Detroit’s decline and fall was long and gruesome. Back then, just outside the downtown of 1920s skyscrapers, there were whole neighborhoods of formerly magnificent old mansions in the most amazing states of dilapidation, with sagging porches, chimneys tilting at impossible angles, and whole exterior walls missing to reveal eerie dollhouse-like vignettes of rooms painted different colors, formerly lived in. These were built by the wealthy magnates of the Great Lakes frontier — the timber and copper kings, manufacturers of paint, coal stoves, etc — before the car industry was even a gleam in Henry Ford’s flinty eye. Over the 1990s they were all torched in the annual Halloween ritual called Devil’s Night. The next time I came back to Detroit, there were wildflower meadows where those ruined mansions had been. In a mere century, all that grandeur had arisen and been erased.