Articles, thoughts, and op-eds written by Eric Hergenreder on historic buildings, all things photography, the art scene, and stories you won't find on the larger news outlets.

Photographer Falls Through Abandoned Downtown Roof, Second Occurrence In One Year

By Eric Hergenreder - 

A photographer ended up in the hospital Thursday night after falling through a skylight in an abandoned building downtown. It is currently unclear what exact injuries the man suffered, but it appeared he had broken his leg, ankle, and a couple ribs. The man fell through the abandoned Harvard Square building on Broadway Avenue in downtown Detroit. This is the second occurrence that we know of within the past year, including an explorer who fell through a stairwell at the United Artist Theater last August, shattering his heel among other injuries.

Photo of Harvard Square Center by Eric Hergenreder

Photo of Harvard Square Center by Eric Hergenreder

Although the number of abandoned properties downtown has been decreasing over the past few years, there are still a good number of neglected properties within walking distance of the attractions bringing people to the city. Even with more security and police presence downtown, these photographers, explorers, and vandals continue to find their way into these buildings. Most of the neglected buildings that remain downtown have been sitting for decades, which enables the decay of these structures. After such negligence, entering these buildings is an extreme risk. Even with that being said, and all the work that has been done downtown in recent years, urban explorers are still able to find their way into buildings amidst the new hustle and bustle downtown. 

Harvard Square Center was built in the 1925 and originally housed offices and retail space. The building exchanged hands a couple times before becoming abandoned in 1998, although the street-level retail space is still operational.

The United Artists Theater opened in 1928 and was one of the most beautiful movie palaces in the city. The theater and connected office tower closed in 1975, although it was used for various things such as a recording studio for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and storage. Bricks have been falling off of the facade since the 1980’s, and not much has changed since the graffiti was buffed before the 2006 Super Bowl and the marquee was removed after falling apart onto the sidewalk in 2005. It was recently announced that the building was part of a renovation plan by Ilitch’s Olympia Entertainment, but many are weary of the behemoth of a project actually being completed. Renovation plans are set to start in 2018.

Photo of the United Artists Theater by Eric Hergenreder

Photo of the United Artists Theater by Eric Hergenreder

Both of these properties were featured on our list, Buildings in Detroit That Need to Be Saved in 2017.

Even with less and less abandoned properties downtown, it appears until they are all renovated or demolished we will continue to see accidents like this.