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Overview of Detroit,  Michigan

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Detroit Michigan Overview

Detroit, Michigan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Detroit (French: Détroit,) is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the seat of Wayne County. Founded in 1701 by French fur traders, it is a major port city located on the Detroit River, north of Windsor, Ontario in the Midwestern region of the United States. Today, it is known as the world's traditional automotive center and an important source of popular music-legacies celebrated by the city's two familiar nicknames, Motor City and Motown. The city's present name comes from the Detroit River, which in turn derives from the French Rivière du Détroit, meaning "River of the Strait". The name alludes to the connection the river forms between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie, although it is not literally a strait. In 2005, Detroit ranked as the United States's 11th most populous city with 886,675 residents; this is less than half of the peak population it had in 1950, and Detroit leads the nation in terms of declining urban population. It is the focus city of the nation's tenth-largest metropolitan area, and the fourth-largest if Windsor and its environs are included.

Detroit's crime rate has brought it notoriety while the city continues to struggle with the burdens of racial disharmony between itself and its suburban neighbors. The city has experienced budget shortfalls, leading to cuts in city services. Nevertheless, Detroit is currently experiencing a downtown revival with the construction of the Compuware headquarters, a recently renovated Renaissance Center, three gambling casinos, new stadiums, and a Riverwalk. The city serves as an entertainment hub for the metropolitan region.

Residents are generally known as "Detroiters." The name Detroit is also sometimes used as shorthand for the entire Metro Detroit area, a sprawling region with a population of 4,488,335 as of the 2005 Census Bureau estimates. The metropolitan population well exceeds 5 million when bordering Canadian city Windsor and its suburbs are counted. Local colloquialisms for the city are The D and The 313 (its area code).


As of 2005, Detroit's population has dwindled to 886,675. A 6.8 percent loss from the 2000 Census population

Traveling up the Detroit River on the ship Le Griffon (previously captained by La Salle), Father Louis Hennepin noted the north bank of the river as an ideal location for a settlement. There, in 1701, French officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded a fort and settlement called Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, naming it after the comte de Pontchartrain, minister of marine under Louis XIV. The settlement prospered as a fur-trading center, and its fort offered protection for French ships sailing the Great Lakes.

In 1760, during the French and Indian War, British troops gained control of the area and shortened the name of the settlement to Detroit. Local Native American tribes, many of whom had developed friendly relations with French colonists, became alarmed at this development. Led by Chief Pontiac, an Ottawa leader, in 1763 several tribes launched what became known as Pontiac's Rebellion, which included a siege of Fort Detroit; they were ultimately defeated by the British. In 1796, Detroit passed to the United States under the Jay Treaty. In 1805, fire destroyed almost the entire town; a river warehouse and brick chimneys of the wooden homes were the sole structures to survive.

From 1805 to 1847, Detroit was the capital of Michigan. Detroit fell to British troops during the War of 1812 in the Siege of Detroit, was recaptured by the United States in 1813 and incorporated as a city in 1815. Prior to the American Civil War, the city's access to the Canadian border made it a key stop along the underground railroad.

Strategically located along the Great Lakes waterway, Detroit emerged as a transportation hub. The city grew steadily from the 1830s with the rise of shipping, shipbuilding, and manufacturing industries. A thriving carriage trade prompted Henry Ford to build his first automobile in 1896 in a rented workshop on Mack Avenue, and in 1904, the Model T was produced. Ford's manufacturing-and those of automotive pioneers William C. Durant, the Dodge brothers, and Walter Chrysler reinforced Detroit's status as the world's automotive capital. The industry spurred the city's spectacular growth during the first half of the 20th century as it drew many new residents, particularly from the Southern United States. Strained racial relations were evident in the trial of Ossian Sweet, a black Detroit physician acquitted of murder after he shot into a large mob when he moved from the all-black part of the city to an all-white area. With the introduction of prohibition, the river was a major conduit for Canadian spirits, organized in large part by the notorious Purple Gang.

With the factories came high-profile labor strife, climaxing in the 1930s as the United Auto Workers initiated bitter disputes with Detroit's auto manufacturers. The labor activism established during those years brought notoriety to hometown union leaders such as Jimmy Hoffa and Walter Reuther. The 1940s saw the construction of the world's first urban depressed freeway, the Davison and the industrial growth during World War II that led to Detroit's nickname as the Arsenal of Democracy.

Detroit has endured a painful decline since the 1950s, and is often held up as a symbol of Rust Belt urban blight. The 12th Street Riot in 1967 and court-ordered busing accelerated white flight from the city. Large numbers of buildings and homes were abandoned, with many remaining for years in a state of decay. The percentage of black residents increased rapidly thereafter, as most of them stayed on. In 1973 the city elected its first black mayor, Coleman Young. Young's style during his record five terms in office was not well received by many whites.

The 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of the heroin and crack cocaine epidemics, which spread to big cities across the United States, including Detroit. Drug-related property crimes and violence among competing drug dealers rose, and urban renewal efforts led to the razing of abandoned homes. Sizeable tracts have reverted to nature, to become a form of urban prairie with wild animals spotted migrating into the city.

"Renaissance" has been a perennial buzzword among leaders since the 1967 riots, reinforced by the construction of the Renaissance Center in the early 1970s. It was not until the 1990s that Detroit enjoyed a moderate revival, much of it centered downtown. From 1996 onwards, three casinos opened: MGM Grand Detroit, Motor City Casino, and Greektown Casino. In 2000, Comerica Park replaced historic Tiger Stadium as the home of the Detroit Tigers, and in 2002, Ford Field brought the NFL's Detroit Lions back into Detroit, from Pontiac. The 2004 opening of the Compuware Center gave downtown Detroit its first significant new office building in a decade. The city hosted Super Bowl XL, and saw the arrival of many improvements to the downtown area. Additionally, the first portions of the Detroit River Walk were laid down. In the summer of 2006, announcements came for the redevelopment of the abandoned Fort Shelby and Book-Cadillac Hotels.

Geography and climate

The highest elevation in Detroit is in the University District neighborhood in northwestern Detroit, just west of Palmer Park sitting at a height of 670 feet (204 m). Detroit's lowest elevation is along its riverfront, of course, sitting at a height of 579 feet (176 m). Detroit completely encircles the cities of Hamtramck and Highland Park. On its northeast border are the wealthy communities of Grosse Pointe. Oakland and Macomb counties lie to the north. Alter Road divides Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park. It divides one of the poorest and most crime-ridden communities in the United States to one of the most affluent, with multi-million dollar mansions on Lake Shore Drive in the Grosse Pointes.

The city is crossed by three road systems: the original French template, radial roads from a Washington, D.C.-inspired system, and true north-south roads from the Northwest Ordinance township system. It sits atop a large salt mine, and is north of Windsor, Ontario. Detroit is the only major city along the U.S.-Canadian border in which one travels south in order to cross into Canada. Detroit has four border crossings: the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel provides motor vehicle thoroughfare and the Michigan Central Railway Tunnel railroad access to and from Canada. The fourth border crossing is the Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry, located near the Windsor Salt Mine and Zug Island.


Detroit and the rest of southeastern Michigan have a typically Midwestern temperate seasonal climate, which is influenced by the Great Lakes. Winters are cold with moderate snowfall; summers can be warm but are not usually humid. The average high temperature in July is 85F (29C) and in January 33F (1C). Summer temperatures can exceed 90F (32C), and winter temperatures rarely drop below 0F (-17C). Average monthly precipitation ranges from about two to five inches (50 to 130 mm), being heaviest in the summer months. Snowfall, which typically occurs from November to early April, ranges from 1 to 10 inches (3 to 25 cm) a month. The highest recorded temperature was 103.0F (39.0C) on June 25, 1988, while the lowest recorded temperature was -17.0F (-27.0C) on January 19, 1994.


Music has been the dominant feature of Detroit's nightlife since the late 1940s. The metropolitan area boasts two of the top live music venues in the United States: DTE Energy Music Theatre and The Palace of Auburn Hills Detroit is home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Opera House. Major theaters include the Fox Theatre, Masonic Temple Theatre, and the Fisher Theatre.

Throughout the 1950s, Detroit was a center for jazz, in which stars of the era often came to Detroit's Black Bottom neighborhood to perform. One highlight of Detroit's musical history was Motown Records' success during the 1960s and early 1970s. The label was founded in Detroit by Berry Gordy, Jr. During the late 1960s, Detroiter Aretha Franklin became America's preeminent female soul artist. Metro Detroit also spawned a high-energy rock scene in the late 1960s, and were the precursors of the punk rock movement. The area is also generally accepted as the birthplace of the Techno movement. Detroit is more recently home to many prominent musical artists, notably Aaliyah, Eminem, and Sufjan Stevens. In addition, Detroit's garage rock scene of the 1990s rose to national attention with the success of The White Stripes. Eight annual music events are held in the city, including the DEMF/Movement/Fuse-In electronic music festival, Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival, the Motor City Music Conference (MC2), the Concert of Colors, and the hip-hop Summer Jamz music festival.

Artist Tyree Guyton created the controversial street art exhibit known as the Heidelberg Project in the mid 1980s. The exhibit used junk and abandoned cars, clothing, shoes, vaccuum cleaners, and other garbage Guyton found in the neighborhood near and on Heidelberg Steet on the near East Side of Detroit. Guyton also painted polka dots and other symbols on several houses on Heidelberg Street. The city sued Guyton twice for creating a public nuisance, removed large parts of his art project, and tore down two vacant homes he had painted with various symbols. Nevertheless, much of the Heidelberg Project remains today.

The car plays a major role in Detroit's cultural life in major events such as the North American International Auto Show. Due its close proximity to Canada, Detroit participates in the Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival, which features a fireworks display over the Detroit River and coincides with U.S. Independence day and Canada Day. The America's Thanksgiving Parade - previously referred to as the Hudson's Thanksgiving Day Parade - is one of the nation's largest and has been held continuously since 1924.

Sites of interest

Many Detroit museums are located in the Cultural Center near Wayne State University. These museums include Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Historical Museum, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Science Center, and the main branch of the Detroit Public Library. Other cultural highlights include the Motown Historical Museum, Tuskegee Airmen Museum, Fort Wayne, Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and the Belle Isle Conservatory. The Eastern Market farmer's distribution center is the largest open-air flowerbed market in the United States and has more than 150 foods and specialty businesses.

Hart Plaza, between the Renaissance Center and Cobo Hall on the riverfront, is the site of many events and various music festivals. Other sites of interest are the Detroit Zoo, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, and the Belle Isle Aquarium. The aquarium and zoo on Belle Isle are currently closed. The J.W. Westcott II, which delivers mail to freighters on the Detroit River, is the world's only floating post office.

The most important civic sculpture in Detroit is the "Spirit of Detroit" at the Coleman Young Municipal Center. The image is often used as a symbol of Detroit and the statue itself is occasionally dressed in sports jerseys to celebrate when a Detroit team is doing well. A memorial to Joe Louis at the intersection of Jefferson and Woodward Avenues was dedicated on October 16, 1986. The sculpture, commissioned by Sports Illustrated and executed by Robert Graham, is a 24 foot (7.3 m) long arm with a fisted hand suspended by a pyramidal framework.

Other notable buildings include the Compuware headquarters, Fisher Building, Guardian Building, Detroit Public Library, and the Penobscot Building. Detroit has several historic churches that are open to the public.
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