The Observer & Eccentric
Metro Detroit


Michigan Websites Offer History and Adventure

          By Mike Wendland

Lowell Boileau is a very talented, self-taught Detroit artist who has traveled the world, using his skills with a camera to document ancient civilizations in such places as Zimbabwe, Athens, Ephesus, Rome and the Mexican state of Veracruz.

He has photographed ruins, searching through the rubble with his artist's eye, captivated by the glimpses into lives long gone but still alive in the structure and symmetry of the crumbling bricks and stones that were once magnificent temples and pyramids.

Then he came home and encountered the ruins of Detroit.

So, this being the Cyberspace era, and Boileau long a believer in Web sites as works of art, created a Web site called The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit.

But this is no information superhighway carjacking of the city's image.

Indeed, Boileau loves his hometown. And as he traveled the city, looking at abandoned old apartment buildings, dilapidated factories and the skeletal remains of dynamited old skyscrapers, he made powerful new photographs of the old buildings. He came away with a new appreciation of a city whose history is as deep and fascinating in its own way as those ancient civilizations he photographed.

And he put them on the World Wide Web for us all to see.

From the recent demolition of Detroit Edison's so-called Seven Sisters power plant towers that served for decades as nautical landmarks for sailors on Lake St. Clair, to the wrecking ball now taking down the old Hudsons store, Boileau's Web site is filled with images of once famous landmarks that are more.

There's the mostly abandoned warehouse in Highland Park that was once Henry Ford's Model T assembly line. There's the old brick shell of the Packard Motors factory and the still proud but sagging homes in Brush Park area that once housed the gilded gentry of the city's lumber barons.

"The Web is a perfect resource for the arts," Boileau told me on my PC Talk radio show on WXYT the other day. "And these really are fabulous ruins."

You won't find many Web sites as well designed and navigated as Boileau's. His passion for the ruined buildings and the stories they tell is evident on each page of his very deep site.