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Old Posted Dec 26, 2006, 7:48 PM
gsgeorge gsgeorge is offline
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Location: Detroit / Ann Arbor - MICHIGAN
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The Urban Freeways - A Photo History (Old Detroit images)

The freeway in some form or another has been arond since the late 1920s. It was born in Italy and perfected in Germany, and put to heavy use on America's coasts in the 1940s. But the urban freeway, one that is constructed within fully-developed city, was a magnificent and complicated addition to the pulsing fabric of the modern metropolis. It was born in Detroit, the world's first sprawl city, sixty-five years ago.

This is a photo history of two of the city's earliest and most iconic freeways. Detroit's oldest is the Davison Freeway, built in 1942. Henry Ford pushed for its construction to help his workers quickly reach the Ford assembly factory at Highland Park. At the time, it was short (only two miles long) and was built outside of the central core of the city, but in the years following it would be flanked by two larger and more ambitious freeways. The Davison no longer looks like it does in these photos; in 1968 it was expanded and in 1993 it was refurbished and widened.

Davison Ave. before construction - July 1941

Many homes and businesses were demolished. In this photo, a "Street Widening Sale" is advertised. 1941.

Davison at Third, 1941.

Same location, one year later.

Open for traffic, November 24, 1942.

The John C. Lodge Expressway was Detroit's next big project. Workers began construction in 1949 and it was not completed until the 1960s.

This aerial image of the New Center neighborhood shows how the Lodge cut a ribbon of concrete into the land and divided communities. We all know what happened from here...

Street level construction, 1949.

A few months after opening in 1950. The beautiful train in this photo would soon become obsolete in the Motor City.

1950 traffic! (negative flipped)

1955. Traffic has come to a standstill at rush hour.

1958. The Lodge with the Fisher Building in the background. (negative flipped)

1955. The Lodge at night.

December 2006.

Obviously there's a lot more to be said about these images, but I'll stop short of preachy commentary. I think the images speak for themselves. Feel free to post more urban freeway photos, preferably from the early days of urban freeway construction. I would love to see urban freeways from your city too! This thread is not limited to the city of Detroit.

Image credits:
Wayne State University Digital Image Library, The Virtual Motor City
Bentley Historical Library Image Bank, University of Michigan
Last photo by me.
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Old Posted Dec 26, 2006, 8:08 PM
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Maunder Maunder is offline
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Awesome photos! It's amazing how highways have evolved within the past few decades.
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 3:36 AM
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BigKidD BigKidD is offline
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Interesting pictures. It looks like rush hour traffic in 1950s Detroit was not very fun.
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 4:02 AM
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LMich LMich is offline
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I can't imagine rush hour would have been fun in any established city in the 1950's with urban freeways.

Great thread. I'd seen most of these before, except this one:

I really like that one.
Where the trees are the right height
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 4:18 AM
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Xing Xing is offline
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The Car Made Detroit. The Car Almost Killed it.
”Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” - Mark Twain
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 7:53 AM
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village person village person is offline
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Location: Kansas City / Jacksonville
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In the 1940s, there were plans to completely encircle downtown Jacksonville with a ring of highways. Thank goodness that was just about the only part of that 1940s highway plan that wasn't built. The following is pretty much what was:

This early 20th cent. aerial shows how Jacksonville's neighborhoods were all connected. I-95 cut right through the bottom half of this photo, from left (N) to right (S):

1940s - A similar angle, a little more SE (N to the left, S to the right still), showing downtown in the b/g:

Same general view as above, this time in the 1960s, lovely I-95 joins the scene (presently it's being widened to some monstrous proportions, not that there's much left nearby to knock down). The neighborhood you see here between downtown and the highway, called LaVilla, was "renewed" in the '90s -- we all know what that means:

Very near the above photo, to the South and facing South, this is the I-95 / I-10 interchange in 1972, built right in the middle of an established neighborhood, Riverside, which is now part of the largest nat'l historic district in Florida (and could have been a bit larger if not for this):


Facing East, Here's the "20th st expressway" u/c on the city's Northside in the 1960s, with I-95 crossing it left-right. Downtown would be to the right. The expressway would eventually turn sharply to the right (S) and head to the "stadium district" in the following pics:


1981 -- Looking South, these highways and the "stadium district" (the old Gator Bowl, Veterans Memorial Colisium, and Wolfson Park -- now all 3 replaced by more modern structures) replaced almost the entire neighborhood of East Jacksonville, one of the most historic neighborhoods in the city:

1959 -- Going back in time, when the destruction began: This is the same interchange as above (looking East) before the 2nd highway was built to cross it as this same point (the 20th st expressway after its turn South, as described earlier). The first highway, seen here, and the bridge was the Arlington Expressway, which opened up the other side of the river to massive suburban developments. Notice how there are houses still surrounding the Gator Bowl and Wolfson Park, but the damage had already begun:

1965 -- same area, without houses (see why they were eventually demolished? Where else would people park for the game!!)

1972 -- where east edge downtown streets morph into highway ramps leading into the "stadium district":

The stadium district today:


Other changes, one could say resulting from the highway construction:

Downtown Jacksonville in the 1940s:

Then it all started to fall apart...

Dun dun DUN!!!


Tradition vs. modernity vs tradition vs modernity

Last edited by village person; Dec 27, 2006 at 8:21 AM.
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Old Posted Dec 11, 2015, 9:07 PM
HermanKrieger HermanKrieger is offline
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Detroit As I Knew it

Detroitl then and now-
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Old Posted Dec 12, 2015, 2:33 AM
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Cro Burnham Cro Burnham is offline
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Originally Posted by HermanKrieger View Post
Detroitl then and now-
Amazing. An amazing life too! You just blew my mind.
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Old Posted Feb 10, 2016, 9:46 PM
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esquire esquire is offline
Think about Winnipeg.
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Originally Posted by Cro Burnham View Post
Amazing. An amazing life too! You just blew my mind.
Yeah! Wow, that is something else.
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Old Posted Mar 8, 2016, 4:12 AM
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Murphy de la Sucre Murphy de la Sucre is offline
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Detroit and Jacksonville, two very cities.
No future dare pursuing, no past worth recalling, just live the present day, numb and soulless, everyday...
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