56 Temple Street

When the 2013 population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau came out, it was bad news again for Detroit. This once mighty industrial powerhouse checked in at 681,090 souls, down about 50,000 from the official 2010 count.  If the positivity downtown had your hopes up, this was the big gut check.

Detroit’s free-falling, out of control, bankrupt. It’s a battle against entropy and we’re losing, and losing fast.

56 Temple Street, near downtown, is a perfect example.

temple56 Temple is the closest building to the viewer.

56 Temple, and its neighbors 52 Temple and 46 Temple,  are abandoned. Even as little as 5 years ago, there was hope for the properties, signs of life.  You’d never guess now, the facades overgrown with ivy, the windows boarded up, the roof on 46 Temple ravaged – all telltale signs of death and decay.

Sure, renovation is still possible, but in a city like Detroit, what are the odds? With all the condominiums opening up in far-flung suburbs, who has time for history?

And the little house on 56 Temple, unfortunately, has a lot of history. It was built in 1864 by John F. Munro, in what was then the outskirts of Detroit. Munro, a deputy surveyor for the federal government, lived in his modest, gas lit brick home on “Bagg Street” with his wife Sara and three children, selling off chunks of his large property over time to developers for extra income.

Though few remember Munro – a Scottish immigrant and honorary member of The Michigan Association of Surveyors and Civil Engineers – his life’s work is immortalized in the layouts of many historic Detroit streets. He platted huge parcels in iconic neighborhoods like Corktown and Midtown, determining sidewalk widths and lot sizes, carving alleyways out of farmland. He fretted over the heights of curbs, spelled shrubbery “shubery”, all from 56 Temple.

Hell, he even foresaw Detroit’s downfall, signing a petition that begged city leaders to stop annexing new land, to develop within established borders. Unchecked sprawl is just too damn expensive.

The vast, black hole-like emptiness of nearby Second Avenue, a five lane, one way street, confirms Munro’s worst fears. The dragon has eaten his own tail. The last time I walked down Munro’s stretch of Temple Street, I found a waterlogged bible on the ground, the pages blowing in the wind. Its last reader was  probably off begging for change or waiting in line for a meal at the soup kitchen.

For some reason, I picked it up and got stuck on John 10:10.

godWhere is God in Detroit, among the omnipresent barbed wire?

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2 thoughts on “56 Temple Street

  1. You’ve been a posting machine lately, George. By the time I got around to commenting on this post, it’s already bumped off the front page by new content!

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