Detroit, Michigan, was once a bustling industrial hub, but it’s now a notorious symbol of urban decline. Since its heyday in the 1950s as America’s fourth biggest city and a center for automobile manufacturing, Detroit has lost more than half of its residents. And as a result, the city’s landscape is nowadays littered with unkempt roads, ghost-town-like neighborhoods and skeletal structures. It’s thought that Detroit is home to around 70,000 abandoned homes, schools and churches, in fact.
One example is the Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church, which was constructed in 1911. The gothic-style building stood out as one of Detroit’s most unique architectural feats, and in the 1920s well over 2,000 parishioners were attending its services. In the mid-20th Century, however, Woodward Avenue fell victim to the city’s financial decline, and in the ’90s membership numbers had dwindled to just over 200. The church finally closed its doors in 2005, and today, with its crumbling walls and eerie silence, the site is a magnet for urban explorers.
Take photographer Chris Luckhardt, for instance, whose snaps of deserted spaces have earned him international acclaim. The Toronto-native has ventured inside hundreds of abandoned places around the world, in fact – from haunted theme parks to disused aircrafts. “I don’t break and enter,” says Luckhardt of his adventures. “I just enter.” And in 2011 the cameraman chose Woodward Avenue as his next exploration site. The following is an exclusive first-hand account from Luckhardt, detailing his observations of this hauntingly beautiful building.