Return to the Book Depository

Posted by jdg | Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Last week I went back inside the Roosevelt Warehouse (often called the Detroit Public Schools Book Depository) for the first time in three years. I previously wrote about it here and here. The building was properly boarded up for the first time after that dead man was found frozen in the ice at the bottom of an elevator shaft, but at least one man still lives inside the building. I was showing someone the second floor and a deep voice started speaking to us from what seemed like nowhere. We looked around in every direction before realizing he was inside one of the large ventilation shafts above our heads, speaking to us through a hole where the metal had rusted through.

I brought my camera with me, mostly because I didn't have my 10mm wide angle lens the last time and this is the sort of place where you can never capture the scope of it all with any angle from any camera. I also had one of those flip video cameras and took a slow pan of the second floor, mostly to capture what it's like to actually be inside and also to show how eerie it is with all those books and papers constantly flapping in the wind. It was so windy that it really blew out the audio, so I replaced it with Rachel's "Handwriting." I know it's exceptionally moody, but was I supposed to use something pleasant? 

Other than worsening water damage, there's not much that has changed about this building or what I have to say about it. The billionaire who owns it has been attempting to rehabilitate his image lately. He's even hired Dick Morris as a PR shill. I can't pinpoint for you exactly what's wrong with our property laws or municipal government that allows suburban slumlords---including this billionaire---to hold on to such large tracts of city land and historical buildings and do nothing but neglect them. But it's a big problem we've got to face before we become a city where the top industry is serving the needs of coastal photographers with Arca-Swiss 8x10 cameras (note to such photographers: No, I won't show you how to get into the building).