Lee Plaza Hotel. Once one of the most luxurious residential hotels in Detroit, Lee Plaza closed in the 1990s. Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

By Douglas A. McIntyre
August 23, 2010 at 8:34 pm

A city does not die when its last resident moves away.  Death happens when municipalities lose the industries and vital populations that made them important cities.

The economy has evolved so much since the middle of the 20th Century that many cities that were among the largest and most vibrant in America have  collapsed. Some have lost more than half of their residents. Others have lost the businesses that made them important centers of finance, manufacturing, and commerce.

Most of America’s Ten Dead Cities were once major manufacturing hubs and others were important ports or financial services centers. The downfall of one city, New Orleans, began in the 1970s, but was accelerated by Hurricane Katrina.

Notably, the rise of inexpensive manufacturing in Japan destroyed the ability of the industrial cities on this list to effectively compete in the global marketplace.  Foreign business activity and US government policy were two of the three major blows that caused the downfall of these cities.  The third was the labor movement and its demands for higher compensation which ballooned the costs of manufacturing in many of these cities as well.

24/7 Wall St. looked at a number of sources in order to select the list. One was the US Census Bureau’s list of largest cities by population by decade from 1950 to 2000 with estimates for 2007. Detroit, for example, had 1.9 million people in 1950 and was the fifth largest city in the nation. By 2000, the figure was 951,000. The city was not even on the top ten list in 2007.

1. Buffalo

In 1900, Buffalo was the eighth largest city in America. It was located on one of the busiest sections of the Erie Canal, the terminus of the canal on the Great Lakes. Thanks to its location, Buffalo had huge grain milling operations and one of the largest steel mills in the country.  Buffalo prospered during WWII as did many northern industrial cities. After the WWII, the manufacturing plants returned to the production of  cars and industrial goods. The population rose to more than 500,000 in the mid-1950s. It is half that today. Buffalo was wounded irreparably by the de-industrialization of America. …

America’s Ten Dead Cities: From Detroit To New Orleans


  1. Gail said...

    I can't believe Newark didn't make the list!  


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