$500 House in Detroit by Drew Philp

500 houseIf you have ever lived in the City of Detroit, you certainly won’t want to miss reading Drew Philp’s memoir of refurbishing a house in the Poletown section of Detroit beginning in 2007. Philp, a young and idealistic graduate of the University of Michigan, decides to make his home in the city to make a difference and lead a more authentic life. His fascinating story of rebuilding the house he bought at an auction details the crumbling surroundings of homes in the neighborhood, suspicious fires, crack houses on his street, break ins, police harassment and more but, it is also the story about the wonderful neighbors that befriend him and the tight community that exists set amid this neighborhood of 'urban prairie' with a few houses here and there. It is a hopeful story of neighbors helping out neighbors, watching out for each other and the strong connections they form.

The Queen Anne styled home he purchased was basically a shell sitting on a  crumbling brick foundation, missing windows, heat, water, electricity, and a very leaky roof. It makes the refurbishing of homes on This Old House look like a breeze. Through sheer determination and some help from his father and grandfather, Drew slowly begins the process of rebuilding his home after a rough start of removing 10,000 pounds of trash. Through recycling and restoring pieces that were given to him or even pilfering pieces out of abandoned houses, he gave his home a new life.

On second thought, even if you have never lived in the city, this is a book well worth the time to read on many levels from a history of the downfall of Detroit, to a single young man’s efforts to try and improve his city, to the strong interconnectedness of a community.

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