Less than a mile away from Motown Records recording studio in the New Center Area of Detroit, Michigan is where the vacant abandoned Lee Plaza (also known as Lee Plaza Hotel or Lee Plaza Apartments) rises boldly and beautifully into the sky. Built in 1929 by Charles Noble as an ornate high rise hotel it was decorated with sculpture and tile on the exterior and was a perfect example of 1920’s Art Deco architecture. It is registered historic site by the state of Michigan and on November 5, 1981 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In its long history The Lee Plaza has been home to many different things. It was a hotel, apartments, retirement home, and now an abandoned mess. From my times urban exploring I have watched this building crumble and get stripped of its value. I was inside the building on the day people stripped the copper roof and tossed it off the side of the buildings and loaded it into their truck. All the window frames were also ripped out for the metal as well as all copper fittings and wiring. Even with all of this being ripped out much still remained inside. Just about every room has a kitchen and the remains of someone living in these rooms.
On the first floor in the Grand room sits this amazing looking Baby Grand Piano. I have been inside this building a bunch of times and I knew that morning light would come through the windows for a short period of time. To pretty much guarantee my success I use an app on my phone called The Photographers Ephemeris which allows me to see where the sun will be during the day. Armed with this knowledge and knowing how this room looks I only have a couple more worries to consider. Will the Piano still be in the room? It had been moved all around the first floor and I was worried maybe someone had finally removed it from the building. The second concern was its condition and in abandoned buildings things get destroyed all the time.
Early morning is always my favorite time to shoot pictures especially when it includes an eight foot drop into the pitch black basement of Lee Plaza. I walk into the Ballroom and the Piano is still here and the leg is still holding it up. I see the chair sitting in the background and it makes me think of who might have sat here and heard this piano play over the years. With Motown Records not far away its very possible those artists might have played this Piano. I wait for the sun to rise and add the flash I brought with me and just looking at the back of my camera screen I know I have something special.
This is how it always is for me…weeks of planning, thinking, and obsessing all wrap up in a moments time. Even when out taking pictures for myself I treat it like an assignment and my goal is to always inspire images from abandoned buildings that have a beauty to them. That has always been my goal to show beauty and I hope in the ruin and rust you find the beauty that I see.