Woodward Avenue, Detroit's "Scenic Byway"

Woodward Avenue is the main street through Detroit, running northwest from downtown out past 8 Mile Road, the boundary between Detroit and its Oakland country suburbs. In 2002, Woodward Avenue was named one of America's "Scenic Byways" by the Federal Highway Administration. This designation reflects the many historic buildings along Woodward Avenue.


Theresa Welsh


There are many vacant apartment buildings along Woodward Avenue, and some have boarded windows even while they are partially occupied. Detroit has always been mainly a city of single-family homes, with a high rate of home ownership, rather than tracts of multi-family buildings like many other big cities. But along Woodward, facing its side streets, there were once many attractive apartment buildings. Some of these have elaborate entrances off the side street, with storefronts facing Woodward.


Vacant Lots - Abandoned Homes

There are many vacant, weed-filled lots along Woodward Avenue where there used to be commercial buildings. Along the side streets are more empty lots and abandoned houses.

Highland Park

Highand Park is centered on Woodward Avenue and is completely surrounded by Detroit. It was once a solid middle-class community, with many beautiful homes and buildings. It has been especially devastated by abandonment; both houses and commercial buildings are in ruins along the Woodward corridor.

Commercial buildings on side streets off Woodward are often in ruins, as are homes on these streets.

Highland Park is the home of the original Henry Ford Model T factory and office building. The historic buildings now sit next to the "Model T Plaza," a commercial strip along Woodward Avenue.

That's Henry Ford's historic office building, no longer in use; there is a historical marker in front of it facing Woodward Avenue. In the factory behind the office building, workers built the Model T on a moving assembly line.

These former YMCA and YWCA buildings on Woodward are now operated by the Detroit Rescue Mission.

That's me going into the abandoned Highland Park City Hall. The interior was once very attractive, with a winding staircase. Outside, weeds choke the former parking lot.

Highland Park once had an impressive, large police station in a City Center collection of municipal buildings. Its former elegance is visible here through the weeds. The city was without any police department for a number of years, patrolled only by Wayne County deputies because the city had no money. But now they have a small police force, with headquarters in a strip mall on Woodward.

Woodward Avenue is indeed a scenic byway, with 300 years of history along its curbs.
But it's gone from boom years to bust years, and the scars of poverty and abandonment
are everywhere you look.

There are many more historic sights along Woodward and on the streets just off it. Not all of it is devastated. As you drive through the midtown area south of Grand Boulevard, you see considerable redevelopment. Many old buildings have been renovated and turned into urban housing; storefronts are filled with stores and restaurants. Detroit's comeback begins here, along historic Woodward Avenue.

Photos by Theresa Welsh and David Welsh


 By Theresa Welsh

  • My Story  Detroit: From Industrial Giant to Empty Landscape
      It's July, 1967 and my wedding party was a riot.
  • Revisiting the Site of the 1967 Riot
  • Detroit: Remembering My Days as a Welfare Worker
       And How a Once-Bustling Neighborhood Turned into Empty Countryside
  • Detroit History: Its Segregation Past
  • Abandoned Detroit: Empty Houses That Used to be Homes
      thousands of abandoned homes throughout the city
  • Detroit's Auto Industry History:
       Abandoned Packard Plant
  • Detroit's Auto Industry History:
       Abandoned Fisher Body Plant
  • See MORE PICTURES of sights along Woodward Avenue.
  • Detroit's Abandoned Neighborhoods
  • Touring the D: All kinds of Abandonment
  • See Abandoned Schools in Detroit
  • See The Heidelberg Project
       Detroit Discards Become Unique Urban Art

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     Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle

     Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

     The Algiers Motel Incident by John Hersey

     Made in Detroit by Paul Clemens

    Detroit's Spectacular Ruin: The Packard Plant

    Detroit's Most Spectacular Ruin!
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