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The Ghost Town:The Downfall of Motor Town

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler well as an amateur astrologer who loves to visit and explore new places.



About 3 years back, I visited Chicago. My host asked me, "have you seen a ghost town?"

" Yes," I replied," but in cowboy movies which show images of ghost towns. The ones which suddenly became ghost towns when all the prospectors go away."

He told me he would take me to a modern ghost town which is about 400 km from where we were staying and the drive should be just about 2 1/2 hours. That was my introduction to the city of Detroit.

Motor Town is the popular name for Detroit. The city has a chequered history and was founded on July 24, 1701, by the French explorer and adventurer Antoine Laumet de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac. The city became a permanent part of the United States in 1796, due to the Jay Treaty. This treaty is named after the chief American negotiator John Jay and was an agreement between Great Britain and the United States to regularize the area.

Detroit is a very old city but it has now gone to seed and after visiting the place I realized that perhaps what has happened to Detroit may not happen to America as a whole in the decades to come, because of poor leadership. This is not an idle thought but something which the American state must address.

Creepy abandoned ghost neighborhoods

Creepy abandoned ghost neighborhoods

The Boom

Detroit boomed because of economic prosperity. The real boom began with the invention of the Motor car by Ford. As a follow-up, Detroit became the national hub of the automotive industry. The city expanded and the population grew to 1.8 million as the boom period of car manufacturing appeared. By 1950 Detroit was the national hub of the automobile manufacturing industry.

In particular, during the Second World War, Detroit was the hub that churned out products for the war effort. But race always remained a dominant factor and in 1943, more than 25000 workers downed tools in a protest when they being asked to work alongside blacks. This shows that even after 167 years of independence such deep-rooted prejudices remained and I can assure you from my experience in America, they have not gone away.

Despite this, the city prospered as the car became a symbol of the American dream. Most car manufacturers turned in large numbers of cars, most of them being king size. At that time the Americans had a special fascination for massive and big cars who were really gas guzzlers but there was never a problem with gas at that time. The first problems appeared in the late fifties when smaller and more fuel-efficient cars from Japanese and European manufacturers appeared. Somehow Detroit was never the same after that. The rise in gasoline prices further affected the profitability of the Detroit car industry and the Motor Town began to slide down.

The golden age

The golden age


The Ghost Town

In 1967, race riots added their own dimension to the problems of the city. I am unable to explain this phenomenon of race rights and that to in1967 when there were mass killings. Such riots had an effect on the city. The auto industry was affected in other ways as well. Production went down as cars from Japan and Europe being more fuel-efficient began to corner the market. It was followed by a flight of labor from the city. With the car Industry sliding down, the population of the city declined dramatically. In each successive census after 1960, the population began to slide down. As of date, Detroit’s population is just above 700,000. A far cry, from a population peak of 1.8 million in the fifties.

With population declining and spread out, civic amenities are a problem. The problem is compounded by almost 50% of the property owners not paying their municipal taxes. The Government realized the serious situation and appointed a debt manager to see if anything could be done to take the city out of the morass. But the problems were too gigantic and on 13 July 2013, the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy under chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy act. The city was now heading to become a ghost town. It was like a dream that failed.


The future is bleak especially after the 1967 riots when the whites fled the city. Many whites were killed and white women raped and lead to what is known as the 'white flight.' The same year, the oil crisis had a significant impact on the auto industry with thousands of people losing their jobs.

Detroit now suffers from unemployment and poverty. There are some urban renewal projects sanctioned but many streets have become no-go zones. The houses are left derelict and abandoned; a virtual ghost town. The abandoned buildings have become centers for crime populated by black gangs.

The entire auto industry in America is on tenterhooks as it faces competition from China. The American auto industry just produces about 35% of what the Chinese manufacture. I'm sure the next decade is going to make or break America. Detroit is not an encouraging example.

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MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 13, 2021:

Vanita, thanks, who can tell what the future will unfold.

Vanita Thakkar on July 13, 2021:

Very sad facts - from National Automobile Hub to Ghost Town .... Time will unfold its untold uncertainties and we can only hope for something that makes way for a better, happier tomorrow, agreeable and decent, if not as glorious as the bygone yesterday.

Informative article. Thanks for sharing.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 12, 2021:

Thank you, Devika, for sparing time and commenting.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 12, 2021:

Thank you, John, it's a sad tale but something inevitable, especially after the challenge by China.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 12, 2021:

Brena, welcome comment. I also feel sad at the demise of Detroit.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 12, 2021:

emge Interesting and so much I have learned from your hubs. Ghost town adds to the city's appearance and you have enlightened me in detail. Sometimes downfalls destroys the image of popular cities.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on July 11, 2021:

It is sad when a once-great city disintegrates as Detroit has. The car manufacturing industry has also shut down in Australia, but we did not have one major centre reliant on that and it was never as big as in Detroit. I hope something can be done to rejuvenate the city.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on July 11, 2021:

That is so sad to see the state of this place after all it had once been.

Good article.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2021:

Thank you Peggy, your comment is welcome.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 11, 2021:

I can only hope that revitalization efforts will help cities like Detroit rebound in the future. There are many factors involved.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2021:

Thanks, Bill, for commenting, perhaps the old glory may not come back.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2021:

Thank you, Liz, for commenting.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, China is a big threat economically. They have relegated the US car industry to a lower shift.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela, your comment is welcome. I also hope Detroit recovers its old elan and sheen. Sad to see a city go to seed.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 11, 2021:

Adjust or fall by the wayside. Detroit was not ready for change, and when change occurred, they had no answer. It will be interesting to see if they finally adjust and can continue as a major city, or simply some footnote in history.

Liz Westwood from UK on July 11, 2021:

I had heard of the decline of Detroit previously. Your article presents its decline graphically with great illustrations.

Tom on July 11, 2021:

Us beaten by china and Japan,lost automobile race, India failed

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 11, 2021:

This is an interesting article, MG. There are some now who are trying to rebuilt Detroit, but I don't know if that will happen. In my opinion the Michigan governor is not very good. I guess time will tell.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on July 11, 2021:

Thank you for commenting David. Well it is all in the melting pot waiting for an explosion.

David Issac on July 11, 2021:

An interesting article. the eclipse of Detroit looks unreal but there are so many points that emerge. the racial tension and the competition from. China. I did not know about the white exodus from Detroit, it doesn't auger well for America with Biden playing the leftist card.

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