Reporting Chrystal Knight
DETROIT (WWJ) – Authorities say fire has destroyed a home in Detroit’s Heidelberg Project on the city’s east side.
Fire broke out around 3:30 a.m. Friday at the vacant home on Heidelberg Street, just west of Mt. Elliot Street. Jenenne Whitfield, the project’s executive director, said the fire destroyed one of the project’s most popular structures, the Obstruction of Justice House – also known as the OJ House.
“It is, in fact, one of the most famous houses on Heidelberg Street. It was created back in 1995. It went up in flames and is pretty much over, that part anyway,” Whitfield told WWJ’s Chrystal Knight.
Firefighters contained the blaze, which briefly flared back up around 7 a.m., but not before the damage was done.
WWJ’s Bill Szumanski surveyed the loss from the sky above in the WWJ 950 Chopper.
“One of the houses to the east is now completely down to the ground, completely caught fire and burned all the way straight down to nothing. The only reason we know how it was a part of the Heidelberg Project is you can see one tiny piece of painted green material that’s hanging from the side of it. None of the other houses were affected in this fire,” he said.
No injuries were reported. Authorities are still investigating what caused the fire. Whitfield said she believes the home was deliberately set on fire.
Following news of the fire, organizers of the Heidelberg Project reached out through their Twitter account.
Heartbreaking news to wake up to, but all of our neighbors are safe and for that we're thankful.—
Heidelberg Project (@HeidelbergProj) May 03, 2013
Tyree Guyton, founder and artistic director of Heidelberg Project, describes it as an open-air art environment where discarded objects are used to create a two block area full of color, symbolism and intrigue. Guyton started the project in 1986.
“I am floored by the attitude of Tyree Guyton. We all draw our strength from him. Heidelberg was partially destroyed, once in 1991 and again in 1999, and what he will tell you is that this is not so much about the stuff or the artwork as much as it is about the spirit of the people,” Whitfield said.