The photo book Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins chronicles the demise of some magnificent buildings in the city of Detroit, built when the automobile industry was virtually unchallenged and the executives had delusions of imperial grandeur. But with the demise of that dominance and massive job losses, “white flight” and the subsequent loss of income and tax revenue—reducing the city’s share of the metropolitan area to a mere fraction—the magnificent theaters, hotels, office buildings and even the grand Michigan Central Station were gradually left abandoned for lack of patrons and funds to maintain them.
Today, most of these structures still stand, because of the lack of funds to level them, and because white developers simply don’t see any profit in developing in the city. Save for an unkempt look, the interiors of many of these buildings have that ghostly look of just having been vacated for mysterious reasons; but most appear to be simply crumbling away, as “nature” takes over.
There are abandoned buildings in Seattle, perhaps not as grandiose as the ruins of ancient Rome. But an abandoned structure doesn’t have to be grandiose to arouse curiosity. Take for example that windowless gray-painted building adjacent to the old Metro Park & Ride in Kent, since relocated and renamed Kent Station, to accommodate the Sound Transit commuter trains. This used to be the location of a temporary employment agency called “Command Labor,” and I can recall some 15 years ago that it was still a going concern. But at least a decade has passed since it was shut down, and it has just existed in place, apparently unused, abandoned and forgotten. I always assumed that it was locked up like a drum, its interior bereft of any sign that it has been used for anything.
The building was too commonplace a sight for me take interest in it besides the wonder if it was ever going to used again. I had never actually walked past the building at close range until the other day, when I noticed that it wasn’t as tight as a drum as I thought it was. Although there was still a padlock on the glass front door, adjacent to it someone had punched a hole in the wall large enough to squeeze through it. I poked my nose through this hole and viewed a very uncared for interior, full of garbage and peeling paint. There was another door at an angle to my right. I assumed it was locked, but to my surprise the door opened; apparently someone had climbed in through the hole and unlocked the door from within. So I just moseyed in to take a look. The interior to the right had several small rooms, the walls pealing and crumbling, with loose trash piling up everywhere.
It was the same story as I explored the building to my right. Everything in sight suggested that all of the furniture and appliances of business had long been removed, but it had not been entirely “abandoned.” As I walked through assorted refuse, and mounds of something that looked more “organic” that I tried to avoid stepping in, the shuttered, dark atmosphere started to give me the creeps, without knowing exactly why since I saw no one and heard nothing. I walked past a large mirror in a short hallway that led to a large room with a long counter which I assumed was used as a reception area to dole out work assignments and fill out paperwork. Beyond that was a large space which seemed to have once been a storage area that reached high to the ceiling, with an upright ladder that now was reaching somewhere to nowhere. A few metal pipes were stacked in a corner, and more mounds of garbage was heaped over every square inch of available floor space. I suspected that the building had been “occupied” over the many years, and vagabonds had brought in food and other items and simply left their leavings to pile up over time.
I saw no evidence of permanent habitation, which surprised me a bit until I wondered how anyone could find anyplace to “bed down” in all of this filth. I saw nothing more of interest and backtracked out of the place. But walking past that mirror in the hallway I noticed that it was actually attached to a closed door, with a knob. Since it was the only room that was shut off in this way, I grabbed hold of the knob and gave it a twist. It opened into an even darker void, and peering inside I sensed nothing before me, but I also loathed to explore it too deeply.
Still, my curiosity forced me to linger a moment longer than I should have, for suddenly I heard this low, ghostly voice say “Hey, what’s up?” or something of that nature. I am not ashamed to say that I shuddered in alarm by being confronted by someone or something in the darkest void of this building, especially in the middle of the day. What “human” could possibly be sitting in there in such complete blackness? The “voice” didn’t sound as if it had been aroused from slumber, but perfectly in a wakeful state. It was all really “creepy” indeed. I closed the door and abandoned the place posthaste, my “curiosity” sated forever more.
So it is that if anyone else shares my curiosity about what lies within that old gray building that has stood “empty” all these years, consider yourself duly informed. The only question in my mind is why the city of Kent continues to allow this haunted, festering little boil to exist, despite its “benign” appearance.