My friend Camilo Vergara was in town for the week (with preservationist Tim Samuelson, Chicago's "original crazy white man") and the last few times he's visited I've tried to figure out a way to get him into some of the shuttered buildings where he took some of his early 1990s shots of Detroit (as seen in American Ruins and The New American Ghetto) without much success. I'm not an "urban explorer" and I don't have much interest in breaking or sneaking into abandoned buildings these days. This time I enlisted the help of Geoff George and Dan Austin from Buildings of Detroit to get rare permission to legally tour the Broderick Tower, which has been secured for potential rehabilitation (which the current real estate market has stalled indefinitely). Although I'm not all that interested in this stuff anymore, buildings like this are part of what makes Detroit so unique and interesting. With the David Stott building recently added to the list, what other city has more than three abandoned 35-plus-story 1920s skyscrapers?
The building has been heavily vandalized by idiot "urban explorers" over the years, but plenty of its original glory remains:
I love it when you find wallpaper or murals with an ancient ruins motif in modern ruins (The 1970s Gary Sheraton is my favorite example). The illustration above hangs in the lobby of the Broderick Tower. I also noticed this fallen wallpaper on one of the lower floors:
This chair has been sitting in this hallway just like this since like 2003. I totally checked flickr.
One of the most interesting parts of the Broderick Tower are the old dentist offices scattered across the various floors. Apparently at one time there were a lot of dentists working here:
Some of them looked like they hadn't updated their medieval equipment in a long time when their offices closed or the building was shuttered:
The building was full of ephemera from the 1940s through the 1970s. I really liked this old issue of the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis:
This was creepy:
These were the studios of WJLB, currently Detroit's big urban contemporary radio station, which had its offices in the tower back in the 1940s (when it ran foreign-language radio shows for Detroit's immigrant populations):
A group of Canadian tourists were trying to get into the Broderick Tower around the time we gained access, and they went over to the unsecured Metropolitan Building (right) when we told them they couldn't come with us. We kept stopping to see if they made it up to the roof and noticed how the masonry was about to collapse from the top floors of the Wurlitzer Building (left).
Tomorrow: the view from the top.
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