consider my hometown. And I'd always heard the stories my parents told me about how great Detroit was and the crowds that would go down there to places like the Hudson building. I never knew that Detroit. I only knew the Detroit that had a high crime rate, high unemployment, abandoned buildings. So it was kind of my own curiosity and trying to understand the city better.

Ryssdal: Speaking of curiosity, there's a curiosity to these pictures because you can look at pictures that were taken six or eight months ago and pictures you took 15 years ago and it's almost timeless. Right? This image of an abandoned house over time.

Bauman: Yeah. In Detroit, unfortunately that's the case. You can't tell whether this is Detroit circa 1995 or Detroit 2011. There are a lot of abandoned structures there. I think at last count somebody said 40,000 or so.

Ryssdal: There is one [that's in our slideshow -- house No. 37]. It's almost gothic looking. It's got what look like towers and it's old stone masonry and it's clearly abandoned -- everything is boarded up. But on this picture and all the others, the only thing that you see is the house. So I need you to give me some idea of the neighborhood and of the surroundings of some of these places. Is it abandoned house after abandoned house after abandoned house?

Bauman: It all depends. That house was called Luben Apartments. A lot of these houses are so large that they were eventually turned into apartments as the wealthy folks moved out of that area and went further north or to the suburbs. This house, unfortunately, Nov. 28 of last year caught on fire. They think it was probably squatters and was razed later that day, so no longer is there. But much of the houses in that area are striking because they are large mansions and they are isolated. There isn't anything next to them.

Ryssdal: It's interesting you mention that if you go there now, a lot of these houses aren't there. You know, the mayor, we had the mayor of Detroit -- Mayor Dave Bing on the show maybe a year ago and his proposal was to bulldoze a lot of these houses and just make everybody move to the core and concentrate Detroit.

Bauman: Sure. Right-sizing.

Ryssdal: Yeah, that's right.

Bauman: It's tough. The ideal situation would be to reuse these, but I think the last census had Detroit's population at just over 700,000. It was at one point almost 2 million. I kind of understand the desire to do that.

Ryssdal: There is on your website -- and work with me on this one here -- it's vaguely like a real estate catalog, you know? Like if you went to some realtor's website, you'd see row after row of houses.

Bauman: Yeah, and I do. I get calls -- in fact, I think I had one just on Friday of someone asking how they would purchase one of the houses. The name kind of goes along with it -- 100 Abandoned Houses. At the time, I kind of became obsessed with shooting them the same way, same angle, always the same kind of distance -- trying to isolate the building. And then I could put all 100 of them together and it would have a lot of impact. So that's why I did and it is kind of a catalog. It's a real estate catalog, but not in the typical way.

Ryssdal: Yeah, no not at all. Photographer Kevin Bauman, his website is called 100abandonedhouses.com. Kevin, thanks a lot.

Bauman: Thanks so much.

View a slideshow of more of Detroit's 100 Abandoned Houses.

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From a historic standpoint, I feel it is important to document these old structures. It will be all we have left of them once they are gone. However, I can understand the frustration Jim expresses. I am not from Detroit but I have just purchased a foreclosed house in the city. I did it regardless of the negative information and against my fathers advice, because I know things are changing for the better already. I have been digging into information on a local level and have found lots of positive news. Meijers Inc has announced that they are opening two stores in North West Detroit as well as Whole Foods. On 11/11/11, I believe it was, they okayed the light rail that is to go from Eight Mile down Woodward to the New Center. We just closed on the house and my neighbors have welcomed us and contractors have stopped as they drive by, offering cards of service. I am so excited to be a part of Detroit. My daughter will be able to to say, Yes I am from Detroit and I remember how it used to be; now it is the garden city of the world! The world IS watching Detroit and what we do. It will become an example for urban revitalization. The transformation will not be easy. We have to begin with crawling, then baby steps and soon we will be running circles around other cities.

Really Kai??? The producer of this spot needs to be fired. I love how the positive (REAL) movements in Detroit are completely ignored. You know what is going to happen? In 10 years, people will be in awe of the transformation. Just like...Brooklyn! How quickly we forget about the NYC of 1978!!! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-mehlman/80s-new-york_b_823496.html

Listen to the 27 year olds perspective: http://newztrails.blogspot.com/

In awe. Yes, I definitely agree. Most of the positive information I have found is from rehabbers filming their own videos of the city. The big media seems to only have interest in bad news, which has always been typical. Thanks for posting the links.

I love these old Victorians and architectural remnants of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. What a shame to think of them left to ruin or torn down if there is any hope of restoring them. God help future Americans when the recession of 2108 leaves nothing but corporate farmed tract housing and public apartment developments to see. It isn’t just Detroit but all over, usually on the outskirts of a city. This is a story worth recording with photographs, and I do the same whenever I run across such abandoned treasures waiting for an owner to restore them.

And yet again, half the story on Detroit. I'm sick of this.

I'm a successful professional. I am not a criminal, an arsonist nor a drug dealer. I just spent $40,000 on a new kitchen. I live in a beautiful neighborhood of well kept homes in Detroit. I live there by choice.

And, I am not alone.

Marketplace Hatchet Report can buzz off.

Thats right, keep on trying to amuse folks with stories like this to keep them distracted. "THE movement" is not going away. As the "do nothing" congress continues to destroy this country the young folks with the most to lose will keep rising up. You can't stop this train.....

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