DETROIT (WWJ) – A fire has destroyed one of the few remaining houses at the famous Heidelberg Project in Detroit, which has been targeted by arsonists for nearly a year.
The fire broke out early Friday morning at the Party Animal House, at the corner of Elba and Mt Elliot streets, which had dolls and stuffed animals covering the exterior.
Firefighters rushed to the scene, but the home was already engulfed in flames. All that remains now is the cement foundation and a pile of rubble.
The house next to the Party Animal House is still standing, but has some fire damage on the second floor. No injuries were reported.
Detroit Fire Arson Chief Charles Simms told WWJ the cause appears to be arson, but investigators have not made an official determination yet.
The Heidelberg Project has been targeted by arsonists at least eight times since last May. Police have yet to identify any suspects or make any arrests.
On Dec. 9, someone set fire to the Clock House, destroying all but one of the home’s wall.
Early in the morning of Nov. 28, the War House was set aflame, and a person in dark clothing was seen running from the scene. The house was completely destroyed.
A week earlier, on Nov. 21, the Penny House was leveled by fire. Despite a quick response, firefighters were unable to contain the flames as they dealt with low water pressure. After that incident, police talked to someone identified as a person of interest, although that person was not arrested or charged.
On Nov. 12, fire completely ravaged the House of Soul, which was covered in hundreds of old vinyl albums.
In late October, fire consumed what remained of the Obstruction of Justice House, which was heavily damaged by fire on May 3.
Two other small fires were also reported earlier in October, which caused smoke damage to the Penny House and the Numbers House.
After the devastating fire at the House of Soul, organizers announced a plan for heightened security, including nightly neighborhood patrols, increased lighting and security cameras. An online fundraising drive raised a total of $54,280 to help implement the security measures.
Founder and artistic director Tyree Guyton and his compatriots vow to carry on, make more art and overcome the assault on his vision, yet worry threatens the whimsy as the fires snuff out building after building.
Now, piles of rubble alternate with two remaining house installations within the two-block area on the city’s east side that’s become famous over the years for the exhibition featuring shoes, clocks, vinyl records, stuffed animals and other found or discarded objects.
The project has muscled its way into cultural and public acceptance despite rocky beginnings. It was originally viewed as an eyesore by city officials, who demolished parts of it at various points in the 1990s, but it now attracts tourists from across the country and globe and gets a seal of approval from the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Any information may be reported by calling the Heidelberg Project Tip Line at 313-428-1762 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.