Video: The Drone Cam Visits What Is Left Of Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project

December 10, 2013, 10:45 AM by  Bill McGraw

One of Detroit's most popular cultural attractions is quickly disappearing, and Harry Arnold's drone cam surveys the damage from a variety of angles and heights in this exclusive Deadline Detroit video.

Four of the seven main houses and one auxiliary building at Tyree Guyton's world-famous Heidelberg Project have burned in the past few months, and the pace of the fires appears to be quickening. 

On Sunday, fire crews raced to the so-called “Clock House,” but couldn't stop the flames from devouring the structure.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives combed through the ruble on Monday.

The fire Sunday was the eighth since May, a startling string of deliberately set fires, even for Detroit, which is the arson capital of big-city America.

Investigators have determined that the previous seven fires were arsons. Last week, following the seventh  blaze, the ATF announced it is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for setting the fires

Guyton began the Heidelberg Project, near Mt. Elliott and Mack, in the mid-1980s as a folk-art commentary on issues surrounding the neighborhood's blight, including arson. By some estimates, the project attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year, and Guyton has been lionized by art critics and museum directors around the world. A exhibit of his work in New York closed late last month.  

Not everyone is a Heidelberg Project fan. Mayors have twice bulldozed parts of Guyton's work that sat on city property, and neighbors and others have found fault with the project  for a variety of reasons, including the way it has turned a residential neighborhood into a sometimes busy tourist attraction and a dislike of Guyton's artistic style.

The video shows how decades of Detroit's decline have reduced what was once one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Michigan into a plot of land that looks almost rural.

As fast as fire consumes his work, Guyton has been rebuilding: He has already begun to install the whimsical found objects for which he is famous on the ruins of the OJ House which burned to the ground Oct. 5.

There is the beginning of objects on the House of Soul, the old home covered with vinyl records that a fire destroyed Nov. 12.

On Nov. 21, flames destroyed the Penny House. 

The War House burned to the ground Nov. 28. 

The Numbers House was damaged Oct. 9.

Related Deadline Detroit coverageHeidelberg Project Three-Year Fund-Raising Target: $3 Million, Nov. 24

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