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monsoon

Abandoned Cities

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The Soviets did a lot of city building where it didn't make sense to have a city and then forced people to live there. Now that the Soviet Union is long gone, it didn't take long for some of these places to become abandoned. This photo link shows one of these cities. It reminds me of the town near Chernoybl except it was abandoned for economic reasons.

Are there other cities such as this in the world?

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What about Flint, MI? I don't know, maybe it's not so hard there anymore, but I always thought that place was getting pretty well abandoned, if such a thing happens here.

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Flint Michigan has lost about 45% of it's population at it's peak. It's right now Hovering just under 120k. However when you're there it's appearance is no more frightening than any other city. There has actually been a little bit of life starting to creep back into it in recent years. Aside from that, Flints suburbs are as flourishing and upscale as any midsized cities suburbs. You want to give that title to a city take a look at Gary. Much more unsettling than Flint.

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Flint., as mentioned above, is its closest competitor.

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Does the Mayan count?

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The Maya moved back into the jungle over several cycles of ecological destruction and reconstitution. Their pre-Columbian cities were abandoned, and re-occupied at various points. But they didn't abandon so much as were forced to give them up...

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Abandoned cities are really cool.. it just begs history, which fascinates me.

I recently read that when the Mayflower arrived, Europeans described north America as a desolate wilderness... but new finds are going against that. When the pilgrims arrived, in early November, they had no food with them, because they thought it was the land of plenty and that there'd be fruit waiting for them to eat.

They didn't expect to land so far north. What they found, instead, was a desolate wilderness that was prepared for winter. Half of them died in their first winter (witners were colder back then), and the other half survived by foraging through abandoned indian camps along the coast.

Curiously, these camps were completely abandoned with no sign of having been packed up. There was food all over the place. Once the food had been exhausted, the pilgrims became desparate and began digging up graves to look for food in the graves (not people! They suspected that there would be food in the graves from burial rituals)... what they found, and noted, was a skeleton with blond hair.

Historians now think that Europeans attempting to find the fabled Northwest Passage may have landed and mingled with the indians, spreading disease, which likely killed entire villages. Those infected, in turn, went inland to other villages when things got bad.. and by the time the pilgrims got there, you had mostly an empty landscape.

In actuality, the indians had altered the landscape quite a bit. They burned forests, made clearings to farm (though they found mostly natural clearings and rotated crops in them from year to year.)

Further out in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois, they would frequently burn the edge of the forest/prarie, to thin the trees, creating oak/aspen savannah, which deer loved.. .creating better hunting grounds.

Anyway, it is very interesting the way that Native Americans interacted with their environment.. and also to dispel this myth that they were hunter/gatherers that did nothing to take advantage of the environment.

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Come on, Flint's had some hard times, but it looks nothing like that. A Flint photo montage for those interested.

There are, however, some parts of Detroit that look like that. In fact, you can probably find completely abandoned sections like those in pretty much any city in this country. Especially traditional manufacturing, steel or textile based cities. I've seen a few towns that look like that in the far reaches of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and in Colorado, which were probably abandoned after nearby mining operations halted.

It's not surprising that a city was abandoned after State-run support of it was pulled, when it never would have formed on its own.

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Can any major American city be more abandoned than Detroit?

Detroit's population still hovers between 900k-1mil. Many buildings are currently being revitalized in the Downtown area. The Downtown and Mid-town areas are very vibrant with very active office buildings, universities, libraries & museums. The major roads and highways are still packed with traffic going both to and from Detroit. And the metropolitan area of Detroit is very booming (it even includes one of the richest counties in the US - Oakland County) and has a population of over 5mil. It's far from being abandoned.

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The funny thing is that with over 900,000 people Detroit is still one of the densest cities in the country. Atlanta and Denver are about the same size as Detroit but those cities have less than half the population of Detroit. Houston's 610 loop covers an area of 100 sq. mi. yet has less than 460,000 people. Even at 139 sq. mi. the population of Houston probably wouldn't even hit 600,000. So if Detroit with 900,000 people is abandoned does that make Houston, Atlanta, and Denver abandoned?

Also, Detroit wasn't the only city that lost population. Every major industrial city lost population. In fact the only ones that were able to gain population only did so by annexing land. Even "high-growth" cities like Indianapolis, Dallas, or Houston have seen their inner-city populations drop. Philadelphia lost 600,000 people since 1950 even after adding to its boundaries. Chicago lost 725,000 people since 1950 and it too added to its boundaries. New York lost nearly 600,000 between 1950 and 1990 before resurging to it's highest population ever.

Also, if Detroit had the same municipal boundaries as the city of Dallas it would have the 4th largest population in the country in 2000. Detroit and its inner-ring suburbs had a population of 2.1 million people in an area of 370 sq. mi. If Detroit had the municipal boundaries of Houston it would have 3 million people in 600 sq. mi.

I'm sure nobody would be calling Detroit an "abandoned" city if it annexed its suburbs in the same fashion as Houston and Dallas.

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The funny thing is that with over 900,000 people Detroit is still one of the densest cities in the country. Atlanta and Denver are about the same size as Detroit but those cities have less than half the population of Detroit. Houston's 610 loop covers an area of 100 sq. mi. yet has less than 460,000 people. Even at 139 sq. mi. the population of Houston probably wouldn't even hit 600,000. So if Detroit with 900,000 people is abandoned does that make Houston, Atlanta, and Denver abandoned?

I don't think those cities had upwards of 1 million people leave the city in roughly 50 years.

I'm sure nobody would be calling Detroit an "abandoned" city if it annexed its suburbs in the same fashion as Houston and Dallas.

It's hard to say, because the people who resided in the annexed areas could just skip over into the new suburbs/exurbs. If they did it once, they could do it again. Not picking on Detroit at all, but I'm just sayin'.

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Keeping this in relation to "abandoned" and not "distressed" cities, I have seen several smaller towns here in the US that have been mostly to completely vacated. Ones that come to mind were an old company town in WV that was run by a coal mine. When the mine shut down, all the businesses (company owned hotel, store, restaurant, bar, etc.) and the houses were boarded up or just vacated. The commercial buildings there look frozen in time, I may have some old snapshots of this town, I may try to find them and post them online.

Another interesting drive to take thru some desolate towns almost to completely vacated is US 50 thru Nevada, also dubbed as the lonliest stretch of highway in the US. You go thru some older towns there that are pretty much boarded up, not sure of their history.

Lastly, there is the historic site of Brunswick town, near Wilmington, NC. It was a fairly significant port before the Revolutionary war. Things started to change, as the royal governor relocated to New Bern and other nearby towns, such as Wilmington, started to grow larger. The final blow came during the revolution when the British invaded and burned the town down. All that's left now is the walls of the brick church and evidence of the old buildings foundations. It's now a public historic site in the area. If you're interested, check it out.

Web page about Brunswick Town Historic Site

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I don't think those cities had upwards of 1 million people leave the city in roughly 50 years.

It's hard to say, because the people who resided in the annexed areas could just skip over into the new suburbs/exurbs. If they did it once, they could do it again. Not picking on Detroit at all, but I'm just sayin'.

It doesn't matter that 900,000 less people live in the city. The fact that there is still 900,000 people in a 139 sq. mi. city makes it far from abandoned, especially when most American cities couldn't even approach that number in a similar area. It is true that Detroit's population fell by a lot, and it is true that Detroit has several neighborhoods where abandonment has all but destroyed the neighborhood, but those neighborhoods are the exception when it comes to typical Detroit neighborhoods. You do have to remember that Detroit didn't lose half of its housing and that a lot of the population loss can be attributed to smaller household sizes.

Also, for some reason, people like to go to Detroit to document the "urban prairies" that supposedly has replaced the "urban fabric". Often, people misconstrue those images and think that most of Detroit looks like that.

For instance, in a thread on another forum someone posted a bunch of pics of Detroit that featured empty fields and boarded up housing, and while such conditions obviously do exist in the city, they are not the city.

Take for example this image:

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People see this image and see the emptiness, cracked street, and garbage. What they don't realize is that this image is not indicative of the neighborhood. The reality is that what you're looking at is a street that was cut off by a highway and therefore not used anymore and a block of housing that was torn down either due to the adjacent highway or the large steel facility nearby.

Here's an overhead of the neighborhood for reference:

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As you can see the photographer decided to take a picture of the one area of the neighborhood that looks like that.

In comparison this is what the neighborhood looks like from an unbiased perspective:

This is that same intersection showed above, but instead facing the steel facility:

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This is what the typical housing in the neighborhood looks like:

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It's not the nicest neighborhood in the city, but it is far more indicative of the true Detroit than the images of the supposed "urban prairies"

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Who lives in the houses that the 900,000+ left behind? What happens to the shopping centers that can't support themselves with a lower population?

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Detroit is severly underserved by retail, mainly because of its largely poor, largely minority population. Chain stores prefer not to serve that segment of the population.

And again, not all of the population loss equated to loss of housing. A lot of it can be attributed to smaller household sizes. When Detroit was at it's peak population the average household held many more people than it does now. Smaller family sizes and more single-parent households are one of the biggest reasons for the drop in population. And as far as the housing that was abandoned, much of it was torn down. In some cases that land was converted into industrial use. In others the land still sits empty. In recent years there has been quite a bit of infill going on in some of the most abandoned neighborhoods. Though overall, I think only about 1/4 of the housing stock has been lost.

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Nice neighborhood shots. Looks to be solidly middle-class.

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I saw some urban praries in Flint, MI today. But like hudkina said about the ones in detroit, most of them were right next to the freeway. Most of the ones i saw were near I-475, but there were some in the middle of neighborhoods.

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That is actually one Detroit's poorer neighborhoods. The housing was originally built for the middle-class, but when they moved to the suburbs, the people that replaced them weren't as wealthy. You can tell by the lack of upkeep in some of the housing. Detroit's middle-class actually lives in housing that looks like this:

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This is an example of the difference between population loss and housing loss:

Take this neighborhood for example:

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In 1950 it had a population of 106 people living in 18 houses. The average household size is 5.9 people.

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In 2000, the population has dropped to 35, but there are still 14 houses, with two of them sitting vacant (not necessarily in poor condition). The average household size is 2.5 people.

Between 1950 and 2000 the population has plummeted 66%, but the actual built environment of the neighborhood hasn't changed as drastically. Only four of the houses have been torn down. Most neighborhoods in the city fared much better than this example, while many fared worse, though it helps to differentiate between population loss and housing loss.

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^ That is what I was going to say, hudkina did a good job of graphically showing it. Household sizes were much larger 50 years ago than they are today. Additionally, there very few restrictions on converting single family homes to duplexes/triplexes or more then, so what was once a Victorian mansion for a well to do family was a few decades later converted to housing for several families.

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Many cities have not lost housing at all, but have gained housing, such as Minneapolis, which had 86,000 housing units in 1940 with 490,000 inhabitants, whereas now they have 166,000 housing unites with around 385,000 inhabitants.

Families have gotten much smaller, and homes that used to house 2 families now only house one. It's the main reason that cities have lost population.. not blight and crime, like so many would have you believe. (Although that is also a factor).

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