Glimpse of Better Times: Then-and-Now Photos of an Abandoned Detroit School

To “raise awareness of the social and economic challenges the city of Detroit,” website Detroiturbex explores and photographs abandoned buildings and places in and around the city. One of its recent projects focuses on Lewis Cass Technical High School, which had its building devastated by a major fire in 2007 (the building was subsequently demolished).

By combining old photographs of the school with new views of the abandoned building, it offers us a look into two different times: one that shows a vibrant campus and one that shows empty ruins.

You can find more photographs from this series here. There are a total of 43 photographs in the set.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Mike!

Image credits: Photographs by Detroiturbex

  • SpaceMan

    Admirable work, well done Petapixel for spotting this!

  • Jeffrey Remick

    I dig it. I prefer the ones that are sort of faded into the abandoned photo… like a ghost scene.

  • John Goldsmith

    Having grown up in metro Detroit, I’m tired of seeing ruin p0rn. There is a lot more to the city and people than what was. However, perhaps this is a more admirable approach to the typical broken down pictures one sees from the city because it does include a human element. Thanks for sharing. Lastly, I’m curious if anyone is doing any photography projects in Detroit that show some of the interesting transformations, such as how nature and sustenance farming are becoming a part of the norm.

  • fahrertuer

    Great project.

    There are many similar projects that blend past and present. But here the past is reduced and blended into the now in a way I haven’t seen before with so much attention to detail

  • fast eddie

    Sweet! Reminds me of the movie Lean on Me.

  • Tomislav Sebek

    Awesome idea, great realization!

  • Andre

    The awareness and continuity of detail is amazing!

  • miah8000

    Great series, very inspiring as well as cautionary

  • rtfe

    great idea, i like the world war 2 ones more

  • Santa Claus


  • Eric DiFebbo

    I have a love hate relationship with photos like these. Not the concept because I absolutely love it. But what bothers me is seeing how we leave things as is and its an erie feeling to know that we used to occupy a place or building and took care of it once.

  • Plex

    How many of the students in the pictures are still alive, locked up…etc?

  • willy

    because that is where you will find out why the rest of the city is the way it is. A city where fire departments do not put out fires, and police only go to calls where they have to investigate a violent crime…..maybe.

  • Trey Campbell

    Time magazine reported in 2009 that the UNsolved murder rate in Detroit is 70%. Unbelievable.

  • Urs


    Hadn’t opened this article here before, but I just stumbled upon this documentary. Right now, the video is paused at 03:15, showing what lies just a 50° pan to the right of the article’s opening image… The CassTech building is fine

  • Freshette Coloquial

    Wonderful, if very sad, photos.

  • John Goldsmith

    Thanks, Scot! I really enjoyed that and shared it with others.

  • Marilou Carlin

    It’s well done, but it makes it seem like Detroit just let Cass Tech go to ruin. The reality is that there’s a super fancy new Cass Tech that replaced the old one several years ago. If you really want to show then and now, juxtapose photos of the old school with the new one, which is superior in every way but charm. Not as nostalgic or artistic, but infinitely more honest.

  • Scott Simpson

    Spectacular execution. I loved seeing these pictures. I look forward to future projects showing then-and-now comparisons between ruins and success.

  • Luke

    The “before” pictures actually are showing the school in its late stages, not so long before its abandonment. More eloquent by far would have been to show it back in the 1950s, with, ah, the earlier inhabitants of Detroit. (HInt: their parents would have been the ones whose taxes actually PAID for the construction of the schools there…)

  • Thomas Casey

    I don’t think it was a political statement, the building was wrecked in a fire so the pictures are a historical record of events.