DETROIT
urban
exploration

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE: packard plant

christos' pictures and my pictures

One of my friends told me about an abandoned hospital in Hamtramck a few days ago. I have to admit, I got pretty excited. I've seen photographs of abandoned medical facilities, and they seem pretty interesting. Exam tables, bloodstains, risk of contracting illness... it's all there. So, this morning, I took a trip down to Hamtramck along with five friends.

Two of these friends had never rooted around an abandoned building before, and the other three had been exploring with me before. None of us knew where the hospital was, though. We ended up trawling Hamtramck for it, to no avail. Our improv navigation landed us in an old industrial park near I-94. The buildings looked fairly well-kempt at street level, but all of the upper levels harbored bird's nests and broken windows. We pulled up to the largest, most-open-looking one, and discovered that it was definitely abandoned. After walking along the far side of the structure, we determined that the easiest way in was through a torn-down garage door - yes, a little conspicous and time-consuming, but what do you expect...

Early afternoon daylight flooded through cracked windows and bulletholes, and illuminated asbestos-lined brick walls and decaying lead-painted ceilings. It smelled like old paint, mixed with asbestos, believe it or not. The floors had iced-over patches of water and oil. There wasn't much garbage lying around, compared to other similarly-aged buildings. This made it feel a little eerie to me. It was too quiet, and too close to civilization (it is right in the middle of Hamtramck's city-limit suburbs). There were too few human artifacts (blankets, shoes) and too many remnants of the Packard automobile manufacturer (paint cans, machinery). It almost looked as if nobody had touched the innards since Packard's death. We walked from our backdoor entrance to the front of the building.

After walking through a wide, black corridor to the other end, the afternoon light stunned us. We walked into the open alleyway, and surveyed: gates on either side, piles of building rubble ahead, the Detroit skyline in the smog. The I-94 hum is omnipresent, even inside the building. Ruffling plastic, and, just as Steve climbs through a nearby window, a car engine. A rasp of an old engine firing up, coming from the left set of gates. We ran back into the building, all of us besides Steve, who had climbed through the window into another room. The engine stops after hesitating in front of where we had seeked cover. Two pairs of feet break glass as they step out of the truck, and a body pokes around the wall we're hiding behind.

The two security guards were sympathetic, almost motherly, toward us. They advised us to not poke around the buildings, and cited a few recent murders and its history as a chop shop. We listened, quietly. After a few minutes of tense conversation, they told us about an area of the building called "Splatball City." It was previously sublet to a paintball company, but had been in disuse for the past couple decades. After they had left, and after we had told them our plans to quickly leave, we started towards Splatball City.

It is the northernmost building, and was previously a parking structure. The ground-level floor is lined with small garages that house car bodies and chassis in various states of rust and burn. A concrete ramp to the right side of the entrance leads the visitor through a pathway of years-old graffiti indicating the distance left to the much-awaited destination: the roof. I'm guessing that the roof was the gathering place for paintball players. Now, the only remnants of them are a few splotches of yellow paint and surprisingly-still-intact donut marks left by a car in the gravel rooftop.