The Brewster Projects are where Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Smokey Robinson grew up. They were the first federally funded public housing development for African Americans, remnants of a time when black citizens faced restrictive covenants in land deeds that prevented them from moving into white neighborhoods. The projects were built when the development of I-75 displaced residents of the black neighborhood of Paradise Valley. Last year at this time, people were still living in several of the towers until the housing commission shut operations down for good. By June 2008, the only people living in the towers were squatters and scrappers diligently removing all recyclable metals from the four towers and numerous low-rises. All summer you could hear the terrible sound of refrigerators falling 14 stories and crashing on the concrete below. Scrappers meticulously removed every aluminum window pane, sending down cascades of glass. Different groups of scrappers claimed territory throughout the projects. It was like the Wild West. There's copper in them buildings.

Not long ago, a Dutch journalist and her photographer were carjacked while reporting from what remains of the Brewster Projects. That hasn't been an issue for me. I walk there.

This is a high-rise kitchen half deconstructed by scrappers. They'll be back.

I quickly became interested in what was left behind in the hundreds of walk-in closets throughout these projects. This one smelled like it had been occupied very recently. I can only assume the stolen gas tanks were just there as a way to get high as fuel for portable heaters and that the pack-n-play was there for a sleeping baby.

Some of the furniture looks like it has been there since the 1950s, when the high-rises were built. Some of the occupants may have spent most of their lives in these rooms. Of course this leads to the question: where did they all go?

There are abandoned photographs in many rooms, small hints of the human beings who used to live in these dead buildings.

There are quite a few fake houseplants and fake flowers, deceptions of lingering life.

This was once a display board at the funeral for a beautiful baby boy. It had several photographs of him playing, smiling. Surrounding the typed words, "Family," "Home," and "Love," were departing messages from those who attended his funeral. "One Love---Your Big Brother, G Mack". . . "Little man, I will miss u." It lay trampled on the same floor where the baby might once have played, or taken his first steps. In the rush of eviction, it was left behind.

Some of the closets were full of things, but I was most interested in those where only a few items remained. Like a hanger, a bible, and a bottle of cologne.

A 1960s suit jacket, still on the haberdasher's hanger.

A cane, a fanny pack, and a cheap, blue faux-fur stole.

A creepy Styrofoam head with a church hat and part of a weave.

In one apartment I found an elderly woman's record book, and on pages where she wasn't keeping track of bills or crafting long lists of lottery numbers, she was keeping track of her love life. This page reads, "I am going to buy our ring and ask him to marry me. I know he going to say yes. We are going to get marry in Sep. We will go over to Ohio and get marry. And later have a big dinner to let people know we are marry." On other pages she writes out her first name with his last name over and over like a schoolgirl. I won't say how it ends.

This was her bedroom.

This was one of the offices where files were maintained. To live in these projects you had to have a job but you couldn't earn too much. And you had to prove it with paystubs, tax forms. Living with relatives who committed crimes could subject residents to eviction. The housing authority kept detailed records about everything and just left these private files and reports in the buildings when they were abandoned.

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I talk about some of these things, and more, in an interview with Dick Gordon on today's edition of The Story (one of our favorite programs on public radio). I'm afraid it makes me out to be much more of an urban explorer than I actually am (there are many, many people who do this stuff far more and far better than I do). I just have a bully pulpit. That said, I did get to spend part of yesterday driving around and exploring Detroit's ruins with Camilo Jose Vergara. That's sort of like a foodie getting to hang out with Anthony Bourdain or a trekkie hanging out with William Shatner. In other words, it was awesome.

If you're visiting for the first time after hearing me on the radio, welcome. On this website I write about far more than just buildings and the city where I live. But you can read some of the things I've written about Detroit here.

The story about the building with all the books on the floor is here and here.

The story of Detroit's abandoned Belle Isle Zoo is here.

The photos of Detroit schools that appeared in Vice Magazine are here (this post describes more recent adventures in schools).

And if you're looking for hope, you might find some here.