Brazen arsonist strikes 5th Heidelberg Project house in 2 months

Artist Tyree Guyton paced on a grassy, smokey lot Sunday night, his face firm and glowing orange.

A raging fire was consuming the fifth Heidelberg Project house in just 65 days. It was the eighth since May 2, and investigators believe each was intentionally set.

“It’s time to fight back,” Guyton told me. “We gotta do something about this.”

The fire broke out sometime after 10 p.m. and quickly devoured the “Clock House,” which was adorned with paintings of clocks. At Guyton’s request, firefighters saved a wall on the wood-frame house, but the rest of the home crumbled into a charred heap.

Guyton said he will begin rebuilding in the morning.

Guyton created the Heidelberg Project in 1986 after he lost three brothers to the streets. He wanted to brighten up the blight and call attention to the poverty and decay that still eat away at Detroit’s neighborhoods. Guyton slowly began decorating abandoned wood-frame houses with found objects and erected other installations in vacant lots.

The project is now world-renowned and a popular tourist destination.

In the wake of the fires, supporters are holding a fundraiser to help rebuild.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.

“Arsons can have a devastating effect on the community, our chief concern is for families in the surrounding homes and for the lives of the firefighters who respond to these fires,” Daryl McCrary, acting ATF special agent in charge, said.

The fires have destroyed the “House of Soul,” “War House,” Penny House and Obstruction of Justice House in the past two months.

Anyone with information is asked to call the ATF Hotline at (888) ATF-Fire or the Detroit Fire Arson Unit at (313) 596-2940.

Check out a photo gallery of the remaining house installations in or near the Heidelberg Project.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Matt Harding

    Where there is a glimmer of hope, those without hope will destroy that glimmer because they have none.

  • Bruce Channell

    With all the the homeless problems in the COD why not let someone live in these homes.That way you have an occupied dwelling and eyes and ears in the could even pay them a stipend or have artists-in-residences occupy these homes.If people are actually occcupying these homes there would be less of a chance of an arsonist destroying what is left of the installation.Take the money that is being raised for security ,repair these homes and put artists in them and you would have an art community!!That would bring more tourists there to buy items from the artists who in turn could spend the money to repair the other vacant homes nearby creating a viable neighborhood.IMHO……

  • Visual Ronin

    How is that search for the “known arsonist” coming along?

  • nitrodrip

    Offering money will spur tips in this economy. What is the motive of burning an abandoned area? Its a crime and whoever does this needs to be in prison.

  • bebow

    It’s time for all of us to fight back.

  • No Dte Forme

    I love The Heidelberg Project…..I’m speechless about the arson. Sincerely, Robin Douglas