Detroit Walks on the Wired Side
Web sites delve into the past, present and future
of the city and the state
By Kara G. Morrison / The Detroit News /photo Brigett
Boileau chronicles some of Motown's most impressive architecture --
mostly abandoned relics of the Motor City's past -- at his Web site,
www.detroit yes.com, which also includes an active forum.
In the mid-’90s, Lowell Boileau realized the Internet had great
potential as a vehicle for selling
his fine art paintings. But when Boileau started creating a Web site,
he discovered the perfect high-tech canvas. Today, the Farmington resident
hosts one of the most well-known Web sites about the city: www.detroityes.com.
Dubbed “The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit,” the site chronicles
some of Motown’s most impressive architecture — mostly abandoned
relics of the Motor City’s past. His Web site — which boasts
more than 2 million visitor sessions a year — is one of a growing
number of virtual windows to Detroit hosted by locals.
Boileau, who considers his Web site a tribute to a city that’s
rising from ruins, grew up in small towns in Michigan and Wisconsin
and has lived in Metro Detroit since the early 1970s.
“I’ve always been a believer in not gilding the lily,”
says Boileau, 59, who spends hours taking digital photos of his favorite
abandoned buildings and researching their history. “If you stand
in Detroit and look at (the ruins), they’re so impressive, and
they beg a big question. It really says ‘What went wrong?’
It’s grist for artistic energy.”
What started as a way to chronicle Detroit’s ruins — much
like those of Athens and Rome — has become a virtual community.
More than 800 people who are registered on Boileau’s online forums
discuss everything from the latest downtown development plans to the
state of Detroit’s schools to incidents such as the June 23 shooting
in Hart Plaza.
Boileau, who gets donations to keep his site going and designs commercial
Web sites for paying clients, hopes it’s a uniting force.
“I’d really like it to be something that would unify all
of Metro Detroit — the city, Windsor and the suburbs,” he
Such sites serve an important function, says Jerry Herron, American
studies professor at Wayne State University and author of “AfterCulture:
Detroit and the Humiliation of History” (Wayne State University
“I think what Lowell and others have done has shown people how
to see (Detroit) in a way that’s hopeful,” Herron says.
“He gets people to talk to each other about what they see. ...
People begin to belong to this invisible city by virtue of conversation.
It makes real life in the real city more hopeful and fun.”