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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY TO THE CARIBBEAN BY CLIPPER, c. 1950s

Rush Hour, Detroit: 1942

Rush Hour, Detroit: 1942

Traffic at 5:30 on 2nd Avenue at West Grand Boulevard, Detroit. July 1942. View full size. Kodachrome by Arthur Siegel. The General Motors Building is at left. Here's the same intersection today, seen from the other direction. The picture was taken from the 28-story Fisher Building (green copper roof) across the street.

 

Detroit is def not a ghost town

Im not sure if anyone is aware, but in 2009 General Motors donated the old GM argonaut building to The College For Creative studies and they have since renovated it. It is now the Alfred Taubman building, and CCS design headquarters for many detroit art Students. This has drawn in developers to re-do a lot of the surrounding area's abandoned buildings into lofts, perfect for students. The parking lot across from the argo building is now a 5 story parking structure, This area is starting to clean up it doesnt look anything like that "modern" photo anymore. On a side note, right down baltimore street is Northern Lights bar which has also seen an influx of new business. #Detroit Lives!

Detroit is not a ghost town!

I would like to disagree with the 'ghost town' references. Yes, there are several nice old buildings that are not being used. And while there is always talk of their renovation, they are currently 'abandoned'.

But there is also new life in Detroit. Since Compuware moved their headquarters to Campus Martius and GM relocated to the Renaissance Center, things are beginning to change for the better. Sure, there are still homeless people begging and sad stray dogs walking, etc. But there are also swanky new loft apartments, new night clubs, retro resale shops, and eateries. I work in Detroit and every day I am impressed with the changes that I see. And the old buildings are magnificent!

So please, don't perpetuate stereotypes of Detroit by labelling it "absolutely terrifying." Your doing a disservice to this grand city.

Peggy D.
Metro Detroiter

Wartime gas rationing

Gas rationing shows by the lack of rush hour traffic in this picture. I was born in Detroit in 1939 and remember the downtown in the years right after the war. When I drive through it today I want to cry.

dennis

Less buildings, no wonder

Yes, look at the Live Search link modern view--I'm looking at it in the middle of the day on a Friday and there are barely any cars visible, and more than one of those buildings appears abandoned. Downtown Detroit is a ghost town these days, looks like a post-apocalyptic movie set. Absolutely terrifying. (Disclaimer: I grew up there in the 70s, when it was slipping but not yet deserted. Pictures like this are like a knife in the gut.)

Chris V. -- please tell me

Chris V. -- please tell me you're joking. Downtown Detroit has "less buildings" (and fewer occupied buildings) largely because of the decimation Detroit's economy over the last 30 years...

Detroit Store

That was the M.A. La Fond tobacco shop ("The Pipe Store"). If you look around a little you'll see that downtown Detroit is turning into a kind of urban ghost town, with many empty lots where buildings used to stand. General Motors moved out of the GM Building (now called Cadillac Place -- state government offices) years ago. The city has lost half its population since 1960.

Less buildings?

Comparing the current view with the old photograph, it looks like there's a park where that general store was. Kudos to the city for trying to keep things green; usually you see more buildings, not less.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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