Detroit Urbex: Exploring Highland Park Ford Plant

Detroit urbex is very popular. Many people love exploring Detroit’s abandoned buildings, houses, and other structures. These buildings and homes have such rich history, and because of this, many urban explorers and photographers travel to Detroit. From the Packard Automotive Plant to the Belle Isle Zoo, many urban explorers search for abandoned sites in the city to capture stunning photographs and videos.

UPDATE: As of January 2018, Pure Detroit is now offering tours of the Packard Plant! Click here to learn more.

I had an opportunity to experience my first urban exploring trip at the Highland Park Ford Plant. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Today, I’m sharing with you some of my photographs of my tour of the abandoned plant!


What is urbex?

Urbex is short for urban exploring. Urban exploring is when an explorer or photographer goes to an abandoned building or home to explore and take photographs.

Urban exploration (often shortened as urbex or UE, and sometimes known as ‘roof-and-tunnel hacking’) is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. Photography and historical interest/documentation are heavily featured in the hobby and, although it may sometimes involve trespassing onto private property, this is not always the case. –“Urban Exploration”, Wikipedia.

As the above definition states, some people do urban exploration legally, while others do not. So there are mixed views on urbex. Personally, I like to do it the legal way. I have four children and a husband, so I’m not trying to get any tickets or get arrested for trespassing! 🙂 This, of course, may limit me from which buildings I can explore since many buildings are closed to the public, but I’m okay with that!


Detroit Urbex
Radiator at Highland Park Ford Plant


Detroit Urbex
Detroit urbex at the Highland Park Ford Plant.

Why urban exploration?

From the explorers and photographers I have met, they have told me they find urbex intriguing. They particularly find the history behind the abandoned sites fascinating. Others love to photograph abandoned buildings and objects because they are passionate about creating art or telling a story with their photographs.

Urbex is an acquired taste.

When I first learned of abandoned building photography, I was still living in Tennessee. I found the art on Instagram and I was awestruck. I was amazed at how photographers could find something that is abandoned or what one might consider “trash” and turn it into a work of art. Urbex is definitely very different and not everyone cares about abandoned building photography. I would say it is an acquired taste, just like beer.


Detroit Urbex

detroit urbex

Would I recommend Detroit urbex to you?

If you are interested in urban exploration in Detroit or a city near you, I would recommend you do your research first. Find a photography group or an organization which offers tours. Legal tours. I would never recommend you trespass or do something illegal. Yes, there are explorers who go about it differently. I’m not one of those explorers. So if you choose to explore a building without the owner’s permission, then you should know there are consequences to your choices.

Detroit Urbex: Highland Park Ford Plant 

First, let me get this part out of the way: the tour I took of Highland Park Ford Plant was legal and we had permission to explore the building. 🙂

A few months ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a photography tour of the Highland Park Ford Plant. It was my first time exploring and photographing an abandoned building. According to our group leader, our group was the last group to see the plant in its condition before the renovation. Being the last group to see the plant in its abandoned state made the experience even more special.


detroit urbex

detroit urbex
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History of the Highland Park Ford Plant

Albert Kahn Associates designed the Highland Park Ford Plant in 1908. According to Wikipedia, the Ford Plant included offices, factories, a power plant, and a foundry. It became “the first automobile production facility in the world to implement the moving assembly line.” In 1978, Highland Park Ford Plant became a National Historic Landmark.


Detroit Urbex

Highland Park Ford Plant

The Future of Highland Park Ford Plant

During my photo tour of the Ford Plant, our group leader told us the plant had new owners and would be renovated. I did a little research and found out the Woodward Avenue Action Association now owns the building. I’m just happy I got to tour part of the executive offices before the renovation.

The Highland Park Ford Plant has such a beautiful history. Many Detroiters have a family history dating back to when the automotive industry was booming many years ago. I have met people who have told me their fathers, uncles, and grandfathers used to work at the plant. I have also read articles about the history of Highland Park Ford Plant and the many people who had family who worked for Ford. With such a rich history, I hope there will be more positive changes in the Highland Park Ford Plant!



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39 thoughts on “Detroit Urbex: Exploring Highland Park Ford Plant

  1. These photos are great! You managed to turn something so historic and forgotten about into art. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ve honestly never heard of urbex but it looks quite intriguing! I’d consider my seeking out of street art “urban exploration” 😀

  3. I agree that it’s art. The fact that it has historical significance makes it worth photographing. I’ll have to share this article with my friend photographer.

  4. This is interesting I have never heard of urbex before! Abandoned buildings are very intriguing I always imagine what people lived there, what they did, etc.

  5. Wow, new word of the day for me. I have always liked taking pictures of old houses (the falling down, door off the hinges, overgrown grass kind). Congrats on catching the last tour. Look forward to maybe seeing more urbex photos.

  6. I think l would enjoy this. My hubby is a photographer and would love it as well. It’s always great to find out the fascinating history of buildings or areas and what leads to their abandonment.

  7. Oh wow! That is an amazing opportunity as I am a part time photographer this would be such a wonderful experience as I’m always on the hunt here in NY for interesting places to photograph.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing! I love this! I’ve always loved exploring abandoned buildings. It started as a kid and continues today. I love finding old gems left behind, imagining all the stories that took place behind the walls and how it brought it to what it became. I wish there was a way I could figure out how to do it legally here. Maybe call the city government where I live and they could point me in the right direction?

  9. So cool! As a person who is growing to love photography, this is something I would definitely want to do. My husband, on the other hand, would go along just to make sure I didn;t hurt myself. LOL

    1. Hi, Ayanna! I know a lot of people are concerned with the safety of urbex. There is no guarantee you won’t get hurt, unfortunately. When I went, I made sure to avoid unstable staircases and walk where the floor was sturdy. I hope you get to try urbex sometime!

What are your thoughts?