Detroit is the birthplace of the automobile. Henry Ford developed the Ford Motor Company and assembly lines here. DaimlerChrysler and General Motors manufacture automobiles in Detroit as well. Detroit is also the home turf of champions; the Detroit Red Wings play in Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Tigers play in Comerica Park, the Detroit Lions play in Ford Field, and the Detroit Pistons play in the Palace of Auburn Hills.
The history of Detroit really begins in the late 17th century, when French missionaries landed here while on route to Sault Ste. Marie. Legend tells of their discovery of a, ancient wooden idol worshiped by the First Nations residents, which they chopped to pieces with an axe and tossed into the river.
It would be another 30 years before any real settlement was founded, but in 1701 the French had done just that. Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, or Fort Detroit, was established near the site of the modern Civic Center in an attempt to dominate the fir trade and drive the British further east (thus preventing any westward expansion).
Its presence in the region attracted attention, but not all of that was favourable. The fort was attacked several times. The French took a beating and by 1760 had surrendered control over the fort to the British. The name was shortened to Detroit.
Three years later, several First Nations residents entered the fort carrying concealed weapons and attacked, killing every British resident inside, while the French were left in peace.
Detroit saw some action during the American Revolution, and with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Detroit became part of the United States, though it remained under British control until 1796.
Detroit became a town in 1802.
In 1805, a massive fire destroyed much of the town, an event reflected in the state motto emblazoned on the flag. Later that year, the city became the capital of the newly formed state.
In the rebuilding of Detroit after the fire, the town expanded, becoming a city in 1806.
During the War of 1812, Detroit was surrendered to British forces. The new British backed governor left the running of the city to Detroit residents, so little changed. Over the next few decades, Detroit grew and restructured, establishing a firm government in the wake of American upheaval.
In the late 1800s, Henry Ford established his first automotive plant in Highland Park, an independent village completely surrounded by the city of Detroit. IN time, Highland Park would become a prominent part of the city, and attracted the attention of several other automotive manufacturers. By the end of the first decade of the 10th century, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and American Motors all had plants in the capital.
The new industry brought more work and reduced unemployment rates, making Detroit even more appealing as a place to live. Industrial production quickly became the driving force in the city’s economy.
In 1895, Detroit tigers owner commissioned the construction of a new baseball park, known as Bennett Park. In 1911, the small park was replaced with a ten modern concrete park, called Navin Field after its owner. Over the years, the field was expanded, and renamed Brigg’s Stadium in honour of its new owner. The name would last until 1961, when a new owner named John Fetzer gave it the current name of Tiger Stadium.
The increase in labour potential brought many African and European immigrants looking to make a better life. The population exploded at a rate seldom seen in America. The result was a dramatic shift from the “Paris of the Midwest”, as Detroit was know, to the more modern industrial image we know today.
Orchestra Hall, home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, opened in 1919, five years after the orchestra was founded.
In 1921, George Herman Ruth, also known as the Sultan of Swat and Babe Ruth, made sports history when he hit what is commonly believed to be the longest hit in baseball history at Navin field. The distance has been estimated at 600 feet in the air.
The historic Detroit Opera House opened in 1922.
The Fillmore Detroit entertainment venue opened in 1925, and now plays host to a variety of events from concerts to Broadway style theatre.
In 1928, the historic Guardian Building was constructed.
The opportunity provided designers to explore new possibilities, and Art Deco became the fashion. New skyscrapers carved an ever changing skyline over the industrial riverfront.
In 1934, baseball icon Babe Ruth hit his famous 700th home run at Tiger Stadium. As the story goes, that famous ball flew over 500 feet that day.
In 1939, Lou Gehrig played his last baseball game at Navin Field.
The rapid growth led to many changes. the growing union movement sweeping America took hold of Detroit, bringing fame and fortune to several influential Americans. Perhaps most famous among them is former teamster Union President Jimmy Hoffa, known for his violent methods and mysterious disappearance. In 1975, while attempting to return to the head of the union after serving time in jail for bribery, Hoffa vanished from the parking lot of Machus Red Fox restaurant in Detroit, never to be seen again. One popular legend has it that Hoffa’s body was buried beneath the end zone of New York’s Giant’s Stadium.
The Michigan highway was completed in 1941, as the first urban freeway in the world. It is entirely within the city limits.
Music legend Berry Gordy founded the influential Tamla Records, later renamed Motown Records, in 1959. The world’s first African American owned record label showcased contemporary music created by the nation’s African population, creating a whole new sound that continues to inspire generations. The “Motown Sound” blended soul and pop, R&B and dance, and now includes hip hop artists to produce countless hits by such artists as Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Jackson 5.
The onset of the Second World War brought more changes to Detroit, as the industrial sector shifted its focus to military production. All commercial vehicle manufacture stopped, making room for jeeps, tanks and b-24 bombers.
The post war period saw an increase in racial and social tension. The Ford Motor Company closed its Highland Park plant, and the city struggled to recover from the depressed economy. The inner city population began to drop as white residents began moving to the more expensive suburban neighbourhoods, increasing racial tensions. The Twelfth Street Riot, a five day event that left more than 40 dead and nearly 500 injured, is perhaps the most poignant example of the nature of Detroit strife. The riot grew out of several factors, including the suburban migration, low wages and many jobs being automated. The events changed the city forever.
The city elected its first black mayor, Coleman Young, in 1973. Mayor young went on to serve an impressive five terms in office.
In 1977, the Renaissance Center opened as one of the most unique features of the Detroit skyline. Seven interconnected skyscrapers comprise the complex, which include the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere, and an innovative cruise ship dock.
Even still, in spite of such efforts to grow and unite as one city, Detroit was a difficult city during the last decades of the 20th century. Crime rates soared, and more than once the city has claimed the dubious honour of having the highest murder rate in the nation. Several gangs, like the Young boys Incorporated, the Black Mafia Family and the Chambers Brothers, evolved out of the strife establishing a new form of home grown organized crime.
The 1990s saw new growth, and the construction of three major casinos: the MGM Grand Detroit, the Motor City Casino and the Greektown Casino.
In the new millennium, Detroit has enjoyed renewed growth, with many major projects revitalizing the city. Several new buildings compliment restoration work on Detroit landmarks such as the Detroit Opera House, and with these efforts Detroit is beginning to attract new interest in business and leisure travellers looking to explore America.
Detroit has a vibrant music scene. Motown started at Hitsville U.S.A., which you can visit today. Musicians Madonna, Eminem, Kid Rock, and Bob Seger all were born or raised in Detroit.
Recently, Detroit approved legalized gambling and is home to three casinos: MGM Grand, Greektown, and MotorCity casinos.
Get up close to history by visiting Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. There are also tours of the Ford Rouge Factory available. Port Huron provides access to Canadavia the Blue Water Bridge.
On Saturdays, it is well worth a visit to historic Eastern Market, where you can purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, there are numerous specialty stores offering imported cheese, wines, and various ethnic foods.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Power: 120 V, 60 Hz
Climate: Detroit enjoys a typical continental climate, influenced by the Great Lakes. Summers are warm and often humid, with a few inches of rain. The temperature can soar above 100, but this is rare. Winters are generally cold, sinking deep into the skin due to the humidity. The temperature can drop well below freezing, but snowfall is fairly light compared with other similar regions.
Currency: US Dollar
Time Zone: UTC/GM -5
There is plenty more history to explore in exciting Detroit, Mi.
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