The Detroit Free Press
Feb. 26, 2001


Detroit's world-class ruins live on Web

    by Mike Wendland: February 26, 2001

Lowell Boileau is an artist who has always been fascinated by history. He's traveled the world to document civilizations and ages long gone.

But back home one day several years ago, he took a look at some of the abandoned buildings in Detroit and realized the Motor City has its own compelling ruins.

"Rome has its ruins. Athens has its. Detroit's ruins are bigger and better," says Boileau, 55. "But instead of being honored, our ruins are disparaged."

Thus was born his "Fabulous Ruins of Detroit" Web page (, a site that has drawn an intensely loyal and involved following, attracting a half-million visitors a year.

A fine arts painter by training, Boileau now concentrates on the Web.

"I use it as my art medium," he says. "It's my paint and canvas."

On his site are exquisite, compelling photographs of Detroit's abandoned buildings, our ruins.

From pictures of the once-grand horse stables on Belle Isle to a fascinating photo essay on abandoned automobile factories, Boileau has captured both the grandeur of the city's history and its potential to rise again.

Take the pictures of the decrepit Fisher 21 plant at I-75 and I-94, the big, ugly white factory near the landmark Goodyear car and truck production sign. In a series of exterior and interior pictures, Boileu notes how the building once symbolized the city's industrial might. But the abandoned, vandalized hulk still has a future. It is slated to be transformed into an information-age "data farm filled with computers and fiber optic cables," he writes.

To hurried passersby, the buildings Boileau is attracted to may be eyesores. But Boileau's artistry with the camera turns them into dignified symbols of a once-glorious past.

"It started as a tongue-in-cheek thing, you know, calling our ruins fabulous," he explains. "But they are. Really. These buildings are incredibly beautiful, artistic gems and they and all the history they represent are literally rotting away."

The ruins site has a strong interactive element to it. Boileau is delighted at the close contact it gives him with his audience.

"As an artist, I have found computers and the Internet a wonderfully fulfilling art form," he says. "Before, I'd sell a painting to a rich guy and that was the last I saw of it. But with the Web, my work stays available and visible."