Quick facts about Detroit, MI:
- Founded: July 24, 1701
- Approximate population: 950,000
- City rank by population: 11th
- Approximate population of metropolitan area: 4,000,000
- Area of City: 138.7 square miles
- Area of metropolitan area: 2,026.1 square miles
- Altitude: 581 feet at the Detroit River
- is home to the Motown sound founded by Berry Gordy Jr. in 1957
- installed the first mile of paved concrete road, just north of the Model T plant, on Woodward Avenue between McNichols and 7 Mile Roads in 1909
- installed the country’s first traffic light in 1915 in downtown Detroit
- built the nation’s first urban freeway, the Davison, in 1942
- is home to the oldest state fair in the nation, first held in 1849
- is the potato chip capital of the world, based on consumption
- has country’s largest island park within a city: Belle Isle Park
- is home to the world’s only floating post office, the J.W. Westcott II, can be found on the Detroit River
- is actually north of Canada
- is home to the largest flower-bedding market in the world: Eastern Market
- is second in the nation in fishing rod sales
- shares the world’s first auto traffic tunnel between two nations: the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel
- is home to the second tallest hotel in North America – the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center, at 73 stories
- is the true home of the “Boston Cooler”
- is also home to Vernors ginger ale, Sanders hot fudge, Better Made Potato Chips, Faygo soda pop, Stroh’s Ice Cream
- receives freighters from over 100 world ports on the Detroit River
- was the first city in the nation to assign individual telephone numbers in 1879
- founded the world’s first convention bureau in 1896
- has more theater seats than any other city, east of the Mississippi River, outside New York City
Detroit’s rich history began over three centuries ago, when French explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac landed on the banks of the Detroit River and established a fort in 1701. Change would remain a constant throughout Detroit’s first century. In 1760, French rule gave way to British. And in 1796 the United States took over Detroit as a result of Jay’s Treaty. Because of its strategic location adjacent to the Detroit River and the Great Lakes, Detroit grew and became a key transportation center. Key industries included shipping, shipbuilding and manufacturing.
Detroit was incorporated as a city in 1815 and spent the decades leading up to the Civil War as the final U.S. stop on the Underground Railroad. The area also was earning a reputation for, among other things, the manufacturing of cigars and kitchen ranges.
In 1896, the father of the auto industry, Henry Ford, built his first car in Detroit – not an entirely earth-shattering event since the automobile had already been around for a number of years. What made Ford unique was the method of building cars that he would later devise – the moving assembly line – that began the chain of events that would lead to Detroit being recognized as the Motor City. Ford’s innovations, coupled with the emergence of additional automotive pioneer (William Durant, Louis Chevrolet, the Dodge Brothers, etc.) furthered Detroit’s reputation as the world’s auto capital. The industry and the city enjoyed phenomenal growth during the early stages of the 1900’s.
During the early part of the 20th century, dozens of companies emerged in the area that were related to providing goods and services in support of the new industry. During World War II, the factories built to produce cars were modified to manufacture weapons for the United States and its allies. The production edge they provided helped to win the war.
Ironically, it was a former auto worker that led the way for Detroit’s other famous 20th century contribution: Motown. Founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. with just an $800 family loan, the upstart record company introduced the world to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, the Temptations, Diana Ross and others – all of whom either grew up or gained their first fame in Detroit.
Detroit has undergone a renaissance in recent years, starting in the 1990s with the construction of three large casinos (the MGM Grand, Motor City, and Greektown, respectively). In 2000, Comerica Park, the new home of the Detroit Tigers, was built to replace venerable Tiger Stadium. In 2002, the Detroit Lions returned from the suburbs of Pontiac to the city with the completion of Ford Field. In 2004 , the opening of the Compuware Center provided the downtown business district its first significant new office building in a decade. Significant landmarks such as the Fox Theatre, Detroit Opera House, and the Gem Theater have been restored and now host concerts, musicals, and plays. Other popular downtown destinations include Greektown, Eastern Market, the Michigan State Fairgrounds, and Campus Martius Park.
Average high and low temperatures (Fahrenheit)
Record High Temperature: 105 in July 1934
Record Low Temperature: -24 on Dec. 22, 1872
Mean Annual Temperature: 48.6
Average Snowfall: 41.1 inches
Average Wind: 10.4 mph
Located along the Detroit River across from Windsor, Ontario, Detroit is the dominant city within Wayne County, Michigan. Wayne County, along with Oakland and Macomb Counties, forms a tri-county industrial zone that is one of the most significant in the United States. Detroit is home to the American auto industry and the “Big Three” auto makers: General Motors, headquartered in the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, Ford Motor Company based in Dearborn just outside the city limits and the North American headquarters of the Chrysler Corporation located in Auburn Hills, north of the city. Spread all across the tri-county area are a myriad of manufacturing facilities and plants in industries directly and indirectly related to the auto industry. The area also ranks as a leader in the production of paints, non-electrical machinery and automation equipment, as well as pharmaceutical, rubber products, synthetic resins and garden seed. In addition to the Big Three, there are fourteen other Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Metro Detroit, including Kelly Services, Lear Corporation, Federal Mogul and Borders Books. Other major local businesses include Compuware and three national pizza chains, Little Caesars, Domino’s and Hungry Howie’s.
Music and Performing Arts
Outside of Los Angeles and New York, Detroit is widely regarded as one of the country’s strongest markets in terms of live music and theater. DTE Music Theater, located in the nearby suburb of Clarkston, was the number one summer concert venue in the US in 2004, both in terms of attendance and in box office gross (according to Pollster and Billboard). It has held this distinction in many previous years. The Palace of Auburn Hills, home to the three-time National Basketball Association champions Detroit Pistons, typically ranks in the top three in such measures, ahead of much more publicized venues like New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Music has been the most significant component of Detroit’s entertainment scene for over 50 years, and both the city and the surrounding suburbs are flush with live music venues. Major theaters include the Fisher Theatre, the State Theatre, the Masonic Temple, the Fox Theatre, the Gem Theatre, the Detroit Repertory Theatre, the Detroit Opera House. Concerts are also held at Comerica Park, Chene Park, Ford Field, Joe Louis Arena, Cobo Arena and St. Andrews Hall. Detroit is also home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
One of the first major breakthroughs in the Detroit music scene was the phenomenal success of Motown Records in the 1960s and 1970s. Founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. and originally located in a modest home dubbed “Hitsville USA,” the label featured some of the most famous and popular recording acts in history, including Diana Ross & the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, the Four Tops, and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas.
Immortalized in a song by the rock group KISS entitled “Detroit Rock City,” Detroit is also considered the number one “rock and roll” city in America. Rock acts hailing from Detroit during the 1970s and 1980s include Iggy Pop and the Stooges, MC5, The Romantics, Ted “Motor City Madman” Nugent, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad and Bob Seger. Although not a “rock and roll” performer per se, Madonna also emerged from Detroit during this era and is widely considered the most successful female recording artist of all time.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Detroit’s reputation as the major source of cutting edge American source was further enhanced by the emergence of additional artist enjoying large scale successes. First, Detroit is considered the birthplace of “garage rock”. This genre includes the White Stripes, the Von Bondies and the Motor City Cobras. Second, Eminem became the first major white rap star, and went on to become the largest selling rapper in history. A rap group affiliated with Eminem known as “D12” also enjoyed moderate commercial success. Third, Detroit is also considered the birthplace of Techno music. Major figures in this genre hailing from Detroit include Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and Derrick May, among others. Every year Detroit hosts the EMF (Electronic Music Festival), which is considered the largest event of its kind in the world of Techno. Finally, Kid Rock exploded onto the scene with his singular style and became, along with Eminem and Madonna, one of the primary faces of modern Detroit music.
- Aaliyah, singer, actress
- Tim Allen, actor, comedian
- Anita Baker, singer
- Francis Ford Coppola, film director, producer
- Henry Ford, inventor
- Rosa Parks, activist
- Aretha Franklin, singer
- Thomas Hearns, boxer
- Casey Kasem, radio star
- Elmore “Dutch” Leonard, author
- Charles Lindbergh, pilot
- Lone Ranger, radio star who debuted on local WWJ Radio
- Joe Louis, boxer
- Madonna, actress, singer
- Ed McMahon, television host
- Smokey Robinson, singer, songwriter
- Diana Ross, actress, singer
- Tom Selleck, actor
- Blair Underwood, actor
- Robert Wagner, actor
- Robin Williams, actor, comedian
- Stevie Wonder, singer, songwriter
- Marshall Mathers, rapper (better known as “Eminem”)
- Robert James Ritchie, singer (better known as “Kid Rock”)
- Bob Seger, singer
- Ted Nugent, singer
- Jack and Meg White (the White Stripes)
Detroit is home to many outstanding four-and-five caliber restaurants. Restaurants in the Metropolitan area that frequently appear on “Best of Detroit” rankings include the following;
- Opus One, Detroit
- The Whitney, Detroit
- The Rattlesnake Club, Detroit
- The Lark, West Bloomfield
- The Rugby Grille, Birmingham
- Emily’s, Northville
- Café Bon Homme, Plymouth
- Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor
- Tribute, Farmington Hills
- Bacco, Southfield
- Common Grill, Chelsea
- Five Lakes Grill, Milford
- West End Grill, Ann Arbor
- Il Posto Ristorante, Southfield
- Seldom Blues, Detroit
- Sweet Georgia Brown, Detroit
- Coach Insignia, Detroit
- Cuisine, Detroit
In addition, suburb Livonia is home to Schoolcraft College, the Culinary Arts Program of which is widely regarded as one of the three best in the United States.
Major Detroit Events
Detroit has a year-round calendar of events that keep its citizenry involved and entertained throughout the year. Some of the more significant events are as follows:
- North American International Auto Show (January)
- Plymouth Ice Carving Festival (February)
- DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival) (May)
- Downtown Hoedown (May)
- Detroit-Windsor International Freedom Festival (June – July)
- Comerica CityFest (July)
- Detroit Thunderfest hydroplane race (July)
- Woodward Dream Cruise (August)
- Detroit Fashion Week (August)
- Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival (September)
- Detroit Thanksgiving Parade (November)
Detroit Sites of Interest
The Detroit Institute of Arts houses what is considered to be one of the most prominent American collections outside New York City, and features showcase pieces by Diego Rivera, Picasso and Van Gogh along with such hometown artists as Charles McGee. The Detroit Institute of Arts is located in an area near Wayne State University known as the Cultural Center, which is also the site of 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 centers include the Motown Historical Museum, Tuskegee Airmen Museum, Historic Fort Wayne (Detroit), Dossin Great Lakes Museum, and the Belle Isle Conservatory.
Major parks include Belle Isle, Palmer Park, River Rouge Park, Chene Park and Campus Martius Park. Hart Plaza, located between the Renaissance Center and Cobo Hall on the riverfront, is the site of many events, notably various music festivals. Other city recreational facilities include municipal golf courses (William Rogell, Rouge, Belle Isle, Palmer Park), Northwest Activities Center, Detroit Zoo and the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory.
The most famous and iconic civic sculpture in Detroit is the “Spirit of Detroit”, which when it was installed in 1958 was the largest cast sculpture made since the Renaissance. The 16-foot-tall bronze kneeling man holds a gold orb in one hand and a golden family in the other. The image is often used as a symbol of Detroit and the statue itself is occasionally dressed in sports uniforms to celebrate when a Detroit team is having a successful playoff run. A memorial to Joe Louis at the intersection of Jefferson and Woodward Avenues was dedicated on October 16, 1986. The sculpture, locally known as “the fist,” is a 24-foot-long long arm with a fisted hand suspended by a pyramid-shaped structural framework.
Detroit is known for its devoted, rabid fans. Detroit is perhaps the most fervent hockey hotbed in the United States. A Red Wings marketing campaign in the late 1990s launched the nickname Hockeytown, a city moniker subsequently embraced by local fans and national media. Detroit is home to professional teams representing the four major sports in North America. All but one play within the city of Detroit (basketball’s Detroit Pistons play in suburban Auburn Hills). There are three active major sports venues in the city: Comerica Park for baseball (Detroit Tigers), Ford Field for football (Detroit Lions), and Joe Louis Arena for ice hockey.
Detroit is home to the world’s only cross-national marathon, the Detroit International Marathon, which crosses the border into Canada via the Ambassador Bridge and returns to the United States through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The city is also home to the APBA Gold Cup unlimited hydroplane boat race, which has been held in Detroit each year since 1990. The race occurs on the Detroit River near Belle Isle.