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Lee Plaza Hotel


Created as a luxury residential hotel in 1928, the Lee Plaza consisted of 15 floors and 220 apartments, a lobby, dining rooms, lounges, and a ballroom. Despite being a masterpiece of Art Deco and Mediterranean design, the hotel began its decline as living in hotels became less fashionable. In an attempt to retain functionality it was converted to an assisted living facility for senior citizens but was seized by the city of Detroit for unpaid property taxes. It has since been systematically stripped of all adornments, from the terracotta lions torn from the facade to the green copper roof, which was removed in broad daylight. Vandalism and the elements have done the rest; there is little left to save.

I was somewhat surprised by Detroit - not just by how many abandoned sites there are, but by how badly trashed they are. Lee Plaza is certainly no exception. Entering through a basement that reeked of what I am assuming is gasoline (or some other equally noxious chemical), we came out onto the first floor, which had been mostly bricked up and was very dark. While some traces of ornamentation still lined the ceilings, people had even smashed the moldings there, which must have taken some real effort. Climbing the rest of the building without the benefit of an elevator was a workout, and floor after floor presented a similar spectacle: rooms bereft of windows and adornment, with holes smashed in walls to remove piping. It was almost unidentifiable as a hotel, at this point nearly a shell. Still, if one looked hard enough small traces remained of what was once a proud and luxurious building erected during the heyday of a city that seemed at the time to have days of nothing but happiness and prosperity ahead.

If you'd like to learn more about Lee Plaza, it is a featured chapter in the new Abandoned America book Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online booksellers across the globe. For more information on where to get it or how to purchase a signed copy follow this link. Photographs and unattributed text by Matthew Christopher. For more images click the thumbnails below.