Abandoned U.S.A.

Since February 2000, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has operated the Plan for Transformation, the largest public housing reform program in the United States. Among its reforms has been to make use of Federal HOPE VI dollars to demolish many of its large scale developments. Ida B. Wells Homes, seen here, was the city's first public housing development dedicated for African-American use. After more than 60 years of occupancy, it sat mostly vacant for several years as the groundwork was laid for its replacement. A new mixed-income community named "Oakwood Shores" currently occupies the site

                                               Philadelphia, Pa

After decades of economic prosperity, Strawberry Mansion experienced the decline common to many Midwestern and Northwestern cities in the second half of the 20th century. The demographics of the community and its physical condition dramatically changed throughout the period, and the neighborhood lost huge numbers of buildings in the process. While some edges of the neighborhood are now experiencing redevelopment, those farther isolated continue to confront the challenges of decline. These two buildings are among a handful that remain on this formerly dense row house block.

                                               Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The location has been economically silent since 1983, when the company shuttered the facility. Still, it wasn't until the early 2000s when the site was cleared of most of its structures and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversaw hazardous waste removal. The EPA is still actively assessing the nature of the site contaminants and expects remediation to be complete in two years. At that point, one of many recent development proposals could be executed.

                                                  Detroit, Michigan

While derelict buildings are common in Detroit, the city is actively engaged in reducing their numbers. One major funding source is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which will be used to demolish more than 10,000 buildings by the end of current mayor Dave Bing's term. Here, a collapsing building on the city's east side is demarcated by city barriers before its soon-to-come demolition.

                                                  Cleveland, Ohio

Like Strawberry Mansion in Philadelphia, many former Jewish neighborhoods in Midwestern and Northeastern industrial cities transitioned to African-American neighborhoods during the 1930s and 1940s. In the process, synagogues and schools were typically purchased by African American Christian churches, finding new life in a new spiritual community. Cleveland followed the same pattern, with some institutions finally becoming derelict after years of use. More than two dozen synagogues once populated east side; of those that survived the subsequent decades, nearly all but the Chibas Jerusalem are occupied by churches.

                                                 Las Vegas, Nevada

These small buildings are located on the northern edge of the Las Vegas Arts District, which occupies a liminal place between historic Las Vegas and the most grandiose contemporary casinos in the unincorporated Paradise to the south. The area is a place of contradiction, simultaneously underdeveloped and overvalued, a victim of its location. While major development of the area has slowed with the recession, many smaller incursions are happening through the arts community. The city's tallest structure, the Stratosphere, is seen hovering over the buildings despite being more than a mile away

                                                Baltimore, Maryland

Like Perlman Place, this intersection is located among miles of row house blocks on Baltimore's near east side. Here, two short blocks of entirely derelict and unoccupied row houses converge. The history of the neighborhood is written on the building façades, clear in layers of resurfacing, repainting and burn marks. The area was transformed into an art installation by local artist Ryan LeCluyse in summer 2011.

                                                  Chicago, Illinois

Contrary today's pattern of north side development, Chicago's south side was the city's first home of Chicago's elite. While many buildings were demolished during urban renewal and public housing construction, still others were shielded from major institutional planning only to be affected in recent years. This block of remarkable row houses has seen ups and downs, including the recent renovation of the two left buildings. The right building remains derelict.

                                                  Baltimore, Maryland

This photograph was taken on the first day of the city-initiated demolition of all but a few row houses on Perlman Place. After years of neighborhood decline on the city's east side, the block's end came relatively swiftly following a failed attempt to rehabilitate the buildings into upmarket row houses. Without sufficient financing, the developer stalled the project, leaving the block in the state it was when pictured. There are no immediate plans to replace the demolished units with new housing.


Briefly the world's largest shopping center, suburban Cleveland's Randall Park Mall has been almost entirely vacant and derelict since March 2009, eclipsed by new retail construction in more affluent suburbs. At present, only a handful of stores with direct parking lot access operate on the entire site, leaving mall entrances like this one irrelevant. Meanwhile, unattended plants overgrow their planters and through the increasing numbers of cracks in paved surfaces.

2 responses to “Abandoned U.S.A.

  • Ines Dais

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