Detroit Public Schools Book Depository

No Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom

The Detroit Public Schools Book Depository has been abandoned since a fire struck the building in 1987. Designed by the well regarded Detroit architect Albert Kahn in the 1930s, the 4 story building was originally built as a post office before being converted to a warehouse holding school text books and other school supplies for Detroit school children.

As Detroit’s population has contracted, many schools have closed and are now shuttered and abandoned.

More recently, in January of 2009, The Detroit News reported on a case of a dead man who had frozen inside a block of ice in an elevator shaft in the building. As the story goes, the dead man was phoned in to a reporter rather than the police because the photographer/urbex explorer and his friends who were playing hockey on the ice in the basement didn’t want to call the police for fear of getting in trouble for trespassing.

At present the book depository and Michigan Central Station across the street are owned by Detroit billionaire Matty Mouron who also owns the Ambassador Bridge, the main bridge connecting Detroit to Canada.

On the day that I visited the basement was flooded. We only ran into one person living in the building, who asked us to keep away from the windows while we visited so as not to draw attention from the outside. On the fourth floor of the building nature has begun to reclaim this building and a small forest has taken root inside the building opening to a massive skylight in the roof.

This place definitely ranks up there in one of the most interesting abandoned buildings I’ve ever photographed.

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5 Comments

  1. meligrosa says:

    this is such an intense post. sign of the times. in the US
    education. images. travelling

    thanks for sharing thomas
    xxo.m

  2. Greg Jordan says:

    Powerful photo. Gives new meaning to, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

    See you at <a href="http://bit.ly/d8csz9"June 26 photowalk in Menlo Park.

  3. Amy Heiden says:

    I visited this building in May 2009. To me, the most shocking discovery was the hundreds of brand new, unwrapped, piles of books, well preserved by the plastic, sitting next to half burnt, moldy, decaying books.

    In some areas, the piles of paint brushes or cans of paint, or clothes-pins were so organized they looked staged, then I discovered the shelves once supporting them had rotted away.

    It turned out to be one of the more interesting locations we visited on our trips.

  4. Clare says:

    Hello Thomas! I am going to Detroit in a couple of weeks to photograph abandoned places. I am trying to get in touch with someone who has done this before. I am completely unfamiliar with the city and I am a young woman so I need to be careful. Would it be possible for you to share some of your knowledge with me?

    Clare