PHOTO: Zug Island at Night

GOTHAM OF THE RUST BELT: Blast furnaces, belching smoke, and industry byproducts from ironmaking andsteelmaking are hardly anyone’s idea of beauty. But from a distance at night, an eerily illuminated Zug Island assumes an otherwordly, noir-like allure.
Photographs by Joshua Kristal

By day, Zug Island is a grimy, fire-breathing zone isolated from neighboring society. After dark, however, the mysterious island of industry at the confluence of the Rouge and Detroit rivers becomes a starkly beautiful twinkling skyline.

Neither scene at all resembles its beginnings as a marshy haven for riverbank nature, acreage that wealthy Detroit entrepreneur Samuel Zug once envisioned as the site of a mansion with a water view — a grand home he apparently never built.

Today, the muscular U.S. Steel property in River Rouge on the Detroit border inspires awe and comparisons to the urban dystopias of Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1927 German impressionist film, and Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Player Piano.

See more of Zug Island in the August issue of Hour Detroit.