A Brief History of Michigan’s “Hamtramck Disneyland”

Hamtramck Disneyland
Hamtramck Disneyland | © Jerry Paffendorf / Flickr

Everyone needs a hobby when they retire, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be golfing or knitting, as was proved by Detroit’s Dmytro Szylak, the man behind Hamtramck Disneyland.

After immigrating to America from Ukraine in the 1950s, Szylak spent 32 years working for General Motors. Upon retiring in the 1980s, he needed a hobby and was inspired to turn his backyard in Hamtramck into an art installation. He began handcrafting items and collecting found objects, and without much of a plan, he started building a structure from the ground up. Starting small, as he added more and more components, the sculpture soon took over the roofs of his two garages and spilled over into the alley behind.

Hamtramck Disneyland

The playful collection drew on his own interpretation of Disneyland, as well as celebrating both his homeland and his adopted homeland. It follows a carnival theme, featuring a carousel, an aircraft, toys, rockets, propellers, soldiers, Christmas decorations, paintings, pictures and much more, as well as light, motion and sound elements. It rises high above the houses around it, and unsurprisingly, he met with resistance from neighbors and the city initially, though the work was soon recognized and celebrated.

He spent around 13 years adding to the structure, deciding it was finished around the turn of the millennium because there was no more room. Between then and his death in 2015 at the age of 92, he tended to the structure, repainting and repairing when necessary but not really adding or altering the mass of objects.

The view from Klinger Street

It has become one of the city’s top attractions, with thousands of visitors every year. Supermodel Kate Moss was even shot there by famed photographer Bruce Weber in 2006, while Szylak himself was honored by the Mayor of Hamtramck for his creation.

The future of the structure was in doubt after his death, but local art collective Hatch Art stepped in and raised funds to maintain it and honor Szylak’s work. They plan to hold events at the site and have a guide to better inform visitors about it.

Hamtramck Disneyland

The best place to view Hamtramck Disneyland is from the alley between Klinger and Sobieski Streets, north of Commor Avenue.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

X
close-ad
Edit article