Detroit then and now: photos of an abandoned city

By MSN UK News Reuters-Rebecca Cook and AP
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Detroit has become the largest US city to file for bankruptcy after officials admitted the motor city that was once the driving engine for America's car industry is running on empty.

As well as its vehicle production, Michigan's largest city drove America's war effort and gave the world the Motown Sound in the 1960s, including The Supremes (above).

But decades of decline have seen Detroit become a symbol of appalling urban decay, with a dwindling population at the mercy of crime and corruption and an estimated $18.5 billion debt.

That one of the 20th century's most progressive cities should fall so hard on its knees in the 21st is a modern civic tragedy, though officials remain hopeful Detroit's car firms can guide it onto the road to recovery.

Click on the picture above to see the city in ruins and the images from its heyday.

J.D. Pooley-Getty Images
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No other American city has been hurt by deindustrialisation as badly as the once-great Detroit

Julie Dermansky
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At its peak, in 1950, 1.8 million lived in the prospering city. Now only 700,000 residents remain, with the population falling by 25% in the past 10 years

Reuters-Rebecca Cook
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There are now more than two retirees for every worker in the city and, for many, the future of their pensions and healthcare is uncertain

Reuters-Rebecca Cook
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A quarter of homes lay derelict across many of Detroit's neighbourhoods and 60% of the city's children live in poverty

Spencer Platt-Getty Images
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The city that formed the cradle of the American car industry has finally succumbed to bankruptcy with a deal unable to be agreed between the city's bondholders and pension funds

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It's a far cry from the Detroit of the 1960s which proudly welcomed the nation to its annual auto shows

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Detroit's booming car manufacturing centre came to symbolise American progress

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The city also earned the title of the 'Arsenal of Democracy' after producing many of the weapons, planes and tanks during World War Two

Getty Images
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But, for many, Detroit's key export was its legendary soulful sound, delivered by hometown stars like Smokey Robinson and The Supremes

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Stevie Wonder was another Detroit-born singer signed to the Motown record company

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He and the 'Prince of Motown' Marvin Gaye are among the stars immortalised at the city's Motown Museum

Reuters-Rebecca Cook
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The city's cultural reputation is preserved at a small house founded by music executive Berry Gordy Jr

Reuters-Rebecca Cook
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The abandoned building that once housed Motown Records from 1960 until 1972 (when the label relocated to LA) was torn down in 2006 to make way for a car park

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The city has been crying out for support in recent years as key industries flunked

Reuters-Eric Thayer
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The murder rate is now at its highest level in 40 years

Reuters-Mark Blinch
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Unemployment has close to tripled since the turn of the century

Reuters-Rebecca Cook
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Emergency services are also badly underfunded. Only a third of ambulances are in operation and police take nearly an hour to respond to distress calls

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Now Detroit has filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history, setting the stage for a costly court battle with creditors

Reuters-Rebecca Cook
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It opens a new chapter in the long struggle to revive the city, but officials believe a renewal can be achieved

Paul Sancya-AP
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New businesses are operating in downtown Detroit and the car firms saved by the Government are prospering. But the city knows the road to recovery is a long one